Narcissus in Modern Times

Narcissus’ (or Greek Narkissos) story has been brought to us by many sources and in many guises. It bears repeating here, as it is still highly relevant to today’s society; or maybe it is even more relevant today than it has been in a long time. Join me and meet the modern Narcissi or Narkissoi.

The story of Narcissus as it was told by Ovid is probably the best known one and I will therefore stick to that one. Narcissus was incredibly beautiful, but utterly devoid of emotion or feeling. When the Nymph Echo fell in love with him, he mocked her so cruelly she faded until only her voice remained. When he beheld himself mirrored in a pond, he fell in love with himself. Showing finally emotions, the gods transfigured him into the flower that bears his name to this day. Ovid in his inimitable style makes him watch himself in the reflection of the Styx even after his death when crossing to the other side.

For a poetic rendition of a differently told story please read Narcissus.

Narcissus not only puts himself at the center of the universe but more importantly expects the rest of the universe to follow suit. Unable to conceive of any other idea, he can’t even be told differently as what anybody else says is secondary to his own views. This attitude can be observed daily all around us and is mainly due to parents missing out on keeping their brood in line. Narcissus deludes himself into thinking that he is cleverer, more talented, and more attractive than he actually is. This utter self centered world view is rampant these days and can be best observed in Big Brother contestants, X Factor judges, and Jersey Shore actors.

Out of this delusion, Narcissus develops a sense of entitlement, as if this life was governed by his wishes alone. His job has to bow to his whims rather than to the job descriptions, out of a job he expects money from the state (and an ample and lifelong supply of it). Finally, being annoyed at all the jobs he failed in as they had not been consistent with his elevated standards, he becomes self employed. All the failures in that area are then attributed to other people, agencies, or the state for obstructing his unique and inspired progress.

The educational system is running schools like summer camps for the dumb. It avoids giving real grades to tell pupils how well or not so well they have done. It propagates the soft glove approach that is intended to make the laziest feel cherished and deserving. All this does little to alleviate the situation. Instead of sieving out the self servers and the lazy, education is all on equality. Instead, it should be working up the differences and getting out the best in each pupil. Where diversity should be the name of the game, false and stultifying sameness is force fed to today’s children. It instills in them a profound lack in reality for the jungle that is real life. Pupils leave school with little knowledge and a huge amount of delusion.

By now you might have recognized the one or the other of your acquaintances, but if you haven’t, I’ll give you a few examples. Treasure troves for such finds are brainless television programs such as X Factor or American Idols. On the last program, there were two sisters who made me laugh no end. Stepping out of an obesity advert on to center stage, they wheezed with mice like voices some unrecognizable song. One of them was at the auditions for the second time. It is doubtful that the resounding laughter from the audience will put her off inflicting her non-talent on the public for a third time another year.

But it is not only average Joe laboring under delusions, there are others as well. Someone called Miley Cyrus threw a tantrum after Radiohead refused to meet her backstage. Someone called Madonna was told by a Malawian judge that the right place for a Malawian girl to grow up is her family in Malawi, not some nanny. Madonna then found a judge more amenable to bribes to reverse that judgment. Obviously, you might cite numerous other D-listers from the VUP (very unimportant person) set.

A lot of work is needed to reverse the ravages done to and by education during the past 30 years. But it seems that work and honesty should be put back into vocabulary usage, besides ethics and moral. Otherwise, society will become even more dysfunctional than it already is.

If you are missing humility in my list of desirable issues, you first might want to read about the flip side of that particular coin and mull it over. You might want to take humility into account; I myself am rather with Nietzsche on that issue. You’ll find this text An Ode to Narcissus helpful in making up your mind one way or another, I think.

Further reading