Here comes the mirror man
Says he's a people fan
Here comes the mirror man
The Human League 1982
Why do I look? Certainly not through vanity. And not in any real hope of finding
any answers. There are too many unfinished questions to expect a satisfactory answer.
“What if...?” “How can I..?” “Is there a way out...?” All that comes is the Mirror
Man and more questions by way of reply.
“A way out of what?”
“This. I just want to be happy.”
“Wow... you've clearly given that a lot of thought. What an insightful mind you have.
I suppose world peace is something you worry a lot about too?”
“Not really... I'm not so fussed about everyone else, so long as I can get through
“So... tell me: What's happiness?”
“Alright, And what would make you content?”
“Worth a shot.”
“And would being content (even assuming you knew how to achieve it) make you happy?”
“Not really. Sounds a bit dull.”
And just think, how limited, how narrow your life would be if you were content. Contentment
stifles creativity. Smothering any incentive to improve or change.
I've still not given up looking for answers... even retrospectively. Wondering if
I might look into my past and spot a moment, a point where I can say “There. That's
when things changed. That event started me on the road to here.” I read Demian, “a
timeless story” so the dust jacket informed me, “of adolescent awakening.” Excellent...
I might learn something here, even if it's a little late to make much difference,
it might at least foster in me an element of understanding and comfort. For a while
everything seemed to be falling into place. It all made sense, as I followed the
confused soul of Emil Sinclair on its journey through life. Unfortunately, after
a promising start, it seemed to me the novel rather lost its way and petered out
disappointingly towards the end leaving me equally disappointed and dissatisfied.
And then it hit me – that's the path of adolescent awakening all over. Whatever the
ambitions and quandaries of youth it takes the rarest of minds not to slump into
the dull acceptance of adulthood.
But for some reason, I can't accept. Although I've no idea how to do anything about
it. And so I look: wondering. Trying perhaps to perceive what others see when they
look on me. I have no portrait in the loft to be the bearer of my experiences and
so as I stare the Mirror Man, in all his many guises, looks back at me, by turns
old or young, familiar and a stranger. The bon viveur, the drunk, the quiet, the
withdrawn, the flippant, the thoughtful, the selfless, the selfish, the confident,
the beset by fear... and the lonely.
“Borderline autistic,” they once said. Well thanks a bunch. Cheeky fuckers. I ask
you: “Borderline?!” I've never been so insulted. I've spent all these years endeavouring
to follow the model of the much loved, sadly troubled, tragically flawed, creative
genius (seemed to be making some progress towards it at one time an' all – I mean,
everyone's gotta have a goal) and after all that the best they could give me was
“borderline.” That's a devastating blow I can tell you. The biggest obstacle I have
had to face is coming to terms with the fact that I might be ordinary. Silly really,
when in a world where so many are extraordinary for all the wrong reasons being ordinary
represents quite an achievement. It's all very well being told there's something
wrong with you but to be told there's nothing wrong with you – that is tough:
“I'm delighted to be able to give you a clean bill of mental health.”
“Oh, well... hang on a minute doctor, don't say anything hasty.”
“Hasty? Not a bit of it, old chap – you're tip-top.”
“But that can't be right... you can't say that. It's been my comfort and support
all these years – knowing that I'm not quite right. You know, a handy little peg
on which to hang all those crises of confidence and social interaction...”
“Oh, oh I see... that... well...”
“I'm afraid you're just a bit of a git.”
Well, that would certainly explain it. The habitual social awkwardness. The familiar
fear of being out of it, not quite part of the gang. “All the world's a stage, And
all the men and women merely players” as someone once said... but in truth, not quite
all. A portion is kept aside for the audience: The lonely and the lost looking on
from the side fills. The solitude of being alone is one thing, when even your imaginary
friends stop talking to you, you're definitely in trouble; but the accentuated loneliness
of crowds quite another. The success or failure of your evening hanging by the slenderest
of threads: You arrive at the bar a moment too late, the round already paid up. You
try to join the circle but the press of bodies makes it hard to work your way in
and besides you haven't the confidence to force yourself on the conversation. Everyone
else seems engaged and animated but you find yourself unspoken to and hearing nothing.
Receding back down a tunnel of your own thoughts. Perhaps you find a detail on your
mobile phone that urgently requires attention, feigning occupation – as if anyone's
taking any notice, you seek refuge in your technological security blanket before
quietly drinking up your self-bought beer and slipping away into the evening with
barely a murmured farewell. Saddened at such self-perceived humiliation and failure
and the unnoticing indifference of your drinking companions.
On such occasions you wish for nothing more than escape. But though you can quit
the scene, you can never outrun yourself and the destructive mood that betrays your
earlier optimistic attempt on the day. In frustration you direct your anger, the
hate and bitterness at those whose acceptance you strove for previously. Trying in
vain to justify your emotions. But then there is only you... and those feelings turn
inward with a suffocating, paralysing venom - contorting the mind's eye. And then
the shock when confronting the Mirror Man – staring at the glass for physical signs
of the emotional disfigurement within. And He gazes back as implacably as ever. Facade
And now what? Another aspect. A good day. An unstoppable day. How's that? A word
has encouraged him. He's shaken off the melancholy. Joined the throng... and this
time he's armed, garnering smiles and laughter with a ready wit and feeding hungrily
on them. But humour can be a dangerous weapon. Humour is disruptive, anarchic. Always
alighting on and accentuating the absurd in any situation. A sense of humour is an
affliction, it cannot be turned on or off at will. It is always there, always working.
Its symptom: to announce the punchline – heedless of discretion or personal opinion.
And so all too easily that humour cuts deep... but ride it out... assuage the pain
it causes, not by kindness but by aiming the barbs elsewhere. After all, the banter
is good; faces turned toward you; drinks raised in cheer. In case of emergency –
The great pretender is in full stride. He may have guile enough to fool the cursory
glances of others, at times he even fools himself but he knows that back at the Mirror
a greater inspection waits where the cracks inevitably begin to show.
It's hardly insightful to draw the conclusion that our personalities are comprised
of many characters. But only recently has the awareness dawned that contentment is
reached only by having these disparate aspects, if not exactly pulling together,
at least rubbing along with each other rather than going head to head. But as I stare
the Mirror Man, in all his many guises, looks back at me, struggling, each aspect
vying for supremacy. This mirror's crack'd: I'm a 21st Century Schizoid Man.