Without Anyone to Reflect, Am I Even Still A Mirror?

By The Bean
Columnist

In these unprecedented times, I think we’re all finding ourselves with a sudden glut of space for self-reflection.

For years now, I’ve served as a mirror for Chicago. Visitors and city residents alike flocked to me, to see themselves, and the city itself, reflected back to them here in beautiful Millennium Park. With the crowds suddenly gone and nothing to reflect back but eerie stillness, I have to ask myself: am I even still a mirror?

Maybe I’m not even supposed to be a mirror? I mean, I do have a beautiful bean-like shape, but can that ever be the true purpose for an existence? Being a bean? Yet, then again, what purpose does a mirrored surface serve without a world around it to reflect back in earnest? 

When this city was alive with people, all crowding in to peer into my reflective surface, I never stopped to ponder if they were looking more at me, or merely at themselves. Now, in my isolation, I have begun to question my very existence., 

Am I an infinite void of emptiness, echoing the existential realities of aloneness? Or am I an ultimate arbiter of truth, showing the world as it really is? Am I just a slick tourist trap made by an artist who needed to put a downpayment on a London townhouse? Was I originally named Cloud Gate because I was only ever meant to reflect the clouds? I just don’t know anymore.

As I reflect on the very nature of both reflection, and of being a reflector, I find myself lost in an infinite, maddening tunnel, a hall of mirrors from which I fear I may never escape: as Kafka said, utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself. 

Whether I’m first a mirror, or first a pleasing bean shape is a question I have yet to answer, and perhaps I never will. I only know that I will continue to reflect, if only on myself.