DS View: Reflections

Have you ever sat in the entryway to the backdoor of the Memorial Union? Around the corner, along the wheelchair ramp, behind the fake plants, there’s a nice little nook with a view of the alley between the Union and McCannel.

During the day when foot traffic is heaviest, this is a fun place to kill time. Not only do you get to watch the squirrels mess with all the tiny birds that usually chill in the bushes by the bike rack, but there’s another uniquely human interaction that abounds just outside the wall of windows in the foyer.

I’m talking about people checking themselves out in the reflections of those windows, which virtually everyone does, every time they walk by.

Something about it is hilarious to me, though that’s not to say I don’t do it myself; I certainly know the feeling:

You’re walking to class, avoiding puddles, treading carefully over icy sidewalks, glancing at people crossing your path, looking out for cars — then you turn a corner and see your reflection out of the corner of your eye against the big windows behind the Union.

How difficult it is to resist a peek!

So you look, check your hair, fix your scarf, change your posture, then snap back into reality the instant the window disappears.

And off you go, hardly noticing you even looked, and usually forgetting about it completely before you arrive at your destination.

I’ll admit most people probably find nothing interesting about what I just described, but I think these moments tell us much about how people in our culture view their place in reality.

The most obvious assumption this illustrates is also the easiest to miss: We draw a distinction between our bodies and everything else — between “me” and “not me.”

But why?

Is it because when we walk by a row of windows, we recognize a familiar pattern in the reflection that seems to follow our commands? Does our ability to adjust our hair, clothing or posture according to societal norms mean we each exist as island of consciousness, completely alien to “the rest” of what’s happening?

Of course not, right?

But that’s exactly what we reaffirm ourselves of every time we evaluate our reflections in windows.

Whether or not you want to argue that checking yourself out is vain or that it proves you’re self-conscious or something, I don’t care. What it actually does is pound into your mind even further the myth that you are somehow separate from the universe you grew out of.

You can still try to argue that you’re separate from what is (though you’ll fail every time, if you ask me).

What you really shouldn’t do, no matter what your beliefs are, is adjust your hair when a reflection of light against glass makes you forget you’re really the one, entire universe ising along — especially when I’m on the other side of that glass smiling at myself acting so silly.

Will Beaton is the Editor-in-Chief of The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].