No Mirrors

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2 August 2013

After a few days of being here in rural, northern Uganda, both my fellow student midwife, Sarah, and I noticed that there were no mirrors around. Neither of us had looked in a mirror for days. This is of course in striking contrast to America, where there is a mirror in every bathroom in the house — and there are often more scattered throughout the house in the hallways, dining-rooms, living-rooms, and near the doors we enter and exit.

The omnipresence of mirrors holds in virtually every home we go into, but it’s also true of most restaurants, doctors’ offices, workplaces, malls, movie theatres … The list goes on and on.

But what would it be like to grow up in a traditional culture where you rarely saw yourself? Where your only reflection of yourself was in the eyes of other people?

It seems to me that the absence of mirrors helps eliminate an obsessive concern with one’s self and one’s appearance. It focuses our eyes on the people around us – and on the land we are living in – and on the creatures living in it. It’s hard to worry about a bad hair day, for instance, if you’ve never once seen your own hair that day.

How many thoughts go through our minds on a typical day in America about how we look? Wouldn’t it be beneficial to be able to drop those thoughts off the radar and concentrate on something else?

There are very few cameras here, either. There’s no pervasive permanent photographic record, in print or online, of what most people look like now or looked like when they were younger. For the most part, people don’t worry about that.

I’m not against mirrors or cameras. I’m thankful for them, actually, and enjoy working with both artistically and creatively. But being removed from my habitual cultural context, I can see things differently here, even though (and maybe especially because) I so rarely see myself.

One thing I do know:
that though I was blind, now I see.

~ John 9:25

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