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Ode to Narcissus

Narcissus is one among my favorite mythological characters. The self obsessed uber handsome hunter who fell in love with his own  reflection in water and finally died due to the extreme fixation on oneself. "Narcissism" was later coined to show the extreme self fixation. We all have a mild Narcissus inside, remember how many times we look in the mirror before going to Office or how many times we look down while walking to see whether our dress is okay or not. Every body likes to see themselves in the mirror. We all like to enjoy our own beauty and we always think we are beautiful. We will adjust our heads, look each and every changes in our face, everyday in a mirror, don't we? We compare ourselves to others. We want others to be like us. We want to personalize the world. That is why when we come across a difference of opinion or a change from our own view, restlessness ensues. We all like "us". As Richard Dawkins pointed out, the genes are selfish. We all want to create our own world, a world which is our own reflection. We always get attracted to people who are look like us, who have similar facial features as of ours or similar thoughts. Is this not some kind of a self obsession? The novel of Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey had the element of narcissism in its theme. Hermen Hesse's Narcissus character is structured on the myth but his self obsession is based on intellect rather than on corporeal beauty. 
Image credit: Peace of Art (Caryl Park's blog)

Does Narcissus  had a gay perspective beneath the surface? Narcissus was supposed to fall in love with Echo, the mountain nymph. Instead he blatantly rejected Echo. As a punishment to his arrogance (I doubt how it becomes arrogance), the goddess of revenge, Nemesis lured Narcissus near a stream and seeing his reflection he got bewitched by his own image. Nevertheless Narcissus had fallen in love with a  man even though there are no obvious homoerotic overtures in the whole story. Nobody cursed or forced Narcissus, he had fallen for himself, spontaneously, naturally, Nemesis just facilitated that "realization". It was  lust. That is why in 1898 Havelock Ellis, an English sexologist, used the term "narcissus-like" in reference to excessive masturbation, whereby the person becomes his or her own sex object.

In another version of the story, where Narcissus is portrayed as homosexual, a young man named "Aminias" fell in love with Narcissus, who had already spurned his male suitors. Narcissus also spurned him and gave him a sword. Aminias committed suicide at Narcissus's doorstep. He had prayed to the gods to give Narcissus a lesson for all the pain he provoked. Narcissus walked by a pool of water and decided to drink some. He saw his reflection, became entranced by it, and committed suicide because he could not have his object of desire. This story seems familiar, right, the typical gay climax.

Narcissus as flower

Narcissism, when viewed with a sexual connotation may not be coherent, but when looked from the pyscho-analysis perspective, it is more like a self analysis, self-criticism, self awareness, self realization, which is the corner stone of eastern mysticism. Self realization is the essence of Hinduism and Buddhism. Love yourself and know yourself. In some versions of the myth, Narcissus finally becomes a beautiful flower. The bloom of a flower is more like an enlightenment, the bloom of self realization. A closed unattractive bud opens into a fragrant ravishing flower, a complete transformation and fulfillment which is indeed emancipation. Narcissus had become an enlightened soul.

Image credits: Wikipedia, Peace of Art (Caryl Park's blog).

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