What is a reflection? In scientific terms it is a change in the direction of a wavefront at an interface between two different media and as a result wavefront returns into the medium from which it originated.
Somehow the scientific explanation takes away the beauty, sensuality and deeper meaning of the word “reflection”.
A picture-perfect reflection of a mountain or a meadow into a lake compels us to pause and take note. Both components, the mountain and its reflection, become a seamless tapestry of wonders where clouds drift effortlessly and birds soar in wide-open sky. It is real but at the same time contrived and transitory. Toss a stone onto the mirror-surface, and the image becomes surreal and ethereal. It takes us into a realm where perceived reality vanishes in an instant and morphs into a realm that is fleeting, flexible and – while still connected to the reality at the edge of the water – is quiet capable of presenting a different face.
One could extend the analogy of real and perceived images to human relationships and just about any thing else that we do or expect in our lives. Is it real or perceived? Is it true or just a distorted reflection of truth? Does the love expressed between two people have a firm foundation like the mountain and the trees that are reflected in water or is it only a mirage? In our life’s journey, we often experience the dropping of pebbles on the tranquil surface of our stable lives. The edge where reality and image meet becomes our stable point of reference. It serves as a visual anchor when the surface is disturbed and does not reflect.
In our life’s journey, we often experience the dropping of pebbles on the tranquil surface of our stable lives. The edge where reality and image meet becomes our stable point of reference. It serves as a visual anchor when the surface is disturbed and does not reflect
Even the small, insignificant-looking puddles of water hold the magic of reflected surroundings. Like the shards of a mirror, scattered here and there, these minuscule puddles give us tantalizing glimpses of a reflected landscape. It is as if the puddles have captured the magic and anyone with interest and inclination can peer through them. The late Pakistani English poet Daud Kamal said it beautifully in one of his poems:
See how I have struggled to trap
Yesterday’s sunlight in a handful of water
I often wonder about the reality or permanence of that we see with our eyes. Is there something more, something different that we see or are not able to see, discern and understand? To put it in the language of physics is there another elusive dimension that we are not able to perceive? Are there any other altars, other than that of Newtonian physics that, unbeknownst to us, beckon us?
Perhaps Ghalib, a 19th century Urdu poet from India, was thinking of the same when he wrote:
Qatre mein Dajla dikhai na de aur juzv mein kul
Khail larhkon ka hua, deeda-e-beena na hua
(Not to see the ocean in the drop
And complete in the fragmentary,
Would be the ideal pastime of a child,
Not the vision of the Seeing Eye)
Dr. Sayed Amjad Hussain holds Emeritus professorships in Humanities and cardiovascular surgery at the University of Toledo, USA. He is also an op-ed columnist for Toledo Blade and daily Aaj of Peshawar.