4. Lost in Space “I”

We have long interpreted the Greek myth of Narcissus is a story to mean that he fell in love with himself, that he imagined the reflection to be his own image. And the  psychological term “narcissism” which originated from this myth, widely used to mean the pursuit of gratification from egotistic admiration of one’s self attributes. Interestingly, Marshall McLuhan holds in his book, Understanding media : The Extensions of man, that the youth Narcissus mistook his reflection in the water for another person and therefore, the point of the myth is the fact that men at once become fascinated by any tension of themselves in any material other than themselves. Narcissus is benumbed as the word Narcissus indicates, which is from the Greek word, narcosis, means ‘numbness.’ It is a penetrating interpretation.

As we generally know, if Narcissus fell in love with himself, it must mean, at least, that he is conscious of the reflection in the water as his own image. In this sense, the Narcissus, as a viewer, perceives that the reflection in the water is not an ’actual’ being but mere an image of himself. But he is not able to see the image as it really is, but to see it appears to be. The youth Narcissus is lost in himself being blind in mind, just as we are lost in the visual information world being desensitized.

Echo and Narcissus

There was a clear fountain, with water like silver, to which the shepherd never drove their flocks, nor the mountain goats resorted, nor any of the beasts of the forest; neither was it defaced with fallen leaves or branches; but the grass grew fresh around it, and the rocks sheltered it from the sun. Hither came one day the youth, fatigued with hunting, heated and thirsty. He stooped down to drink, and saw his own image in the water; he thought it was some beautiful water spirit living in the fountain. He stood gazing with admiration at those bright eyes, those locks curled like the locks of Bacchus or Apollo, the rounded cheeks, the ivory neck, the parted lips, and the glow of health and exercise over all. He fell in love with himself. He brought his lips near to take a kiss; he plunged his arms in to embrace the beloved object. It fled at the touch, but returned again after a moment and renewed the fascination. He could not tear himself away; he lost all thought of food or rest, while he hovered over the brink of the fountain gazing upon his own image. He talked with the supposed spirit: “Why, beautiful being, do you shun me? Surely my face is not one to repel you. The nymphs love me, and you yourself look not indifferent upon me. When I stretch forth my arms you do the same; and you smile upon me and answer my beckonings with the like.” His tears fell into the water and disturbed the image. As he saw it depart, he exclaimed, “Stay, I entreat you! Let me at least gaze upon you, if I may not touch you.” With this, and much more of the same kind, he cherished the flame that consumed him, so that by degrees he lost his color, his vigor, and the beauty which formerly had so charmed the nymph Echo. She kept near him, however, and when he exclaimed, “Alas! alas!” she answered him with same words. He pined away and died; and when his shade passed the Stygian river, it leaned over the boat to catch a look at itself in the waters. The nymphs mourned for him, especially the water nymphs; and when they smote their breasts Echo smote hers also. They prepared a funeral pile and would have burned the body, but it was nowhere to be found; but in its place a flower, purple within, and surrounded by white leaves, which bears the name and preserves the memory of Narcissus.

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