The Two Way 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!”