Monday, March 16, 2009

The story of Narcissus

- Sachida Bista

Anything that is unconventional and alien to one is wrong and hence frightening. Hence to overcome those fears one tends to tame things outside oneself, like the circus-man who must tame the carnivorous lion. Of course that man is never truly rid of that fear which makes him ‘tame’ it in the first place. He must always carry a whip and lash it whenever need arises. An absolute reconciliation is impossible for he is a man and it is a lion, and in their differences only a pact between them is possible, between two powers, one scared of the whip and the other scared of the whipped. Well, I am not as much interested in the lion as I am in that circus-man, probably dressed like a clown, a painted mask to hide his fear and misery. Why he must tame the lion in the first place might seem ridiculous, but that is because to tame is essentially his nature and his purpose. Without taming the lion, or rather without the lion, his existence becomes meaningless.


Only by ‘teaching’ the other can one overcome one’s fears. Man finds himself alone amidst variety, change; amidst things he cannot make sense of. Hence, his immediate reaction to such an unknown environment is to spread himself, his ideas, force them down the other’s throat if need be, to overcome that variety, to understand that change, so that everything becomes familiar again, so that he is not ‘outdated’. He is reaffirmed. This is why knowledge is ‘light’, missionaries must bring charities and the words of their gods must be spread.


Man needs to see himself reflected. He is a narcissist and hence man will essentially die in his own self absorption. He collapses into himself. He is not seeking relationship in others, but mirrors so that he is reflected. So that he knows who he is, his desires, his fears, his strengths, his achievements. So that he can value and validate himself. For this reason man devised religion, customs, traditions, love in order to find himself in the other; so that he sees himself reflected. But what he fails to learn is that even the other seeks the same. Hence an interesting and a pathetic situation occurs: two mirrors reflect each other in futile for infinity.


The lion and the circus man are at continuous strife with each other. The circus man wishes for a puppet; the lion wishes to devour the ‘puppeteer’. What is common to both is that desire for victory. Both are engaged in that unending game because there will be no victory. It is a game between equals. It is to be a continuous struggle essentially because one needs the other for meaningfulness. The circus man, our subject, must engage himself as long as he desires to live. The moment he gives up is his end. The lion, the other, of course never rests.


Love, is a process of self-realisation and then the affirmation of that realisation. The lover seeks to see himself reflected in the ‘beloved’. Perfect love is love where one finds complete reflection in the other. One loves, to seek a validation of oneself; a validation of one’s imagined, constructed self. However, since an individual is always different from the other, love is a process with no end; there is no complete fulfillment, no complete reflection; hence there is no perfect love. The narcissistic lover is in a continuous process of ‘finding’ himself in the other. The other is reduced to a pond in which he sees himself, to appraise himself, to love himself. The murkiness of the water allows him the liberty to obscure and imagine various aspects of himself. But occasionally, the water clears to reveal the truth. Because of their (the lover’s and the beloved’s) inherent and acquired differences, a complete reflection (desired image) is unattainable. Thus love is an incessant and as unending process of ‘teaching’ the other. To ‘learn’ (from the other) is however unacceptable to Narcissus; for that would mean that he is lesser and more importantly, invalid. Hence, to reaffirm himself, he feels the need to tame, mould, ‘teach’ the beloved/the other into his idea of himself; his reflection. The other’s differences are understood as a threat to his identity. So the other is either held in contempt or is made to unlearn what she (in this case) is and in a way, mutilate herself into the lover’s notion of himself, so that he can overcome the fear of solitude. The lover needs to feel a ‘validity’ of and for himself in the social fabric. Thus, love boils down to the desire to assert oneself upon the other; to control the other. It is only a more cordial and agreeable method of exercising unwarranted power.


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