The Two Way Mirror

April 8, 2014
Eamonn
Mirror

You know the scene. The unhinged criminal sits opposite his interrogator in an otherwise empty grey room. On the far wall is the large conspicuous mirror. Even those of us who’ve managed to get through life without so much as a parking ticket know how this works. It’s a two way mirror and behind it is an anonymous audience. They have a clear and direct view into his world, but our manic malefactor can only guess the population of the next room. He knows his every word is being recorded and that they are assessing his psychology and judging him.

With stony sangfroid he recounts the visceral details of his misdeeds. He never sees their faces, their reactions; he can only presume their thoughts as they try to comprehend his chronicle. Why does he feel so apparently comfortable in confessing every minute of his miscreancy? Explaining what he did, why he did it, and how he felt.

There is a psychological shield protecting me when I look into the screen and see my reflection in these words, but it is interesting that I should knowingly confess them to an unseen audience at all. How many are there of you in that room? How many of you do I know, and how does my open-ended exposition affect your feelings towards me? How many of you are strangers? How many affected by similar circumstances who want to be forewarned of the possible madness and unreciprocated outpouring you might succcumb to? How many sadistic voyeurs who simply enjoy watching a cat on an electrified dancefloor?

I ask myself if, rather than scrawling my confession in apparent isolation, I was standing in a full auditorium would I be prepared to verbalise these deeply personal feelings and experiences. Would I be overwhelmed by self consciousness? Would I become so self aware of my singular insignificance, my #firstworldproblems, shame would smother my public introspection? At least in oratory the words would dissipate into the ether once spoken. I have discovered writing in any formal fashion, especially on the subject of oneself, is to expose yourself to complete vulnerability. I am confessing to the the world not only who I really am, but acknowledging this is the best I can do, and here it is to be judged forevermore.

On a personal level, the process is definitely cathartic, it provides an intellectual legacy, a record of my personality and experiences for my family and friends; but the more I write and the more positive feedback I get, the more conscious I am that, like an unstable chain reaction, these words will be fuelled further by the flames of fans. We all thirst for admiration, confirmation, love, and can’t help but return to the fount of such seemingly innocuous euphoria; but it’s not an admirable addiction to admit to, it inevitably leads to hubris, and is certainly very un-British.

I hope, with some humility though, I am also aware that there is a proportion of that room that has looked through and feel entirely the opposite. For every individual that has felt entertained or inspired enough to communicate it to me, there are several silent cynics, many won’t have even entered the room on principle. Who is this prick anyway? Who the hell does he think he is? For those whose curiosity couldn’t be killed, many either now feel their bias has been confirmed, and yes Eamonn is indeed a prick, or they have been utterly and convincingly swayed from a position of support and sympathy to one of boredom and disappointment.

So why the continuing navel gazing? Haven’t we all had our fill by now? Well apparently not, or at least I haven’t. Sure, there was a lot of backed up effluence to unclog from the last two years and yes, I have recounted it in some detail, but the world continues to turn and everyday I am finding new and surprising things about this whole topic. Maybe it’s a perceptual anomaly brought on by the shortening of life expectancy, which, if you’ll indulge me, I’ll explain.

I subscribe to the percentage perception theory. You know when you are a kid and every summer seemed like a lifetime, but as you grow older every year seems to pass faster and faster. In simple terms, when you are five years old, one year is 20% of your life. When you are fifty years old, one year is 2% of your life and so seems to pass ten times quicker than when you were a child. It doesn’t of course, but you know what I mean.

Well my theory is that starting in the past, that line passes through the present, and continues on into your perception of your future life expectancy. When you think you have another ten years left in you, each year’s passing feels proportionately like 10% of what’s left of your life. When you think you only have one year left, er, clearly that’s 100% of your life and therefore it feels like it is moving ten times faster.

