Sunday, July 22, 2018


            In Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson muses how odd it would be if a shattered mirror or a window that broke while someone was examining her reflection were suddenly to heal itself and become whole again, in the way a still pool into which I might gaze at my own reflection, disturbed by a pebble dropped into it, would soon reconstitute its reflective surface. The workings of physical reflection are odd, regardless of the reflecting surface. Hang up a mirror just big enough that your reflection in it fills it from top to bottom. Walk away, and then turn after a few paces to look at your reflection again. The image still fills the mirror; it is no smaller because of the distance, nor will it cease to fill the mirror if you move another ten feet, or a hundred. If you return to the mirror and measure the image of your face in it, you will find that image is just half the size of the face it reflects. All of this is completely, if not satisfactorily, explained by the laws of optics. So, too, is the odd fact that mirrors reverse left and right, but always leave top and bottom alone.
            Consider figurative reflection, and specifically self-reflection. Is your image of yourself in your mind’s eye diminished to half? Mine is not. David Foster Wallace famously pointed out that in perception or reflection, we can’t help being centered in the view and the whole field is ours, is us.

1 comment:

  1. The fact that I could see an image of myself that was 1/2 the size would be a good reason to take up Narcissism.