Narcissus and Me
Edited/updated below. Because I am in love with my words and can't get enough of them.
I've been thinking a lot about Narcissus lately.
Narcissus, Ovid tells us, was condemned by the gods to fall in love with the reflection of his own image, and to waste away in that state, forever enchanted by that image, unable to break away from the posture of self-regard.
So it was with Narcissus, so it is with bloggers, we are told: narcissists, all of them, but especially the mommy bloggers, who are so enchanted by the minutiae of their personal lives that they are compelled to lay them bare upon the screen. Photographs, stories, reflections, all manner of fecal anecdote: we cast these upon the reflective waters of our virtual pond and gaze and gaze and gaze, unable to break away. Narcissists, the lot of us, or so we are told.
And not only narcissists, but privileged narcissists, as all narcissists must be. Who else falls in love with their own image, with their own story, if not those whose images and stories are struck through with sparkle and glimmer and gold? Who else has access to the pond? We are, all of us, privileged children of pride, are we not?: vain, bourgeois, convinced of our worth, enchanted by the reflection of our image, our words, our stories, in love with all that is our own, determined to expose and share that love and able to expose and share that love. Look, look, look at me! My stories are fascinating; my ideas are fascinating; I am fascinating.
I'm reluctant to cop to being narcissistic - however self-regarding I might be, I don't believe myself to be hopelessly infatuated with myself. I have not, I do not think, damned myself with my self-regard. But I am self-regarding. I am extremely interested in my own thoughts, my own ideas, my own stories. I spend a lot of time in contemplation of these. I write them down, the better to contemplate them. I sometimes get lost in such contemplation. My ideas, my words - these are my reflection. Even when their subject is someone, something, other than myself, they remain reflections of me.
I cannot say, of course, that I do not love these reflections. No writer, no artist, can say that they do not love their own reflection: their words, their stories, their art is that reflection. ('The inventor of painting... was Narcissus... What is painting but the act of embracing by means of art the surface of the pool?' Battista Alberti.) Why else do we put our thoughts to words, and cast those words upon the page, the screen, the reflective pond, if we do not love them?
You are all correct, sweet commenters, that narcissism carries the connotation of overweaning self-regard, of self-regard to the exclusion of regarding others, of self-regard to the point of pathology, of self-regard that - at least from the perspective of the classics - warrants punishment. As I said above, I'm aware that the term 'narcissism' cannot be purged of those connotations, and I'm also of the belief that the term, in its full, classical sense, cannot be and should not be applied to mommy-bloggers. But I wanted to advance the argument that there is something of the 'you're a narcissist' charge that we should accept and embrace - inasmuch as we can claim that charge and rework it to emphasize our attachment to/love of our own ideas, stories, words. Because as writers - and we are writers - we must love those words, in whatever complicated manner. Otherwise, why do we write? To share, of course, to find community - but we use our words and ideas and stories in that outreach because we do, at some level, consider those to be, if not the best part of ourselves, a most important part of ourselves.
Obviously, I can't purge and twist the term 'narcissist' to make it mean what I'd prefer it mean, but I can try to pull meaning from it, which is what I did (emphasis on TRY). 'Privilege,' on the other hand... I set it against 'narcissism' because I wanted to suggest that 'privilege' need NOT carry the negative connotations of the latter term. I can claim my privilege positively - all the while remaining aware that it is relative privilege, that privilege refers many things etc, etc, - and DO, without worrying about damnation from the gods. (Well, maybe just a little bit...)