Friday, January 9, 2009

Almost a Month Later, and this is What you Get. Sigh.

The blog haunts me. I know I should be writing something here, but every time I try to, I am struck with severe writer’s block. It’s disconcerting; writing is something that has always been as natural to me as breathing. And by “always”, I mean since I grasped the magic of literacy at age four or five. I’m the little kid who won newspaper poetry contests. I’m the geeky teen who greeted essay assignments with glee. I’m the university student who made a little cash helping other students write papers after I tossed mine off. I’m the middle-aged lady who’s kept a journal almost non-stop since I was 15 years old. Writing is what I do.

It’s ideas that I am short of, I suppose. It’s so ridiculous: there a million stories in the big world, but it seems I have nothing to say about any of them. Instead, I think of topics like this:

Do you have one of those triple bathroom mirrors you can angle to see the back of your head? I was looking in mine the other day and when I looked at my own face in profile, it was as if I was looking at a stranger. We’re all used to seeing ourselves face-on in mirrors and our brains have a particular version of ourselves we register in those circumstances. We are often surprised, when looking at photographs, that it doesn’t appear to be quite the same image that we see in the mirror. But the profile in the mirror is another thing again. You’re seeing yourself, in real time, as other people see you when you’re not looking back at them. You can stand there and make faces and pretend to have an animated conversation, and that’s what you look like to other people. It’s just weird, is all.

Now, before you start (or continue) thinking my mind is a strange thing which goes off on bizarre paths, there are people who have done studies of human reactions to their faces in mirrors. Of course there are. I don’t think it matters how odd a topic you think up; there’s always going to be some academic out there in some musty room doing a study of it. In fact, at this point I have just gone off and Googled “face in mirror human” and Amazon suggested a book called “The Face in the Mirror: the Search for the Origins of Consciousness”. It discusses, among other things, a tribe in New Guinea which until recently had never had access to mirrors or even been observed to look at their reflections in water. I’ll bet this is a very interesting book. So it just goes to show, doesn’t it? What, I don’t know. But go ahead and play anthropologist yourself: try the triple-mirror profile thing.

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