No, I don’t want to go to a magic show. Why would I pay someone to trick me?

Me, cranky in Las Vegas

Not being able to govern events, I govern myself.

Montaigne, serene not in Las Vegas

 

In undergraduate, I studied in India. Sacred Hindu dance and music. We traveled all over the south of India. I don’t travel well in groups. I get overstimulated and cranky. Our entire grade for that course was based on a daily journal to be handed in at the end of the trip. I made booklets by folding in half a stack of 10 sheets of 8.5”x11” paper. At the end of the trip, I hand-bound the booklets into a book using hotel sewing kits. It was about 3 inches thick. And at least an inch of that consisted of elaborately polished and meticulously detailed complaints about pretty much everyone around me. Poetry and prose. 

 

Dr Bonham left a single comment on the volume: everyone you meet is a mirror. Which I read, thought about for a minute, and then promptly dismissed as “hippie shit.” And then I chewed on it for about 20 years.

 

For a long time, I came at it from a solipsist angle. I am alone in the world. Everyone I meet is an invention of my mind. As an invention of my mind, they can’t help but bear a trace of their creator, me. Then an epistemological angle. I have no way to directly access anyone else’s interior life, so I project the shape of my own inner life onto their external life. At about Year 15, I started to suspect that Dr. Bonham had called me an asshole. And a few years later I finally came to terms with the fact that I had deserved it. 

 

The phrase is now well known. Maybe it always was. I’ve never much frequented the places it circulates. But phrases are unaffected by their utterance.