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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Why Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

When my husband and I lived in New York, the little boy across the street from us often played alone in his yard.  Because of a hedgerow, he could not see when I had come out my front door, so I frequently had the pleasure of observing him while he thought he was alone.  I got to witness him saving the world on more than one occasion; but more often than not he was simply making the winning play for his team.  Any time he became aware of me he would immediately freeze and wait until he was sure I was out of earshot to resume his play. 

You know what?  I think most of us are a lot like that little boy—we hide our heroics from the world because we are afraid they will not be taken seriously; or worse yet, they will be ridiculed.  We are afraid the world will not reflect back our magnificence, so rather than take that chance we hide it, minimize it, or worst of all stop believing in it ourselves.  But because it is still inside of us and yearning to break out, we start noticing OTHER people’s magnificence…and perhaps resent it. 

Why do THEY get to shine while I have to hide my light?  Why do they have so much when I have so little?  Instead of rejoicing at the success and beauty and talent and power of others, we belittle it.  Because we don’t realize that we can only see what is already inside of us, we disown these parts of ourselves.

William Makepeace Thackeray once wrote, “Life is a mirror: if you frown at it, it frowns back; if you smile, it returns the greeting.”   Over the course of my life, I have heard many versions of this same sentiment, but none as clear and direct as that.  Yet as many times as I have heard it, it is sometimes very difficult to remember on days when life is not smiling back at me; the cause-and-effect relationship somehow gets muddled in my mind.  The mirror of life is not unlike our vanity mirrors:  when we don’t like the reflection we see, it is hard to take responsibility for it. 

Whenever I am going through a tough time and feel that life is frowning at me, it is very tempting to claim to be a victim of my circumstances.  But as the late Wayne Dyer once brilliantly put it, when you squeeze an orange you are always going to get orange juice because that is what’s inside…so when life squeezes you, what comes out is always what you have got on the inside as well.  Life is a mirror, reflecting back to us our beliefs and current internal state…the good news and the bad news is that what this means is that objects in the mirror are always closer than they appear.
Do you remember the old Peanuts cartoon where Linus lamented “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand”?  I have always said that I am the opposite:  I LOVE people, it’s mankind that gets me down.  As a species, humans have done some incredibly despicable things; however as individuals, I find most people to be essentially good at heart and deserving of love.  I make a concerted effort not to vilify people for being “wrong”, because “wrong” and “bad” are two different things. 

I have often been called naïve for my belief in our intrinsic goodness.  Years ago I was working at a job where another employee was let go for some kind of misconduct; we were all called into a meeting and told to avoid contact with this person due to the perceived severity of the breach.  At the end of the session one of my co-workers taunted me: “But she was such a NICE person, right, Kara?  Such a good person?” 

Until that moment, I didn’t really know that I was regarded as a Pollyanna.  But I wasn’t hurt by teasing; as Frederic Brown wrote, “When you look at anything, you know what you're seeing? Yourself. A thing can only look beautiful or romantic or inspiring if the beauty or romance or inspiration is inside you.”  We see ourselves in the mirror.  I thought it was a very encouraging sign that what I saw in others was largely decency.

Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.  When you look at the world, you are not seeing something separate and disconnected from who you are; we are combined with what we notice.  Our beliefs serve as a filter through which everything gets sorted; this is why the expression “the rich get richer” and others like it are so steadfastly true.  When you look at someone rich, beautiful, talented, successful and say “I could never be those things” you are forgetting the essential truth that you cannot recognize what you are not.  

When you look at something and name it bad, you are not understanding that objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.  If you can see it, you can be it:  good, bad and indifferent.  Whenever someone is pushing my buttons and I am wanting to lay the blame on them for what is coming out of me as a result, I sort through all the labels I want to call them…selfish…apathetic…thoughtless…cruel…and then I lay claim to those labels myself. 

If I see it in the other person, I must have it in me.  And this is true of the good I see in other people as well.  If I see it “out there”, then I have to recognize that I’m “all that” too; I take responsibility for the mirror and the reflection starts to shift.  When I accept the truth that objects in the mirror are closer than they appear, I can forgive others for their missteps, because I need to be forgiven for mine.   The mirror shows you only what you want to see; so look for love and tolerance, and that is what you will reflect back to the world.



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