“We have not to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly know; we have only to follow the thread of the hero path.” — Joseph Campbell
The reciprocating image that we find in a mirror is unique kind of image. It holds us to a higher standard than what we can embody.
In the last couple of posts, I have looked at one of the four human endowments: conscience. The root image of the mirror points to how we meet our deepest thoughts and feelings held in our conscience. The mirror’s reciprocating image reflects for us the relationship that we create with the world. And there is a perfection to what the mirror shows, a perfection that allows us to acknowledge our personal truth and our relational truth.
In my discussion of the mirror I have endeavored to look at five qualities of conscience: reciprocity, social veracity, safety, diversity, and empathy. And these qualities are as close as we can humanly get to the perfection of that reciprocating image. Of course there has to be some translation here. The mirror’s reciprocating image does not act. We do. The mirror’s reciprocating image does not feel. We do. So the power of that image to shape and change our behavior comes from the quality of our attachment, from the joy we allow the image to bring to us, even as it holds us accountable to a higher standard.
And that’s really my point here. There is a higher standard beyond what we can bring by virtue of our attachment. As much as we “live through” the surprise and joy of the mirrored image, we are also held accountable by its perfection. It is not ours to control. “Do unto others as you want them to do unto you” requires a mirrored response. It also requires a measured response, one that is filled with action, feeling, and thought. And these cannot be found in the image itself. We must supply them. And that’s where social veracity conflicts with personal veracity; that’s where safety is either won or lost; that’s where our diversity of need is either embraced or rejected; that’s where empathy either finds its way home or else becomes hopelessly lost in translation. Only by attending to and knowing ourselves can that translation truly bring us home.
I don’t want to be obscure. So let me unpack this carefully:
- Our first standard of veracity, and generally our only standard of veracity is the reciprocating image. How we live ourselves into the moment and movement of that image becomes de facto the measure of one’s entire life.
- The reciprocating image is a mind’s-eye image. It is something we fashion and create. But it is remains bigger and larger than our awareness; we are always one step removed from the totality of what it brings.
- Action, feeling and thought originate within us, but they deepen and change us only to the degree that we commit ourselves to whatever the reciprocating image offers. Our ability to see it as an offering, in large measure, dictates what we take from it.
- Image translations are always partial and tentative but the living they bring is always full, complete and uniquely original. We hold the full range of our human identity by living into the moment and movement of that image.
- Unconsciously, we are always open to what the image shows. We are also, however, free to ignore the image, by placing our attention only on the parts we already accept. Identification with the part, unfortunately, does not relieve us from the burden of the whole. There is always more to discover. Being stunted, privileged and less than fully human never serves us in the long run. There is a cycle of return which always puts us back into the image we create.
Group cohesion and shared relational values (covered yesterday) do create a necessary boundary. But for each person, in relationship, that boundary is really more like a labyrinth than a line. Our conscience has to decide if it wants to support the five qualities, and then choose its particular path accordingly.
Thanks for listening!