Narcissism I have always found equal parts intriguing and perplexing.
Whilst it is a specific term, it is hardly obscure; we are surrounded by it all the time. Indeed, we seem to exist within societies which not only promote, but celebrate it. Especially so here in the West.
If you do not know, narcissism is essentially the fixation of oneself, specifically in relation to one’s physical appearance.
The word stems, as a surprising amount of English words do, from Greek mythology. Narcissus was a hunter, renowned for his beauty, and boy did he know it.
Now to anyone who’s read classical Greek literature, alarm bells should be ringing. Time and time again we see this sort of over-confidence punished, not by man but by the Gods.
And the name of the deity specifically devoted to handing out this divine retribution? Nemesis.
(What was I saying about English words..?)
The act of arrogance itself, and debatebly the single most significant word in classical Greek drama, such is it’s prevalence, is known as:
That’s a word worth remembering, my friends, and to research for its full definition; it is a word which cannot be summed up in a word. It’s a word which puts itself into italics.
Now, Narcissus’ vanity came to the attention of Nemesis. She did not approve of course, and lured him to a pool of water, where he saw his own reflection and fell head over heels in love. Transfixed by his own beauty, Narcissus stared at himself until he died.
Well, we can surely agree that’s a powerful metaphor; so literal in fact that it’s only a half-step away from reality. What I find especially interesting though is that part of Narcissus’ initial hubris, which attracted Nemesis in the first place, manifested in such a way that he became distainful of those who showed him love.
That strikes a chord with me.
In my own life it is something I not only observe in others, but sadly also in myself. It seems we have developed a mentality where the fruit within our reach cannot be worth having; only that fruit for which we must constantly strain can be worthwhile.
This has worrying echos of materialistic consumerism; always wanting more than what you have, propping your happiness on stilts of the physical, seeing what others have and desiring it, which leads us down an ever-darkening path of personal comparison, a thing itself pregnant only with the further erosion of our good humanistic qualities.
It is a path, much like the path of Narcissus, which leads only downward, with fatal inevitability.
Yet we live in a world that worships celebrity and gadgetry, which are nothing more, dear friends, than Narcissus on a pedestal.
Pulling the thread of a thought, in response to Daily Prompt: Narcissism.