This not only means you absolutely hate wasting a day, but it also that you spend a lot of time examining your life (including confusing and unnecessary maths problems), and trying to make sense of it all at a pace that you ironically didn’t have the time to before; or were too busy earning the money to pay the mortgage to sit around all day contemplating Jean Paul Sartre.

What definitely has changed is my appreciation of the passing of time and the vivid intensity of details that were previously just background scenery. When the daffodils spring I wonder if it is the last time I’ll see them; when the green leaves of summer start to turn gold, I’m already wistfully missing the warmth of the sun on my face and dreading the chill of winter. Fortunately the single year I was cautioned might be my last has stretched into a third, and each time those daffodils bloom I enjoy them more than the last.

The good news for that those that prejudged me an arrogant, self indulgent narcissist who likes the sound of his own keyboard too much, is that they will never know how much they have been spared. For the rest of you; abandon hope all ye who enter here. You are lodging at the Hotel California; “You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave!”

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Tags: Mirror, Reflection,

16 Comments. Leave new

Gary (guzzzle)
April 8, 2014 11:04 AM

Eammon Elvis Costello. Deep Dark Truthful Mirror. Came to mind when I woke up with a pain where my tonsil was. Which meant cancer. Your blog is very thought provoking. Do you have a background in philosophy? Keep scrawling mate.

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Hi Gary,

I had to Google the lyrics and couldn’t decide if they are the greatest, most relevant lyrics I have ever heard, or I’m filling in the gaps to suit my purposes; either way they are beautiful. Thanks for leading me there.

As for philosophy; my qualifications are from the local hostelry:-)

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Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.
I would argue Eamonn is anything but rational – the only things on the other side of his two way mirror are his daemons and slightly insane, but enormously enjoyable, rantings.

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You know you say that, but I really struggled recently trying to decide if I was a rationalist or an empiricist! As I understand it they are mutually exclusive by definition. If someone can help me resolve that I would sleep far easier. However, I am sure I’m an existential nihilist; just a really lightweight one.

You are right about the ranting though, I was bad enough before then they gave me drugs! I’m glad they provide entertainment though, you can think of your National insurance contributions as an entrance fee:-)

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Two things from me on this one. First of all well done for just putting it out there. For me there’s always a bit of shyness about putting the real me on a page or a stage. It probably stems from a long-held childhood fear of being teased about doing things differently and keeping that guard up so as not to be hurt. I remember being mocked in the first week at secondary school for saying that my hobby is studying butterflies. My career as a lepidopterist ended there. The fact that I can still identify 30 butterflies by their caterpillars, scientific names or chrysalises is retained and, as an adult, those who would tease, no longer care to.

That personal shyness manifests itself in other ways. Sharing penned poems, performing the piano for strangers, its that ability to be vulnerable which I struggle with.

Someone once said that ridicule is nothing to be scared of. I guess, for certain matters of the heart, that is a lesson still to be learnt.

The other thing I would just like to add is different, and it’s just a nice observation. In school, I have no memory of you as a writer of sentences, fine or otherwise. This blog shines a wonderful light on this clearly forgotten talent of yours! Great work.

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I guess it’s about having a delicate balance between stoicism and having a thick skin when required, and being sensitive enough to enjoy the world and share in the lives of other’s rest of the time. It’s donning your armour at the right time that’s the hard bit. The man who said “Ridicule is nothing to be scared of…” ended up in sectioned under the mental health act!

I hope this reminder of your feelings on expressing yourself through piano and poetry encourages you to challenge them too. Sign up at Fright Club and go for it!

And thanks for your observation, if you were a teacher I’d be pissed off and demanding an exam remarking.

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‘for an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it’

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The circular beauty of quoting J P Sartre appropriately deserves special credit. Kudos A, kudos!

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Dawn Bradbury
April 8, 2014 7:13 PM

I really really hope you will publish this, it’s excellent! A surprisingly good read,and I love the humour too.

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Hi Eamonn, read your note on TED, and navigated here.

