I’ve been thinking about mirrors lately, but I’m not really sure why. Perhaps it’s because I am working on my manuscript about identity, and as I have gathered sources, the mirror has surfaced several times. I even researched the history of “mirrors,” in my nearly compulsive need to get the whole picture.
Check this out: “The silvered-glass mirrors found throughout the world today first got their start in Germany almost 200 years ago. In 1835, German chemist Justus von Liebig developed a process for applying a thin layer of metallic silver to one side of a pane of clear glass.” I think I found that on Wikipedia. I’ll double check the source for us, though, so don’t fret.
Mirror 1: The Scientific Mirror
I next came across “the mirror” again while reading the introduction to Anthropology for Dummies. You might be wondering why I would purchase a Dummies book, and, to be honest, I hate to admit that I did. So . . . I located the source for the Dummies book and purchased it. And, amazingly enough, it is titled, Mirror for Man (Kluckhohn, 1949). It’s an introduction to the study of anthropology—anthro meaning “of humanity” and logy meaning “the study of.” So, I have an introductory textbook on “the study of humanity,” which I felt I needed in order to, again, get that big picture so I can write about any of the little pieces that are included in it.
Really, my research takes me in some odd and unexpected directions. I need the “old stuff” and the “new stuff” on topics that I work on, so you can image how happy I was when I found that Mirror for Man has a new introduction and is being republished with a copyright date of 2018! Boom!
Kluckhohn wrote that, “Anthropology holds up a great mirror to man and lets him look at himself in his infinite variety.” But he then goes on to describe the science of anthropology’s mirror as being “cobbled together, refined, reinvented, crafted, and then reimagined and reinterpreted such that today (it) is a very diverse field holding up many mirrors for humanity.” The “Dummy” authors go on to say that, “By examining the history of their own discipline, anthropologists have gone from silvering the mirror—applying the reflective coating to the glass—to gluing it back together and, today, trying to keep it clean. One of the interesting connections I am seeing in my writing is that my foundational premise that “universal principles are only understandable in light of particular cases” keeps reappearing: “If anthropology is a mirror for humankind, the individual human mind is itself a hall of mirrors.” In that one sentence we span the scope of humanity.
In large bold letters, one of the sub-headers of the book on anthropology reads: Dazed and Confused: What It Is to Be Human
Mirror 2: The Spiritual Mirror
In today’s world, the question can be asked another way, too: What is it to be Christian? Are we also dazed and confused?
I pulled out a work in progress on a new translation of the New Testament authored by a South African theologian titled . . . you guessed it . . . The Mirror (Francois du Toit, 2012)—another piece of my big-picture search for sources for The Fourth Voice. And what a find it is! In the introduction, du Toit writes, “Mankind has forgotten their Maker and in the process, their identity.” He goes on to say, “A mirror can only reflect the object; likewise, the purpose of the page was only to reflect the message. . . .” In writing from the book of James, du Toit states that, “By being a mere spectator in the audience, you underestimate yourself (you come to an inferior conclusion of who you really are). You are God’s poem. The difference between a mere spectator and a participator is that both of them hear the same voice and perceive in its message the face of their own genesis reflected as in a mirror; they realize that they are looking at themselves, but for the one it seems just too good to be true, he departs (back to his old way of seeing himself) never giving another thought to the man he saw there in the mirror.” But “the other one is mesmerized by what he sees . . . the impact of what he sees in that mirror concerning the law of perfect liberty (the law of faith) that now frees him to get on with the act of living the life (of his original design). He finds a new spontaneous lifestyle, the poetry of practical living.”
Mirror 3: The Personal Mirror
I have asked myself why I am in need of clarification as to my identity (who I really am). I have looked into one of the silver-coated mirrors I have hanging in my room many times—just looked—trying to see beyond what is reflected back to me. I have come to understand over the past decade of researching the impostor phenomenon that my own personal identity has been distorted by the misuse or abuse of words, and by the half-hidden expressions of disgust. The child I was felt sad, lonely, and forgotten. The teen in me experienced rejection, isolation, and abandonment. The adult in me is actively at work by leveling the mountains of fear and filling in the valleys of aloneness—re-sculpting the grooves that those memories etched into my brain, my soul, and my spirit.
One wise man I spoke with after a particularly difficult time in my life comforted me by saying that all counseling really is . . . is replacing the lies with the truth. Well, I have believed many lies about myself and have suffered because of them. But I have purposed to write as I learn the truth—particularly about identity because . . .
Just maybe you have some of the same questions that I do.
Just maybe you would like to re-sculpt your mountains and valleys, too.
Just maybe my search will yield the answers you need, also.
So I write.