Monday, July 22, 2019

Self-observation rots the human soul

Each of them had his own special relationship to mirrors. The one suffering from a broken heart could gaze at his reflection for many long hours. He did so when he thought he was alone, but sometimes I, Grandmother, or one of the other waiters might chance upon him.

"Are you staring yourself in the mirror again?" Grandmother once asked.

"No, I'm not staring at myself in the mirror, " the waiter replied.

"What are you doing, then?" asked Grandmother.

"I'm looking for something of myself that I think has gone missing," came his reply.

One of the other waiters thought that mirrors were dangerous objects, for they were one of the places where demons were housed. When a person stood in front of a mirror she opened herself to her own reflections, and that's when the demon slunk inside her. From there, it would cultivate the West's worst characteristics inside that person: egoism and self-centeredness. The person reflected would then be heading slowly but surely toward a painful and entirely self-fulfilling demise. Like rust corrodes iron, self-observation rots the human soul, the waiter would say, and one wondered which books he'd read that made him say such a thing.

The third waiter had more of a political angle. He was of the opinion that mirrors were spies. He said that in all societies there was an evaluating authority, and nowhere was it as well developed as in wealthy countries — where people had been taught to observe themselves. Mirrors constituted one such evaluating authority, and there was no need for enforcement, for people subjected themselves to this evaluation of their own free will and even enthusiastically. Several times a day, you'd measure yourself in front of the evaluating authority, suspending yourself dutifully, of your own accord, and you'd do it gladly. And if your reflection did not elate you, as it almost never did, you didn't give up, you set to work on a plan to become exactly what was expected of you.

"Keeping people in check is as easy as hanging mirrors everywhere, because there is nothing stricter," said the waiter, "than the way you gaze at yourself."
— from The Polyglot Lovers, by Lina Wolff.

1 comment:

edrperez said...

That last part was beautiful