It is an observable and, we maintain incontrovertible fact, that our society appears to be rife with people who manifest an irresistible impetus to incessantly audit their personal reflective image. Without question, the most commonly accessible device for such eerie dedication is the mirror, variously defined as a surface, typically glass, coated on the reverse side with an amalgam, which reflects a clear image. In this note we are interested in the intrinsic degree of importance, of such frequently reflected images.
If one chose to take the time to consider the phenomenon, he would, predictably, observe an uncountably numerous presence of mirrors throughout our (apparently, self-conscious) society. Mirrors of all sizes and dimensions, in private and public spaces, hotels, restaurants, department, stores, railroad and bus depots, libraries, theaters and places of public assembly. The existence of this plethora of mirrors, tends to give evidence of some neurotic need for constant assurance of identity. It is as if there were a fear of sudden, unexpected alteration in facial characteristics, absent constant monitoring. Clothing merchants provide ample access to mirrors, as a practical matter, for the intended use of the patron in seeking an appropriate garment. The perspective, purchaser may instead, be primarily interested in viewing himself in a conceivably different aspect. If he approves of the “new me,” he will likely make the purchase. It might be more useful, as a practical matter, instead, to use the words of the Scotch poet, Robert Burns, to be able “to see ourselves, as others see us.”
Vastly greater significance is applicable to our self-image, usually developed over time, by our internal, subjective assessment of the history of our past reactions to others (family, friends, co-employees), and, to the varied stimuli that accrue in our life, positive and negative. Our long- standing assumptions regarding our self- image are the reliable source of our fundamental outlook on life, our adopted principles, perception of events, our morality and feelings of responsibility, of our capacity for love and our empathy and our fixed standards of rectitude.
Perhaps the foremost quality, having its fundamental derivation in our self-image, is our personal sense of morality; a quality which is essential for living successfully with others in society. The moral sense in properly socialized and mature people, is internal, and a replication of the (inner) self, consistent with their felt urgings of developed self-image.
The following (fictitious) anecdote [used in a prior blogpost] is illustrative, as well as thought useful, in making the point. Let us suppose that I wrongfully took (stole) your cell phone. Later in the day, I suffer unbearable remorse and guilt by reason of my wrongful act and, shamefacedly, return it to you, accompanied with my profuse, sincere and abject apology. You, being an exceptionally generous and forgiving person, accept my remorseful apology, and seeing my sincerely intense grief, generously, state that, “I should forget about it, because, as far as we are concerned, it never happened.” Yet, I am not able to forget it, since, as far as my consideration of my self-image is concerned, I am still plagued with the disturbing thought as to, what kind of a person am I, after all, to have stolen the item in the first place?
Mature and permanently developed morality does not depend upon the fragile and inconsistent system of reward and punishment. Proper moral sense is effective when internalized and developed into an integral part of one’s self-image. True moral responsibility, like empathy and the capacity to love, are entirely internal matters; our true persona and, to the point, its accurate depiction, vitally depend upon our internalized self- image, and not on superficial mirror reflections.
In an earlier blogpost (#261 “Mr. Rogers and Selfies”) we, sincerely and respectfully, paid homage to the late Fred Rogers, for his special dedication and contributions to the healthy socialization of children; most especially (and uniquely) his vital, and unique mission to teach the importance of who they are, “inside” [“it’s You I like, not the clothes you wear …etc.] and the comparative unimportance of what they may happen to look like on the outside.
Would that more adults had subscribed to, and learned from, “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.”