Spellbound

The voice of the mirror is silent, like the sky. It wants to swallow you. You cannot avert your eyes. This is what eyes were made for, the affirmation of the self.

You float by shop windows, translucent, dark. You appear suddenly in parked cars, streaming across a polished fender, a pane of glass.

This is the ghost version, not a shadow but a partially rendered shade. And when you see it, it calls out voiceless to be known.

A car is also a costume, like a metal gown. We wear cars like clothes. To be in a car is to inhabit something wondrous. It is transformative. No other animal moves so fast, so safe, so comfortably. We are superheroes in our cars. They are super suits

I can look at cars and see myriad versions of myself. I look at cars all the time, and I also see you. I imagine who you are by merely looking at your skin – your brand, make and model. Your color. I am easily fooled and am willingly tricked into believing all sorts of things about who you are. I invent that. I make up stories about people I can’t even see, inside their cars.

I know this is wrong. But it’s a habit I learned growing up in New York. You’re not a person, you’re a car. If you can dehumanize someone else, you think, you can humanize yourself. Nobody thinks of it that way but that’s what’s happening.

I’m trying hard to be a more loving driver because I believe it will help me to be a more loving man. Driving is meditation. The road is the dojo. I practice compassion, tolerance and forgiveness on my way to the store. I know that nothing that happens on the road is personal, even if someone flips me the bird.

Kindness begins at four-way stop signs. I imagine that maybe I can set the tone for a person’s entire day with one small gesture. I know it sometimes works in reverse. It’s not easy to sit in traffic. It’s not always easy to let things go. People sometimes vent their anger out there on the road, or show their fallible humanness. We are so, so far from perfect. Maybe you’re just having one of those day. I get it. Go ahead and get into my lane.

So here I am, crouched and distorted on the streets of San Francisco. I have caught myself peering into yet another funhouse mirror. I’m always falling for the same old trick. Of course I am not inside the hubcap. Reflections don’t prove who I am. But they are marvelous illusions. Seeing myself anywhere is strange and off-putting. A visible self. The most familiar human I know. I see him everyday yet still feel compelled to stop and look when he appears in such unexpected places. I don’t understand this.

One day I will automatically love every human being from the moment they appear, in whatever form. One day I will no longer be beguiled by reflections. Bodies, clothing, and automobiles won’t matter. The camera is teaching me this. Photography is the art of seeing without eyes.

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