What do we see when we look in a mirror? The simple answer is a reflection of our selves. Yet the true answer to this age-old question is so much more mystifying.
The oldest known mirrors found in Anatolia, date back to 6000 BC and were made of polished obsidian, a glass-like volcanic rock. More than likely, even before that, humans looked at their own reflections in pools of water. In Metamorphoses, the great Roman poet Ovid recounts the myth of Narcissus, a young man so beautiful that he fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. As he had shunned Echo, the Nymph who loved him so deeply, so he pined for the love he could not have, the one who faded away every time he touched the surface of the water. Eventually, Narcissus died of grief, forgetting to eat and drink, looking longingly upon his own fleeting reflection.
In Lewis Carroll’s story Through the Looking Glass, Alice of Wonderland fame enters into an alternative world by stepping into her mirror. Her adventures there are nonsensical, upside-down, inside-out, and backward, like the book she can only read by holding it up to a mirror. As in Wonderland, she meets many colorful and unusual characters, but eventually wakes up to realize that it was all but a dream. The question can not help but be posed: Is the world in which we live merely a dream?
On the one side of the mirror lies real flesh and blood, humanity searching to understand the meaning of life, yet all that looks back is a cold reflection of reality. When we are young, we look into the mirror and observe the image of a laughing child. As young adults, the mirror displays the beauty of youth and vitality. Yet as time passes, we begin to see wrinkles and grey hair reflecting the passage of time, this terrible fourth dimension that we can not control which keeps moving ever forward. On the one hand, we wonder if death is the final, inevitable end to this entity called life. Yet, perhaps if life is but a dream, then death is in fact an awakening to truth, to reality, and to the reflection of God who created us “in his image”.