During your more idle moments, have you ever glanced down at your shoes and recalled somebody else’s?
Or perhaps you glanced at the fuzzy hair on your arm peaking out from beneath your shirt sleeve – hair which is not too unlike the arm hair from someone in your past, nor is your shirt not too unlike theirs. Perhaps their shirt rested at their elbow in the same manner yours rested on yours.
Sitting idly in lecture, I made the mistake of looking down at my feet and remembered someone who may have had similar shoes as mine – someone important to my past whose presence has long since been obscured by time. I’ve seen these shoes on many feet; I’m not too sure why my mind was drawn to the image of these shoes on their feet in particular. But alas, with my shoes as their shoes, I began to feel my feet as their feet, and my legs, therefore, became their legs, and my torso, not unlike other human torsos, became theirs, as did my arms out of which sprout their hairs: the fibers of faint recollection. Perhaps for a moment, I was them, or at least I pretended to know what they felt like. All from the vague resemblance of footwear.
(Alas! – the dangers of a boring lecture!)
Puzzling be the recollections of important characters from a distant past, especially when they manifest themselves in parts of your body.
But is it not true that, when we are born into this world, we first see other people, and only in time do we see ourselves in that pivotal moment when we realize a mirror is a mirror and the image therein is our own? We see other people daily in all settings, but ourselves in only those brief and humiliating moments before or after using restrooms, or perhaps that dreary morning hour before our day’s toil, brushing teeth or combing unkempt hair.
Why not have our constituent parts made up from other people? Did I not see pants on somebody else’s legs before seeing them on my own? After all, my pants have been to Bangladesh, and I have not. If my pants are more well-traveled than I am, what right do I have to claim superiority over them?
Perhaps I do owe my image to those who came before me, but that leaves me to wonder: if we were to strip away the referential parts of our being, what would remain? Remoteness? Isolation? A desire for kindredship with somebody – anybody – for whom I can in time look at the hairs on my arm and recall the brief segment of time when such a connection imprinted itself on my own self-image? – like a stain on a shirt that may recall a particularly memorable meal?