Another Dialogue: Mirrors and Contemplatio Mortis

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Pierre, standing in front of his bathroom mirror, suddenly feels the urge to look closely and touch the palm of his hand to the mirror. He gets the sense that this is one of those clichéd-movie-scene type things that every man should just do. Before he can even examine his slightly asymmetrical facial hair, the figure in the mirror pulls back and begins to move on its own. It doesn’t move much, it just stands there and studies him. Pierre steps back and stares at his independently-moving reflection.

“Are you…me?”

“No. Yes.”

“…are you me…from the future?”

“I follow you chronologically, thus I am not you.”

“But you remember me, right?”

[nodding once] “Of course. I was you. I am what you will be.”

“You seem….grim.”

“Grim [makes lip-smacking noise] …odd word.”

“Calm, determined in a kind of way that makes you look unhappy.”

“So do you think I’m unhappy?”

“No, I somehow sense that you aren’t. You’re too busy to worry. Or rather, busy being un-busy. Is it strange that I know all this just from looking at myself?”

“Maybe you’re just wish thinking. Maybe I’m just as pathetic, uncertain, torn between action and contemplation as you.”

“…so tell me?”

“What, what’s going to happen? No, I don’t think I will.”

“…”

“Did I really look this disheveled?

[Looking down at himself] “Disheveled?”

“How long was it…oh yes, I’d gone nearly seven months without a haircut.”

“How do I remember this stuff?”

“Points of reference. Caring about information. As you are also aware.”

“So what are you doing these days? Whichever days those are…?”

“Looking in the mirror.”

[Shakes his head] “Alright, fantastic, yes, you’re looking at me in the mirror just like I’m looking at you. Well said.”

[Nods]

[Breathes loudly] “Seriously, what’s going to happen to me in the future?!”

“I was being serious, I look in the mirror. Bathroom mirrors, side mirrors, my reflection in the pools of water that form in the indents of the road after the rain. I look in order to recall myself to myself, and not get lost in the cacophony of sounds and shapes I find before me. I return often to visual silence.”

“So this is why I’m so calm in the future. But then where do you go? Where do you live? Who are your friends?”

“I know this is the question to which you think you want the answer. But the truth is, you don’t.”

“If you’re just vainly looking at yourself all the time to escape from a bad situation, things must be terrible for you.”

“Things are always terrible on the outside. Harsh, forbidding, cruel. Indifferent. For you and for me. For both of us during all times. That’s life. But I’m not running away from anything. It’s the silence that I bathe myself in.”

“So what does this have to do with my reflection…? And why not try and make life better for yourself instead of just numbing your existence?”

“A numbing, is that what it is? If I summon courage, do I negate fear? Pride? I’m pulling away from all the lies of the outer world.”

“So why don’t you just go someplace where you can live peacefully? Just relax?”

“Because those lies will follow me even into the tundra, the ocean, the jungle, the mountains. It doesn’t matter where I go, truly. It doesn’t matter where you go. And why relax fully, and retreat into an empty peace when I can struggle? When I can look at the one thing in this world that has the potential either to destroy me forever, or propel me on into new forms of life; my own human face?”

“So by looking at yourself you make yourself stronger somehow? Against whatever it is in the world you’re dealing with?”

“I detach from all the little things in the world. I get further and further each time. I look at my face and I see my eyes close. I see my skin rot away, I see the tendons fall away and my skull transform into ash. I watch the ash scatter until there is nothing but air. Nothing but silence. Of what will be left of my body. Of what I’m already becoming. This thing that I have, my body, which is not me.”

“And how do you really detach yourself? How do you authentically move away from whatever is corrupting you?”

“Power. Energy. Silence.”

“And how will I get to be where you are? I mean, where I am, in my future?”

“Cultivate the warrior spirit. Contemplate your death. Take all your lustful and fearful impulses and shift them so that they flow in a single path.”

“Well…in my case, I guess my problem is that my default mode is to just reproduce my thoughts again and again in different ways; kind of like Monet rapidly repainting his motifs because the light has changed. As a means of dealing with the dull outside world I’ve gotten into the habit of over-intellectualizing everything as a means of defending myself against insanity. And now I can’t turn the mind off…or that whenever I do manage to do this, it isn’t me. It’s a different man who’s left me behind. He’s the butterfly and I’m the caterpillar.”

“And this makes me the butterfly?”

“Or the cocoon… [quizzical look] how much older than me am I? I mean you.”

“…older.”

“…Alright, I have one more question.”

“Go ahead.”

“Why is it exactly that this time you looked in the mirror, you made yourself appear to me?”

“You’re the one who brought me here, not I. I was just minding my own business until you decided to look beyond your present moment.”

“So it looks like I’ve annoyed my future self terribly.”

[smiling] “On the contrary, I was terribly bored until I got here. I’m quite entertained now.”

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