Once upon a time, science and magic joined together to create The Mirror. An artifact of incredible power. With most mirrors, when you look at them, the person in the mirror will adopt whichever emotion you yourself display. When you smile, the person in the mirror smiles. Frown, and the mirror-person frowns. But not so with The Mirror. With The Mirror, it’s backwards. The image in The Mirror adopts an emotion, and the real person feels it. No matter what your feelings beforehand… if the image in The Mirror smiles, then suddenly you smile too, and become happy. If the image in The Mirror frowns, then suddenly you frown too, and become sad.
People made pilgrimages from all over the world to gaze into The Mirror. People who had given up hope in life, saw The Mirror as a new chance for happiness. The dispossessed, the lovelorn, the lonely all flocked in droves for their turn gazing in The Mirror. Hoping that by fortune the image would smile, and their lives would have joy again.
At first, The Mirror was a purely positive influence on the world. Peoples’ lives were transformed. It was a chance to reroll the dice. But people became obsessed with The Mirror. They began to worship it, and to devote their lives to Mirror-Gazing, forsaking all else. Desperate Mirror-Fanatics became arch-villains, going to any length for another glance at that mystical glass. It soon became evident The Mirror was a curse on the world.
They tried to destroy The Mirror, to stop the madness. But it was magical, so it could not be scratched. All the dynamite in the world would not so much as crack it. In fact, all that emotional turmoil just fed The Mirror and made it stronger. More and more people were tugged into Mirror-Obsession.
Finally, the wisest man in the world was summoned to deal with the menace. This wise man laughed at The Mirror’s supposed power. He simply walked up to it, and gazed into it. The Mirror-Image went through a series of increasingly frantic emotions, struggling to influence the wise man, but he was unphased. Finally The Mirror surrendered and seemed to become like a normal mirror.
Now those desperate Mirror-Devotees returned to their Mirror, but it was different. One by one, they gazed into The Mirror, yet this time, the reaction was different. A stillness and a peace came over them, and a true contentment shone from their faces, and one by one, they left, never to return to The Mirror.
The wise man was asked what had happened to The Mirror. This is how he answered:
“We walk through life wearing masks. The masks are the sum of all that society tells us we are, and all that society tells us we should be; all that the world tells us we feel, and that we should feel. The Mirror has the power that it does not reflect our masks. Instead it changes them and projects them back in a random way. And those who gazed at The Mirror internalized these new masks. When I gazed at The Mirror, I did so with my bare face, unobscured by any mask. That starved The Mirror and it used up its powers trying to do something with a non-mask. But the true person cannot be changed, not even by magic. Finally The Mirror’s evil power was exhausted, and now it is a mirror which shows us our true selves behind our masks.”
“When a person beholds her true self behind all her masks, she realizes that she is not those masks. All her life, she identified herself with her masks, but now suddenly she knows them for what they are. Her cares and her worries melt away and are replaced with a true inner joy. Not the mask-joy of this world, but the innate true joy of life. In truth she knew this joy all along, but it was drowned out by all the masks.”
You might have imagined the wise man as an old hermit. You might have pictured him as coming from some temple or mountain. You probably imagined him as being devout and no fun to be around. But this is just another example of the false masks of the world. Society tells us that that’s how the wise man must be. It isn’t so. In fact, the wise man was a young man in his twenties. With a hot babe under each arm.