Lost in the words of others, I am not that ‘man’ in the mirror; he is but a fragmented body with jutting shards that have been acknowledged ferociously by those around him – a glitched figure, some would say. It’s hard to get away from him, he’s everywhere; whether through the reflective window of a coffee shop, or in the forefront of the washroom, he’s always there, and I’m forced to face him. But what if I never had to? In my ideal realm, where reflective frames are absent, imagination takes the wheel on a journey of self-discovery.
The mirror, to some, is an essential part of human development; the Mirror-stage, for instance, “a particular case of the function of the imago, which is to establish a relation between the organism and its reality – or as they say, between the innenwelt [inside word] and the Umwelt [the outside world]” (Lacan 4), seems evidently essential in the understanding of the self. But what happens if that connection is not established? What if the organism’s self is but a manifestation imposed upon it by its surrounding world – a victim of fabricated images? According to Magnolia Pauker, if the mirror-stage is unsuccessful, “you’re fucked” (Who are I? The Uses of Psychoanalysis); and in all my ‘fucked-ness’ emerges a disjointed self, in an attempt to destroy the mirror.
Empathy, “the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” (“Empathy”), occurs in the disabling of one’s own mirror; in the power of overcoming one’s own reflection, transpires a transcendent connection between one’s self and another. Absorption occurs, through imaginative thinking, as the self is situated in the mirror of the other. In Daehyun Kim’s drawing Sharing Face with Me in The Shadow (2015), empathy is illustrated as two subjects sharing a shadow in hopes of reconciliation; a galactic veil is transferred from one figure to the other. The notion of acceptance seems evident in the subject’s willingness to share a mirror, a reflection of an inner reflection; the gestures of the hands demonstrate an act of giving – an offering of the self, to one, and an offering of the suffering self, to another.
Empathy, therefore, becomes a tool of deconstruction, a temporary elimination of the mirror, an entry into love.