As one journeys on their road of life from birth to death, they encounter a number of things both positive and negative. Cultural idioms and beliefs are side attractions on the road.
One can ignore these side attractions or deviate to explore them. One of these attractions is the various associations with a common item found everywhere—mirrors.
Mirrors have a fascinating history as humans seek to understand their world. When the first humans gazed into a tranquil pool of water and saw their reflection, the quest for understanding of what they saw began.
I am sure the old questions arose—who am I and where did I come from, and more poignantly—where am I going when my time on earth is over? A reflection is just that. It shows a moment in time which is fleeting.
As humans moved from the coastal plains inward, near dormant volcanoes they found obsidian. Some of these cooled rocks had a mirrored effect as our progenitors peered into the surface. It reflected their image. A bit of polishing improved the reflective quality.
As time went on bronze, silver and glass became the media of these looking-glasses. In the old days only the privileged of society could admire themselves in the ornate mirrors, many covered in gold and other fine gems.
Mirrors have an association with the paranormal. In Snow White the mirror on the wall would answer the baleful and vain queen’s questions about who was the fairest in the land. If it was not her, then the unfortunate fair maiden would fall victim to a mischievous scheme ensuring certain death. A poisonous apple was not a tasty way to meet one’s untimely end.
Sometimes a painting can become a mirror as it was in The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Basil Hallward painted a portrait of the beautiful Dorian Gray. In order to achieve youthful immortality Dorian’s life force was transferred into the painting, and he embarked on a life of debaucherous indulgences. Each act and each day was reflected in his portrait since Dorian’s body was only a shell of flesh which did not age.
Of course, as the story reaches its agonizing climax, Dorian sees himself for what he has become. Earthly beauty is fading and cannot be maintained by the fragile human subject. A portrait, like the mirrored reflection, shows a moment in the life.
Not all associations are bad. Alice of Adventures in Wonderland fame finds a new world through her looking-glass and has a fabulous adventure. However, Alice concludes that it all was a dream as she sat in her Queen Anne chair in front of the looking-glass with her kitten.
Many television shows have featured mirrors, from Lost in Space to Doctor Who. In the Star Trek universe and in the Superhero comics there are mirrored universes as well.
One association with mirrors is luck or bad luck if you break one. Seven years of bad luck is a stiff penalty for breaking a piece of glass.
In the 1972 Stevie Wonder’s hit song Superstition which he wrote and sang
Very superstitious, writing’s on the wall
Very superstitious, ladders bout’ to fall
Thirteen-month-old baby broke the lookin’ glass
Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past
Superstitions are one of those side attractions on the road of life. Anyone who has visited a carnival house of mirrors realizes that what they see is a distortion of reality. The house is designed to exaggerate the image into distorted shapes for amusement purposes.
Breaking a mirror, walking under a ladder, a black cat, a rabbit’s foot, Friday the 13th, a horseshoe over the doorway, a wishbone, giving knives as a present, shaking the hand of a chimney sweep, killing a spider, knocking on the Stammtisch—the list seems endless. All of these items are associated with belief in luck either good or bad. In most cases they defy the laws of the natural order of life on this planet traversing the cosmos.
As Stevie Wonder concludes his song
When you believe in things that you don’t understand
Then you suffer
Superstition ain’t the way, no, no, no
Do you have broken mirrors lying behind you on your road of life? Do these pieces of glass or metal hinder your journey?
The footpaths are difficult with rocks, but when you add broken glass or metal shards walking becomes more laborious and bloody. A good pair of walking boots and an oak staff is necessary for the trek to the cosmic ocean.
Choose well your boots and staff from those attractions. For what you gather there you will carry with you into the tomorrows of your journey.
In our next post we will ponder for a few moments at the end of the road of life. The mirror may be dark or shadowy or a riddle or a toothache. We will look at an old tentmaker from long ago and a contemporary young woman who found seclusion to be her solace on the road of life.
G. D. Williams © 2013
Superstition Stevie Wonder