smashed mirror

What would happen if reflections did not exist?

Imagine it.

No mirrors, no shop windows, no reflective surfaces at all to catch yourself in.

Catching the train, you would not have your image thrown back to you by the carriage doors as you pass through a tunnel.

You would not be able to tell how far your pesky melanin had made your freckles spread.

You would not be able to look at your reflection and imagine what you would look like as a mannequin.

How would we conceive of ourselves if we couldn’t see a comprehensive whole shone back to us?

Consider the following:

“The idea of the “mirror stage” is an important early component in Lacan’s critical reinterpretation of the work of Freud. Drawing on work in physiology and animal psychology, Lacan proposes that human infants pass through a stage in which an external image of the body (reflected in a mirror, or represented to the infant through the mother or primary caregiver) produces a psychic response that gives rise to the mental representation of an “I”. The infant identifies with the image, which serves as a gestalt of the infant’s emerging perceptions of selfhood, but because the image of a unified body does not correspond with the underdeveloped infant’s physical vulnerability and weakness, this imago is established as an Ideal-I toward which the subject will perpetually strive throughout his or her life.” (Taken from here.)

As infants, we see the whole but do not feel it. We see ourselves in a mirror and it is from this that we believe that we are a single ‘whole’ self.

But the lack of control we experience our own body, this fractioning of self, does not correspond with this sense of a unified self and thus begins the striving for an unattainable ideal: reconciling our fragmentation (which more often than not feels like a glass that’s been smashed by a hammer) with the single body we see reflected in the train door.

So, what if mirrors never existed?

What if we were only ever stuck with our fragmentation?

Is this the experience of blindness? Are blind people able to deal with their multiplicity of self without being haunted by this unattainable ideal of wholeness?

Imagine that.

Imagine not struggling with the fact that you feel like Frankenstein’s monster, your roles (whether to be the student, the daughter, the lover, the musician, the doctor, the poet, from one minute to the next) sewn together like mismatched limbs, but look like a complete human being, sans stitches.

If there were no reflections, how would we conceive of ourselves? Would we find another way to create an unbridgeable gap between what we are and what we desire to be?

Inevitably, I think.

But how would it manifest if the mirror was taken away?

chest pieces

I woke up a couple of nights ago with this thought:

What if every sternum was a door that you could swing out to reveal the six precise memories that have had the most formative influence on a person? What if you could reach your hands inside and take them out, one by one, and roll them between your fingers?I imagine that these six memories would be concentrated, like juice, to resemble something like chess pieces that you can roll around in the palm of your hand. Imagine if you could handle the chest-pieces of another person to discover who they were, rather than trying to negotiate the said/unsaid of language (and our heinous ability to understand our own selves and then communicate that understanding).

Every time I get the train now I stare around the carriage and try and guess what each commuter’s chest-pieces would be. Would one chest-piece for the bikie be his first tattoo? Or would one for the woman in the three-piece business suit, who is incredibly small and slender, be the moment she realised she could never be a professional ballerina?

Only this morning I was struck by another question: what if these six pieces were lined up before you the moment that you died?

If I was to die today I would have sitting before me

  1. the moment I knew that I had played something perfectly on my cello, which felt like molding water in mid-air.
  2. floating weightless in the ocean and holding onto the boy that I loved, whose eyes were the same colour as the sea.
  3. the last time I saw my grandpa, my idol, who was dying in a hospice.

I’m not sure what my other chest-pieces would be. And, of course, my current chest-pieces may be replaced, in time, with other formative experiences.

This idea is going to need some stretching.