Neil Mach

Author – Fantasy Realism

Hall of Mirrors

The Hall of Mirrors (like the grandiose one in the Royal Palace of Versailles near Paris, which has 350 mirror surfaces) is designed to display the wealth of a king, and make the place appear larger than it actually is and to reflect the faces of those who promenade past. 

Even if you haven’t been to Paris, you’ve likely been inside a hall of mirrors. They are a traditional attraction at carnivals and amusement parks. If you’ve ventured into one of these attractions, I’m sure you’ve found them a bit labyrinthine and when the mirrors are distorted, due to their curves, they might have given you an unusual or confusing reflection of yourself that could have been funny, but might have been terrifying.

Scaramanga used a hall of mirrors to trap James Bond in The Man with the Golden Gun and Batman chased the Joker through a hall of mirrors in The Dark Knight Returns.

Funny Hall of Mirrors

But do you exist inside a gazebo of mirrors? Are you trapped inside the hall? Do you know the way out? Socially, when you have surrounded yourself with reflective images of your own views, judgments and opinions, it is sometimes difficult to find your way clear.

When you are trapped inside a hall of mirrors, it feels impossible to see things in their true light. And as long as you are trapped inside the hall, the perverted & deceptive images you see all around you will mock you… don’t you know they are just mirror images of your own unstable impressions?

Snow White

Everybody has a level of unconscious emotional patterning. In other words, we all want to “fit in.” We think we know what society expects from us, so we prefer to be a reliable “cog in the machine” rather than a flying bolt that looks as if it’s escaped from the gubbins and is causing havoc. That makes sense. Society is about compliance & conformity. It is about following certain axioms. But what if we don’t see society “the right way” because our view has been skewed by distortion so all we now see are perverse reflections of our beliefs…
Are we tempted to think the skewed reflections we see all around us are the truth?

What if the truth (we believe we see)  is just another reflection of the truth ( we want) to see?

Freeing ourselves from the corridor of mirrors is about letting go of everything we think we know. It is about separating ourselves from social conditioning, ideologies, political opinions, music, images and memes… all the things that we see every day that appear to remind us we know we are doing the right thing… in other words, all that stuff that seems to confirm to us that what we think is broadly the same as what everyone else thinks; in other words,  our perspectives are correct. But, to become an honest, free-thinking and broad-minded artist it’s vital we break free from this echo-chamber of opinions. 

When we see ourselves in the wonky reflection at a funfair, we might “lean” a certain way to “right” ourselves or to adjust our perspectives, or we might make ourselves look more ridiculous, just for fun. Buy when we’re at the funfair, we know the reflection  is not us and we know the distortion is just a silly game. We can walk away. We know the reflections are merely distorted lies of ourselves. But it’s not so easy to walk-away from the hall of mirrors in real life!

When we leave the funfair hall of mirrors we see our “real” selves again, don’t we? But some people are tempted to hide in a mirror maze all their lives. As an artist, we can’t afford to be one of those types.

Here’s a test to see if you have escaped the hall of mirrors:

Group A

  • Do you find yourself at odds with authority figures (scientists, teachers, academics)? 
  • Do you find everyone you know agrees with you on most issues? 
  • Do you often share memes or images you find funny or instructive? 
  • Do you often re-post friends’ opinions and their jokes and memes on social media? 
  • Do you enjoy getting rave reviews and lots of likes when you make a good point? 
  • Do you have to stop being friends with people sometimes because they post something disagreeable?

Group B

  • Do you ever ask others for help or advice?
  • Do you have lots of friends on social media that don’t think the same as you?
  • Do you have friends who some might describe as “way out there” in beliefs or lifestyle?
  • Do you have religious friends? Do you keep in regular contact with them? 
  • Do you like to listen to the opinions of others, even if they do not correspond with your own thoughts?

If you answered mostly yes to questions in higher group A and mostly no to those in lower group B, then you might need to ask yourself some additional questions:

  • How will you avoid following the pack? 
  • How will you know what to believe? 
  • How will you know which opinions should be questioned? 
  • How will you come up with original & creative content? 
  • How will you present your own ideas on social media?
Distorted Reflections

Can we break free from the hall of mirrors? Yes, but we have to do the following:

Understand what matters to us by searching (in our hearts) for our core beliefs and trusting in those beliefs

Trust in our own resolutions, knowing we don’t need others to help us decide what is best for us

Take ownership of any unwise decisions we made and acknowledging our mistakes

Understand our flaws and know that our mistakes make us resilient in the longer term, because there is less chance we’ll make the same mistakes again

Believe in ourselves. Understand we you are capable of making the right decisions.

Acknowledge that we don’t need someone else’s point of view to understand what is happening around us… if we don’t understand exactly what is happening, we can find out the facts for ourselves

Know that the best and truest answers lie within ourselves. When was the last time we searched our own conscience for an explanation? We must learn to do this before accepting another person’s opinion.

Ask ourselves questions to get answers: We must use common sense, intuition, and instinct before we seek the opinion of others

Learn to trust our own judgment. It is usually reasonable and it does not need to be confirmed by some other person

Recognize that it is sometimes wiser to consult an expert for guidance or information than an opinion-holder

Words: @neilmach 2021 ©

Thoughts, ideas or suggestions?  Tweet me @neilmach 

Neil Mach is author of “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” and host of the Myth & Magic fantasy writer’s podcast.

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