Enjoyed this post enough to go back to previous ones.
Death has been on my mind, too, the past few years. And not just because we are all terminally ill. I am currently writing a novel with past lives and mortality at the center, so reading your thoughts gave me a lot to think about.

You are welcome to send an email when you feel like it.

Cheers

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Hi Caie,

You know I forgot I even posted that. For the benefit of others this is the talk Stephen Cave gives on the universal stories we tell ourselves about death. I do like TED, but sometimes I think the brand becomes an intellectual interference.

I’m pleased you found something interesting among the insanity (or inanity?), and would be happy to speak further, although if you have read the article Terminal Velocity and the lengthy comments section afterwards you’ll see the idea of past lives or souls, etc., is not something I subscribe to in any other way than through fiction.

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Notskidsanymore
April 9, 2014 10:00 AM

It has been interesting watching this website evolve from Eamonn’s original idea to what it is today. There’s quite a bit of space between the two!

I think that this blog highlights just what a powerful tool the Internet is. In the pre-internet age Eamonn would have probably recorded his rantings in a diary. Only those very close to him would have read them at the the time and on his death they might have been published. But with his blog Eamonn is able to share his thoughts with the world instantaneously. He can adapt and develop his themes, content and ideas to reflect and engage precisely the views of his readers and interact with them. I suspect that many of the great diarists of the past would have chosen the blog medium if it was available to them. The second half of the 20th Century might have looked very different if Anne Frank had had a blog instead of a diary.

The very fact that this website has evolved into what it is is a testament to the power of the internet and the benefits of instant feedback.

“Ridicule is nothing to be scared of” was probably first spoken by a finer mind than Adam Ant but that phrase will always belong to him as far as I am concerned along with the immortal wisdom of: “Put some wax on the tracks and slide on out of here”.

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You’re right in saying I’m wrestling to maintain my original purpose, and that the nature of the internet as a publishing medium has changed everything for everybody. Once upon a time only those that had passed the arbitrary judgement of a publisher could ever hope to get their words into print, and once it was committed to paper that was it.

Now, not only can I, or any Joe Blogs for that matter, navigate a course devised by the passengers en route, I can reconstruct the ship as I plough full steam ahead.

Finally I have capitulated, but I resisted the word Blog while I could. I hate it and everything it has always represented to me. In a world that already is determined to share a truly mind bloggling level of personal banality through Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, etc., the last thing I want to do is add the crushingly tedious details of my daily life. I hope that I have managed to stay away from the mundane minutiae, except where it can be used for the purposes of entertainment.

I do think it is interesting to consider how our perception of history would be if more ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances had the opportunity to report their perspectives in the past; even just ten or twenty years ago. I guess we are seeing these effects in places like Syria now?

And for those that did diarise their historic experiences; exactly as you ask, how would the flexibility of the modern medium alter what they wrote? That said, with what we know now about internet monitoring, unless Anne Frank was a particularly prodigious Anonymous or Lulzsec hacker, I guess the Gestapo would have been knocking on Anne’s Amsterdam annex before she’d finished uploading her first ‘funny cat compilation’ video on JewTube.

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Hello Eamonn, I read all your posts avidly, and love the way you write. As I’m a fellow-guest at the Hotel California, I always come away thinking ‘oh that’s the way I feel, I just can’t express it like Eamonn can’, so you do us plodders all a service. Sorry I didn’t get to nominate your blog for that award or whatever it was, I just couldn’t bear the tedium of filling in a form, but I hope you win anyway.

Love, Dyad

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Hi Dyad,

I’m the same; I hate filling out forms:-) It’s not about winning anything, just about spreading the word a bit and I think you help a lot in that respect between here and the Macmillan websites, so thank you!

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As your official literary agent I shall be taking all of these comments and adding them to the ‘When shall we start working on the book’ list :D

Keep it up, keep it real but most of all keep it you.

Much love <3

Matt

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