[COLUMN] An old tale on self-absorption (Conclusion of 2 parts)

“Vanity of vanities; ALL is vanity.” — From Ecclesiastes

(Continued from last week’s issue …)
Poor Echo! Her heart broke into a million little pieces. Beauty and light dissolved into darkness for her until nothing held any meaning. Refusing food and drink, Echo grew pale and consumptive and faded away, leaving only her far-off voice in the distance. It is said that Echo haunts the mountains where she answers all who call but only with the last words.

Narcissus meanwhile continued to break one hapless heart after another in the most mean spirited away, until one day, one totally aggrieved nymph with her heart shattered, prayed to the powers that be, for vengeance, to inflict punishment on Narcissus to make him feel the pure pain of unrequited love, to make him feel how it is to give love and have it flung back in his face. Her prayer was heard and in a world of swift and even-handed justice with no lawyers, judges and jury to cloud the issue, appropriate punishment was served.

One day Narcissus chanced upon a pool with water so clear, it looked like a mirror.

Bending over to drink, Narcissus saw his own reflection, thought it was a water nymph, and forthwith, was smitten with the image on the pool. He fell in love with the image of himself, hook, line and sinker, not unlike celebrities who read their own press and believe them to be true. But I digress.

Narcissus tried to embrace his own reflection in the water but his attempt to touch or kiss his beloved ended in frustration each time. The image in the water dissolved into ripples, disappeared and came back on. Narcissus had to be content just by looking at the mirror image of himself in the pool, day and night, without ever knowing the joy of touching or being loved in return. He now knew, up close and personal, the excruciating pain of multiple rejections from the same object of his affection. Still he persisted, becoming rooted to the spot by the pool. He now knew how it is to be on the receiving end of rejection. He slowly pined away, losing his youth and beauty and withering away on the same spot by the pool’s edge with Echo still hovering over him and repeating his poignant last word, “Alas!” as he lay dying.

As the woodland creatures prepared to bury his body, Narcissus’ body was nowhere to be found and in its place, stood a flower, bending over the pool, as though admiring itself. Gardeners know this flower as narcissus.

Hence, we call those who exhibit the same folly these days as narcissistic. The irony of it is that others clearly see it for what it is but the afflicted individual is blind to this egocentric flaw in himself, thinking the world revolves around him. In today’s world, there’s opportunity to cash in on this human flaw and use vanity and self-image as hot buttons to sell their wares: beauty products and services, diet pills and machines and illusions of power and beauty, with remarkable success. Self-improvement is great but only if it comes from the inside out.

Pray that both the “once young” and the young ones don’t fall prey to the trappings of extreme self-absorption that rule the global culture of the present age. Self love taken to extreme, is something that might account for much of the social problems affluent societies with only one or two self-absorbed children per family, experience and suffer from today.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Nota Bene: Monette Adeva Maglaya is SVP of Asian Journal Publications, Inc. To send comments, e-mail monette.maglaya@asianjournalinc.com

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