Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Mind's Eye

I have always had two sets of eyes: the two physical orbs in my head, which guide me through the world as it is, and the eyes of my mind, which see the world as I would have it be.

That I am an unrepentant romantic is, I think, fairly clear to everyone, and I have never fully ceded to reality. What set me off on the subject of this blog was remembering, out of nowhere, the 1944 movie The Enchanted Cottage, starring Dorothy McGuire, Robert Young, and Herbert Marshall, once top stars in Hollywood, now largely forgotten. Robert Young plays a man horribly disfigured during WWII, who buys and retreats to a small isolated cottage; Dorothy McGuire plays an excruciatingly shy, plain, and mousy spinster who lives nearby. Over the course of the movie, they become, first, friends, then fall in love. And as they do so, a transformation takes place: the man is no longer disfigured, and the woman becomes radiantly beautiful. The point is that it is not their bodies that have changed, but their souls, and their beauty rests only in eyes of the other. I never forgot that movie.

And I’ve told the story many times of going to a restaurant one evening and sitting beside a table occupied by a man and a woman who were each so singularly unattractive that they were the object of stares from other patrons. The man was grossly overweight and would never, never, have been considered handsome by any accepted standard; the woman was his female counterpart. And yet they sat there, oblivious to everyone and everything around them, holding hands across the table and so obviously in love it made my chest ache. I’m sure that to each of them, the other was beautiful, and I envied them their ability to transcend reality.

It is unfair to judge people on their looks, yet we all do it. And to laugh at someone whose photo is posted on Facebook or elsewhere merely for having the features God gave them can often be downright cruel. Does anyone think unattractive people choose to be considered “ugly?” Do they think it helps to have someone point it out to them?

Don Quixote’s greatest fear was having to look into a mirror, which represented and in fact was reality. I share his anguish at being forced to acknowledge that I am not, to the world, who I am to myself. I am quite serious when I say I studiously avoid reflective surfaces. Mirrors, to me, are clocks, showing not how close one is to the start of another day, but how close one is to the end of one's life. On those occasions where I am forced to do so, as when I’m turned toward the mirrors while getting a haircut, I view the image looking back at me with the same repulsed fascination as I view a trip through the reptile building at the zoo. I simply cannot believe that the person staring back at me from the glass has any relationship whatsoever to me.

Mirrors reflect only surfaces, of course, but in our society, surfaces matter. Studies have proven time and again that good-looking people have a distinct and unfair advantage over average or “ugly” people on all levels. For every beautiful person we see every day, there are at least fifty average or unattractive people who are simply invisible to us.

And I find it both infinitely bemusing and lemon-biting ironic that someone so perversely egocentric as I cannot bear to see his own image.

My closest friends, bless them, accept my innumerable idiosyncrasies and humor me in many of my self-delusions. (They are harmless delusions, after all.) A couple of my friends go so far as to see Dorien as I see him: the me who lives inside. I am forever in their debt for doing so.

I've always thought that the blind have at least two definite advantages over the sighted: they are not swayed by how anyone looks…and they never have to confront themselves in a mirror.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please take a moment to visit his website ( and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (


Kage Alan said...

I realized after reading your post that we only have one mirror in the entire place. It's in the bathroom and it's to make sure the hubby's hair looks presentable before he goes out.

I found a use for it, too. Anytime I don't like what I see in the mirror of myself, I just turn a bit to the right or the left, catch a glimpse of my bum and realize life is SO worth living!

Dorien/Roger said...

LOL! I so love self approval...may I borrow some of yours?

Nikolaos said...

Beaut post, Dorien. I've tweeted it.

Dorien/Roger said...

Thank you, Nikolaos...that was nice of you. (And thanks to everyone who takes the time to read these little "volleys from a loose cannon.")