What the Mirror Projects by William Klein

I often return to the work of the great Irish mystic poet John O’Donahue.  O’Donahue said, “Behind every face is a secret life.”

Paraphrasing him, O’Donahue states, “We never really see our own faces and we rely on others to reflect back to us who we are.”  Mirrors only reflect an image of who we are, but it’s not an accurate reflection.  Those who love us see more and reflect qualities that are missed by mirrors.

We are a superficial society.  “Appearance is everything.” Appearance dictates if something is good enough or just okay.  A Louis Vuitton or Gucci product elicits a reaction that makes people sit up and take note while a common name brand or generic product is adequate enough but lacks the excitement.

This is what the mirror projects.

There are high-minded attitudes that the advertising world is always trying to put out there.  It’s important to be young, vibrant, cool, class-minded, rising star with being number one in mind.  Anything else is not good enough, unacceptable. It is the American Dream to expect nothing less than the best. A standard has been established that calls into question what is acceptable and what is not.

This is what the mirror projects.

I’ve been using the same I-phone Five for the last five years.  My students laugh at me because “I’m not with the program, not up to date on tech.”  It’s worked fine for me. I’m not as product conscious as I was when I was younger and not keeping up with the latest trends.  Maybe I’m showing my age, maybe I’m a little wiser and don’t buy into the hype and go with what works.

At any rate, when we see what Madison Avenue has inspired us to believe, we sometimes need to check what our values are. We have bought into the symbols of Confederate Flags and symbols of oppression for far too long.

This is what the mirror projects.

We needed a movement to tell us, let’s slow down and reevaluate what’s happening in our society.  What is acceptable and what is unacceptable and why is this the case?

These are tricky times.  But the Covid-19 crisis has challenged us to stay inside and do some inside work.  O’Donahue wisely notes, “It’s the inner disturbance that causes the outer disturbance.“  Maybe we have finally arrived at a place where we can have those discussions.

I find myself having open and honest conversations with friends about this and it has been an enlightening experience. If we can just slow down and listen to each other, we may be able to show one another something about our country that we haven’t been able to see in the mirror.

We may see some common ground on values and freedoms we hold dear.  We may see some injustices that have been lingering longer than they should.  We may see that some people are not participating as fully as they could in our society.

What are the values that we’ve bought into as a society that have undermined who we are as a country? What are the values that make us great? What are the true intentions of a Democracy that ennoble us to be better than we are and inspire us to be something greater than we can be?

Is it all right that we’re tearing down other monuments because it doesn’t satisfy our idea of what our country should be? Who determines what that should be anyway?

When we start tearing down religious statues because this doesn’t gel with what our image of Jesus is, maybe we need to hit the pause button.

Maybe we go too far with iconography. On one hand, Muslims believe that Muhammad should not be depicted in statues or iconography as any image of the Prophet encourages the worship of false idols and idolatry. On the other hand, Eastern Orthodox Christians hold their iconography as sacred expressions that are imbued with the Holy Spirit.  Are we going to start tearing them down because they don’t gel with our idea of what the image is? Is that fair to our Orthodox friends?

The artists who can see the greater good create the myths of our society. A great artist can hold up a mirror to society and inspire us to see more through story. The mirrors of our society will always project something that is unacceptable, but they also project our past and hopes for the future.

In the end, our tender care for tilling common ground is imperative. This is what we need to see and project.

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