Tuesday, 3 September 2002

The Mirror and I (2002)

From The Philosopher, Volume LXXXX No. 2 Autumn 2002



THE MIRROR AND I

By Francisco Umpiérrez Sánchez 



Artists prefer palpable objects to conceptual ones.

The reason for this stems from the fact that the former may be seen, heard and touched, whilst the latter may only be thought about. But artists do not show an interest in palpable objects in the same way that practical people far removed from transcendental considerations do, but rather seek in them the beauty of their form and their profound human meaning. In this sense, they have more in common with philosophers, who capture the profound nature of the world through concepts, than with the practical man who is content with the outer and superficial aspect of things. The six thoughts that I shall today present to the reader for their consideration are aimed especially at artists, to show them how something as simple and universal as the relationship between oneself and the mirror hides marvellously dialectical conceptual secrets.

First thought. When one positions oneself in front of a mirror, an act that we perform every morning, one sees oneself reflected in the same. But if one sees oneself in the mirror, it is because one is in the mirror. Therefore, I am not one, as I first believed at the start of this thought, but two: on the one hand, I am me in myself, outside of the mirror, and on the other, I am me in another, in the mirror, outside of myself. This is the first conceptual secret that I discover in this experience: that I do not only exist in myself, but also exist outside of myself.

Second thought. When I exist outside of myself, I do not only exist in the mirror, but also in the retina of the people that see me, in the photographs of relations that remember me and in the consciousness of friends in whose dreams I appear. Therefore, I in myself am one, but outside of myself, I am many. This is the second conceptual secret that I discover in this experience: that I multiply myself, that one becomes many.

Third thought. If tomorrow, by a simple stroke of fate, I were to die, I in myself would no longer exist, but outside of myself I would remain in existence: in photographs, in the dreams of the living, and in wax or marble if, with the passing of time, society should wish to erect a statue of me. Therefore, I in myself am transitory, but outside of myself I become eternal. This is the third conceptual secret that I discover in this experience: that that which is fleeting becomes eternal. 

Fourth thought. I, in myself, am not as I am outside of myself: in myself I am body and I am appearance, but outside of myself, in the mirror, I am solely appearance. The first and second thoughts gave me the immense joy of recognising that I existed and multiplied myself outside of myself, but now I am surprised to find out that when this occurs, when I exist outside of myself, I experience the loss of my much craved body. This is the fourth conceptual secret that I discover in this experience: that we lose the body when we come to exist outside of ourselves.

Fifth thought. The man in the mirror, who until now had remained silent, takes his turn to speak: it is natural and understandable that you are concerned about the fate of your body, given that you are finite and fear death, but for me such a worry does not exist. I know that I need a body in which to exist, but it is immaterial to me which body this is: it may be your body of flesh and bone, the glass in the mirror or a piece of marble. 

Therefore, I am always one and the same, whilst my bodies are many and various. 
This is the fifth conceptual secret that I discover in this experience: if in the second thought my body was one and my appearance was multiple, in this fifth thought the situation is reversed: my appearance is one and the body is multiple. 

Sixth thought. In this last thought, the man in the mirror takes the initiative once more: 'You believe that your body is the true substance and subject of this process and that your appearance is nothing more than one of your features or attributes, in the same way as your weight or your speech. But you are mistaken: the true substance and subject of this process is me, your appearance, whilst your body is nothing more than one of your features or attributes in the same way as the glass in the mirror or the piece of wax or marble'. This is the sixth and last conceptual secret that I discover in this experience: that the subject becomes an attribute and the attribute the subject. 



Address for correspondence:

Francisco Umpiérrez Sánchez
(Director of Cekam)
Las Palmas


email: <fumsa@msn.com> 

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