” I have to believe in a world outside my own mind. I have to believe that my actions still have meaning, even if I can’t remember them. I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world’s still there. Do I believe the world’s still there? Is it still out there?… Yeah. We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are. I’m no different. .” -Leonard, Memento
How do you come to understand who you are and keep that sense of self in mind? There are mirrors that a person keeps close to them, a reminder and a reflection of who exactly they are. When memory fails you, you turn to those aforementioned mirrors and rely on them to make you aware of yourself. Hume was very insistent on the idea that memory will fail you, that the self whose existence you justify with your memories is nothing more than a false reflection of various mental perceptions. In that respect, these mirrors would be the only thing you could trust, the only thing you could rely on to give you an idea of who you are, right?
The 2000 film, Memento, can answer that for you. And the truth would be those mirrors are as unreliable as that memory, because those mirrors only serve to jog that abundant collection of perceptions. The main character, Leonard, becomes a puppet of his own design when he comes to rely on those mirrors because his own memory suffers from anterograde amnesia; he is manipulated by his own distortions of reality and by those who see his condition as a tool. The tattoos, notes and photographs he uses throughout the film are his reminder that his only purpose in life is to end the man who raped and murdered his wife, but even these mirrors fail to reflect the most important thing: that he has already fulfilled his mission. At the end of the film, we learn that Leonard had already found the man who had raped his wife and that the actual murderer had been Leonard – his condition had become the bane of his wife’s existence, and she had died of an insulin overdose during a test she had devised to prove Leonard a faker.
But that’s not to say all of his mirrors aren’t doing their job. Cracked and reflecting a mutilated image, but not broken. And that is the story he tells anyone willing to listen, the story of Sammy Jenkins, the story of his true self’s past. Sammy Jenkins is the man who killed his wife with an insulin overdose, and yet that man is in fact Leonard. For every note he wrote himself, and every photo he took, the main character was unable to recall the truth. And in this instance, the truth hurt. Hurt enough to drive Leonard to go on another wild goose chase, to end the life of the only person with any knowledge of his past. And by relying on these self-created mirrors, Leonard forgoes his reality as Sammy Jenkins.
I accept that my idea of self is far from perfect, and is merely a reflection of my own perceptions. Everything in this world is two sides of the same coin, and the side you see truly depends on your point of view, a deciding factor where perceptions are concerned. What would I become without these mirrors? Well, definitely not a serial killer suffering from amnesia. I would revert to…well, what would there be to revert back to? The person I was most likely.
But I really like the person I am now. So I think I’ll cling to these mirrors of mine for a while longer.
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