Perspectives

  • Issue 115 / January-February 2017



    The Narcissist and the Pool

    Al Freeman

    Ovid tells the story of Narcissus in his book Metamorphosis.

    Narcissus is a hunter; one with talent, grandeur, good genes, and charm. But he is also an egoist. He is full of himself, to the degree that he cannot recognize anybody but himself. Eco is in love with him. But knowing Narcissus’ weakness, Nemesis leads him to the side of a pool and shows him his own reflection. Narcissus immediately falls deeply in love with this image.


    Narcissus, or the Narcissist, is in love with what he sees in the pool. He loves it at the expense of the worldly reality around him. In a way, he is dependent on the pool, reality in a reversed form. The image provided by the pool makes him happy. Narcissus is nothing without the pool; it is that which enables him to replace the truth with an image.


    Narcissus is so deeply immersed in his reflection that he is unable to recognize the image is just an image. He plays with his own image like a baby. In his sight, what he sees in the pool is truer than the truth. Narcissus is in a pathological state.


    However, even Narcissus cannot escape reality, in spite of his ability to deceive himself. One day, he touches the water with his finger. The water moves in waves, and the image grows ugly. This depresses him. The finger breaks the illusion and points to the truth. Instead of thanking the truth for freeing him from the cage of an image, he prefers to get angry with the truth, since he prefers seeming to being.


    This situation isn’t just true in the parable, but in reality. This inconsistency between reality and the image upsets the Narcissist’s balance. According to him, reality is ugly, and the image is beautiful. He does not know that real beauty is fostered in the bosom of truth.


    Unfortunately, the Narcissist cannot break free of the image. He is ready to commit every kind of madness to maintain his altered reality. The poor Narcissist! In the parable, unable to resist reality’s taunts, he throws himself into the pool and drowns. He prefers being caged in that little pool to the sublimity of reality.


    Every Narcissist has a pool. The same pool brings the end of every Narcissist. He needs the pool, for there is no image without it. The pool is a virtual shelter to escape when he is disturbed by reality. The pool is a trap. It offers an image, taking away character.


    Unfortunately, in our modern world the Narcissists still exist. Some build their own images in the media which serve as their pools. Others are chained to themselves, so obsessed and caught up in their unfortunate altered reality. They either drown in their pool or remain caged in a lie.


    Every Narcissist has a pool.

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