1136: Broken Mirror

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Broken Mirror
'I see you're in this mood again.' 'I am always in this mood.'
Title text: 'I see you're in this mood again.' 'I am always in this mood.'


It is a common superstition that breaking a mirror will result in 7 years of bad luck. Black Hat is mocking the superstition while ostensibly subscribing to it saying that breaking the mirror results in the "illusion that my actions somehow influence" a world governed by nothing other than chance.

Black Hat's comment is a reference to the second part of the dilemma of determinism in which an indeterministic view of reality contradicts our apparent free will, i.e. if our actions are governed by chance, then we do not have free will and cannot influence the world (see also the Randomness Objection). Black hat refers to free will as an illusion, and satirically states that breaking the mirror causes him to continue to live under this illusion.

“Eccles. 9:2” refers to the Bible book “Ecclesiastes,” specifically chapter 9 verse 2: “All things come alike to all. There is one event to the righteous and to the wicked; to the good, to the clean, to the unclean, to him who sacrifices, and to him who doesn’t sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; he who takes an oath, as he who fears an oath.” King James 2000 Bible.

Black Hat is not going to clean the shards, thus being “unclean”, but according to a literal and superficial reading of Ecclesiastes, the clean and the unclean share a common destiny. Thus according to his interpretation of Ecclesiastes, it doesn't matter whether Black Hat is clean or unclean, he will suffer the same fate regardless. In reality, Black Hat will likely get glass in his feet, as Cueball warned him in the previous panel. More likely, Ecclesiastes is referring to the common long-term fate of all humans (death), as opposed to a short-term fate like getting glass in your feet.

“My fate is as these shards” parallels Ecclesiastes 3:19: “Man's fate is like that of the animals”.

“All is vanity” is also from Ecclesiastes, specifically the introduction to chapter 1. The mirror is often associated with the vice of vanity. There is also a drawing with an optical illusion titled “All is Vanity” by Charles Allan Gilbert, which alternately depicts a woman admiring herself at a dressing table, (also referred to as a “vanity,”) or alternately (when viewed at a distance) a human skull. The table Black Hat is standing before is also called a vanity," and a mirror associated with that is often referred to as a "vanity mirror", describing its relationship to the furniture.


[Black Hat and Cueball stand in a bedroom. There is a broken mirror on the floor at Black Hat's feet.]
Black Hat: Oops. Guess this means seven more years of the illusion that my actions somehow influence the indifferent hand of probability which governs our lives.
[Black Hat looks down at the broken shards of glass on the floor.]
Cueball: Plus like half an hour of sweeping.
Black Hat: No, I think I'll leave it.
Cueball: You'll get glass in your feet.
Black Hat: Eccles. 9:2—All things come alike to all: to the clean, and to the unclean.
Black Hat: My fate is as these shards.
Cueball: Dude, chill. It's just a vanity mirror.
Black Hat: All is vanity mirrors.

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The lettering on the first word is unusually sloppy. I thought it said "COPS", as in Black Hat was about to be arrested for breaking the mirror, on the TV show Cops. - Frankie (talk) 11:16, 19 November 2012 (UTC)

Yep, I read COPS, too. In another vein, is Black-hat getting all religious on us? Cueball, maybe. Beret guy, more likely. But Black-hat seems to be too machiavellian to quote biblical passages, except as a crutch or an "out". (Edit: now that I think about it, it's the latter: the same fate awaits everybody... as in, everybody will cut their feet on the shards.) -- 20:05, 19 November 2012 (UTC)

Does anyone have an opinion on how Black Hat broke the mirror? If it simply fell from the wall, he would not incur the bad luck. Jsbqvb 15:31, 19 November 2012 (UTC)

I think his point is that it wouldn't matter; there ain't no such thing as bad luck: the same fate awaits everybody. -- 20:05, 19 November 2012 (UTC)
Maybe he did it on purpose, just for that soliloquy at the end (I wouldn't put it past him...).--Dangerkeith3000 (talk) 20:59, 19 November 2012 (UTC)
I'd say so. "My fate is a these shards" ... to cause pain and suffering to all he comes in contact with. -- IronyChef (talk) 06:01, 20 November 2012 (UTC)

Time for some more obvious questions, which I dont get! So, why he decided not to tidy it, but to leave shards like that? 05:44, 21 November 2012 (UTC)

What's the significance of the title text? "I am always [something]" rings a faint bell, but I can't place it. Wwoods (talk) 19:49, 20 November 2012 (UTC)

It made me think of "We have always been at war with Eastasia" (from Orwell's 1984) ...but that probably wasn't what Randall meant to evoke. — 22:14, 7 April 2013 (UTC)

Could it be the comic where the title text ends with I AM ALWAYS BREATHING MANUALLY (Skynet, comic 1046) 15:18, 21 November 2012‎ (UTC)

"All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrifices, and to him that does not sacrifice: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that swears an oath, as he that fears the results of a sworn oath." means: Everyone dies eventually.

If you sweep up the shards you will clean most of them up but will not gather every piece for sure. It looks like you care if you do that though. Black hat has an history of not caring. Not that anyone has the right to interpret what another man writes. Nor should one care so deeply as to do so. Especially not for a bloody comic! I think he was just pointing out that Cueball's statement, though possible, was not necessarily true or untrue. I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 14:35, 14 January 2015 (UTC)

Given that Black Hat is known to be based on Aram from Men In Hats, this seems relevant: http://meninhats.com/d/20031022.html 03:39, 28 January 2015 (UTC) The rain, it raineth on the just, And also on the unjust fella. But mainly on the just, because The unjust steals the just's umbrella. 05:49, 29 August 2015 (UTC)