In the delightful movie Twins featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito playing - you guessed it - twins, though obviously not the identical sort, Arnold's Julius tells DeVito's Vincent that the two of them are the result of a genetic experiment pairing the sperm of several different extraordinary men with the eggs of one very lovely woman. In short that they are brothers separated at birth. DeVito looks at the bronzed god of a man staring back at him and deadpans, "Oh obviously, the moment I sat down I thought I was looking into a mirror!"
This is a humorous take on the notion that we see in others aspects of ourselves. When we have disagreements with our loved ones we are confronted with tendencies and characteristics present in our own heart. To paraphrase CG Jung, we are identified with our moods and prejudices, and shamelessly accuse others of the things we will not see in ourselves. So think twice or thrice before pointing a finger at another, for when you do, three fingers point back to you. It as if everywhere you turn everyone is holding up a mirror in which you regard yourself. Even though, like the august Arnold sitting across from the diminutive DeVito, what you see staring back at you hardly resembles your idealized version of personhood.
But if you take a careful look inside your own heart and sweep all wishful thinking aside you can derive a clear picture of your personality and gain a greater insight into those tendencies you try ever so carefully, if unconsciously, to conceal. Which was the case last Friday when I got together with an old friend, JP. After we saw the highly-acclaimed movie Wonder Woman, which I thoroughly and surprisingly enjoyed, we sat down for a bite to eat and caught each other up on our lives and pursuits. In the course of our two-hour dinner conversation JP reflected back at me several notions that I have been exposed to recently.
First was a concept I found in Emerson's Representative Men, about how any progress you make along the spiritual path benefits humanity at large, because what improves a part of something improves the whole. Also the importance of constantly asking yourself "Who am I?" as a way of transcending the ego-based individualized perspective, which is limited, fear-based and self-serving, to gain a broader scope and access the cosmic consciousness that is the source of all that is.
Looking at JP, with his high-priced coupe car and designer jeans and fitted T, you'd never guess he was walking around sunk in "melancholia" wondering what it all means as he questions his own identity. Nor that someone who seems so glib and carefree and who you'd think leaves a trail of broken hearts wherever he goes would be so sensitive as to secretly nurse a heartache months after the damage was inflicted and struggle just to make it through the day. All that I just said about JP could also be written about me. Mirror mirror, see?
JP recommended a book whose author had been a disciple of Ramana Maharshi, whose teachings have awed me ever since my father turned me onto them back when I was 19. A free and brief PDF version of the sage's seminal treatise can be found here. I felt connected and validated after we got up from our meal, and without the least bit of indigestion, because I went easy on the fried cauliflower and barbecued tofu. Vegan junk food is still junk food, and costs a lot more than McDonald's!
Arriving back home, I felt my loneliness assuaged, my belief in the unity of humanity renewed, and with it my faith in the future of American comic book-based cinema. Maybe JP only shared my opinion on many points because he reads my blog, doubtful though this may seem. My point is that if you work on yourself and overcome anxiety, hatred, depression and fear, replacing these emotions with love and thoughtfulness, compassion and control, you see these attributes reflected all around you. And in working on yourself you have made the world a better place. Just go easy on the fried foods.