I have considered many times over the last two or three decades various descriptions of what I wanted to represent in the lives of those with whom I interact. My focus has been on finding the best way to express the effect I have, or the role I play, in each person’s life and experience. Usually, I have defined it as a symbolic role I play, or a situation that captures that role ideally.
My first attempt to do this defined me as the first person you come to when you’re ready to celebrate a quantum leap in the quality of your life, whether because of a sudden insight or breakthrough, or to solve a troubling problem, or just by experiencing a dramatic expansion of your sense of personal freedom or power. But when the cork is popped on the champagne bottle, I’m there to propose a toast. Maybe I played an active role leading up to the celebration, or maybe not. But for sure I want to be there for the party. I have made some refinements to that version periodically, but it has remained largely in tact for a long time…until lately.
For several months I have been indulging my curiosity by exploring how I might want to recreate that dimension of my self-image and bring it to a higher level. So I have done some poking around in my heart, mind, and soul for clues that would lead me to a higher version. Tonight I found it.
I want to be Narcissus’ pond, and this is what I mean.
You probably heard or read the story of Narcissus when you were I child. I know I did. And I understood it to some degree. In case you don’t remember, Narcissus was a mythical young man who fell in love with his own reflection in a pond. His name is what propelled the word “narcissism” into the Oxford English Dictionary. But on its way into the common vocabulary, a critical part of the story was lost. As soon as the word came into my vocabulary, in its common interpretation, I began to forget this critical story element. Only a few years ago did I read the story in its original form (translated from the ancient Greek) and recognize my previous omission.
What I had forgotten was that Narcissus did not know it was his own reflection that he saw in the pond. He was so naive and innocent that he responded only to the beautiful face looking up at him from the glassy surface of the pond. Narcissism is universally used to describe a vain, ego-centric person whose apparent self-opinion is thought to be overstated. But this is not a description of Narcissus himself. He did not fall in love with himself, just a face he saw that happened to be his own. That is a very important distinction.
So now I can tell you what I really mean when I say I want to be Narcissus’ pond. I want to be the mirror in which you look when you are ready to fall head-over-heels in love with yourself, not out of vanity or an exaggerated sense of self-importance, but with the innocence of that beautiful your boy who responded with his whole heart to the compelling and very real beauty he saw on the surface of that pond. This is who and what I most want to be.