In real childhood scenarios–as opposed to this image–kids conflate the pretend with the real. Yes, I could have used a more autobiographically correct toy box full of pretend cars and guns, but a faux-jewelry box has a mirror.

This mirror image—an image in an image—now seen by us former kids long after the time of belief making, is still a pretend pretending space. But it is not what we as kids conflated with our reality, it is a “disconsolate chimera” detached from what has really happened in our lives since.

“What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.”

The artist and model shown here in the mirror are icons for career and love. The illusory intimacy of nakedness was made to feel real by the drives of youth. And the dreams of worldly success were primed by the ephemeral joy of potential that one has at the beginning of something, which sadly is no “Erhebung” and is as illusory as intimacy. Now, much less driven and much more actual than potential, this observer looks backs and sees it as embarrassing even to recall.

“Desire itself is movement
Not in itself desirable”

We also can see that that’s not a reflection. The icons, now re-reified, have escaped via sketchy ladders. The discarded drapery and the empty easel, mere symbols, remain only as pastimes. What a wonderful word that is! Passing time, past times or both.

“Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.”

But there is still the key. Art. Even Ol’ Tom knew that: “Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.

(Quotes from “Burnt Norton” and “Tradition and the Individual Talent” by T.S. Eliot)