In one of the novels of Terry Pratchett, reflections play a central role to the narrative. It is stated that reflection can bestow great power on those with the correct knowledge, while at the same time drawing great energy from those who abuse that knowledge. In the story a witch uses two mirrors to reflect herself back upon herself, endlessly reinforcing her own power.
Over the past few days I have, theoretically, been involved in a similar exercise, using reflection as a means of empowerment, by way of writing a piece if critical reflection. I have been reflecting upon my January work placement, and have been reflecting upon my reflections. In fact, I have been using books about the art of reflection, and reflecting upon how these books can aid my reflections upon my earlier reflections.
Confused? So was I. As far as I am aware I am now at reflection to the power of four or five. That’s correct, my reflection is now at least four times removed from my person. I’m beginning to feel like the witch in the tale.
Let me enlighten you with some words of wisdom from Jenny Moon. Ms Moon is an aptly named doyen of reflection. She reflects herself so much that her books are littered with references to her earlier works on reflection. Defining reflection, she says it is “a form of mental processing with a purpose and anticipated outcome that is applied to relatively complex or unstructured ideas for which there is not an obvious outcome.” In other words, one can benefit from thinking things through, even if one originally didn’t think anything had been learned.
Amazing stuff. Now I admire personal reflection as much as anyone else. Not navel gazing, but thorough and meaningful reflection. Without the reflection of Descartes, sitting in his dressing gown by the fire one evening, the world would never had heard the all important ‘cogito ergo sum’ upon which understanding of the modern world is based. Pascal and Montaigne both spent many fruitful hours reflecting.
As has been mentioned in previous blog posts, I like to practice my reflecting solo, preferably in the bath or shower, or whilst carrying out other tasks which are conducive to a certain zen state of mind. Forced reflection is not, it seems almost intuitively apparent, the most productive task. One must start with a question, and work from there, rather than searching blindly in one’s mind for answers without any knowledge or groundwork upon which to base them.
Myself, I feel I have gained more from this last 15 minutes of reflection than from the preceding four days. I shall probably reach the same conclusion I reached in my critical reflective essay. My best bet right now (and I paraphrase) is simply to keep writing, keep finding things to do, and only then can I progress. Pretty basic really, no deep soul searching required.
Oh, ‘and the witch?’ I hear you ask. Her mirrors were smashed, and without her reflection she was cast adrift, powerless and uncertain. So much for the power of reflections, say I.