Narcissus (One More Selfie?)

Quick Look

Religion projects all sorts of psychological stuff outward, and calls it God. “Spirituality” gets self-obsessed.

What a mess.

A Tale

My Christian evangelical friends worry that I’m not going to church. “You need to worship,” they say, or they’ll drop an aside like “Those New Agers are crazy, aren’t they: imagine thinking you’re God!” and then watch me closely for a reaction.

Maybe they’re refusing to examine themselves; maybe they’re hoping I don’t become self-absorbed, narcissistic.


Me, too: it’s a worthwhile concern. Narcissus, you remember, is the figure in Greek mythology who stared at his reflection with such absorption that he fell into the water and drowned. The classic paintings never show him dead; in them, he’s still poetic and pretty; sometimes — like this one — he’s even depicted ignoring an extremely inviting young woman.

The Tale Wagged

The Greek myth pictures an obsession: if I work on myself, get therapy or meditate, am I in danger of drowning in myself?

Sure I am.

But I once almost died, not of drowning, but from asphyxiation. I mean, as an evangelical Christian, I had externalized and intellectualized spiritual life so much that inner reality dried up into a dusty ritual. I was attempting to live in concepts and ideas; truth was something that happened strictly inside my head.

Here’s an elaborate metaphor (sorry). Like a tree, we require at least two kinds of nourishment: motionless roots in the dark, gathering moisture and minerals down in the dark earth, and leaves and limbs moving out in the sun, gathering air and light. In the heart, “moisture” and “air” combine, synthesized by light into the “food” my spirit requires to be happy, whole and/or healthy.

Cut it off from “moisture” (preconscious experience, spontaneity, play, illogical impulses — stuff like that), I suffocate; cut off from “light and air” (outer and conscious experience, planning, work, ideas, etc.), I “drown.”

My religion died because it was trying to live on “air” alone. I didn’t know how to give the experience of God its proper importance. Categories of “inner” and “outer” — me in-here and God out-there — just had to loosen up and get all mixed together. Right and left brain had to be mutually active and interactive.

And there’s just no way to keep ’em neatly separate.

Yeah, but how do we put it into practice?

If you’re too wrapped up in your little self, ya gotta reach out (or “in”) to a higher (or “deeper”) power who feels bigger than your selfish little ego/self.

Immediately! Before you drown. Go worship.

But if “God” has become a hollow idea/concept (a “head-trip” or a dead routine), you’d profit considerably if you can begin connecting to your inner self/soul/heart. (You’re gonna have to help me with terms, here.)

Immediately! Before you dry up. Meditate, walk, make beautiful photographs or music. Shut up. Play with some little kids. Know whut I mean?

Echo on Narcissism


About RayMunn

Husband, father, Zen guy, web designer, film-maker.
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