The current popular discussion of narcissism isn't new. Christopher Lasch wrote a fascinating, and somewhat difficult, book in 1979 called the "The Culture of Narcissism". The New York Times obituary for Christopher Lasch said, "he described postwar America as a society of dangerously self-absorbed individuals, fixated on personal goals, fearful of their impulses and easily controlled by power elites."
The description of Yale historian Elizabeth Lunbeck's 2014 book "The Americanization of Narcissism" makes a counterpoint to Lasch's negative portrayal of narcissism as consumption,
"Psychoanalysts had clashed over narcissism from the moment Freud introduced it in 1914, and they had long been split on its defining aspects: How much self-love, self-esteem, and self-indulgence was normal and desirable?"In this short video Elizabeth Lunbeck talks about how complicated the topic of narcissism is.
After reading "The Culture of Narcissism", I wanted to learn more about the origin of the concept of narcissism which meant digging a little deeper than the usual children's stories of Narcissus.
I've never been that interested in Greek mythology. I've been more interested in Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist mythology since these myths inform the religious beliefs of people in modern society. As I've become a tiny bit familiar with the works of Freud and Jung (and listened to Joseph Campbell talk about Greek mythology) I find Greek mythology of more interest; lately focusing on the Greek myth of Echo and Narcissus.
There are any number of people who will decode a Greek myth for you just as there are any number of people who would be happy to decode the Christian biblical myths for you. I'm not picking on Christianity you can choose any religion and there will be lots of decoders telling you what the myths of that religious belief mean.
Myths mean whatever you want them to mean. That's why they're called myths. They aren't the facts or the truth but rather an allegory, story or metaphor that helped (and help) people at a point in history cope with the difficulties of living in this world.
Myths and fables serve as a means of moral instruction for children.
Myths maybe above all else serve as a springboard for further discussion and thought.
Of course I wouldn't say myths mean whatever you want them to mean to a priest or a minister or a childlike person with simple (beautiful) faith. If I lived not that many centuries ago I'd be burned at the stake for heresy for talking like that.
On the other hand sometimes when you're lost it's good to ask someone for directions. If someone spent years studying something you need help with and you trust them, or if you just trust their advice, then by all means ask for guidance.
Anyway...here's the cool story bro. The three links below are for a reading of Ovid's story of Echo and Narcissus. I don't know why the reading was split into three parts since the whole story only takes about 17 minutes.
Echo and Narcissus (Ted Hughes, Tales from Ovid) 1/3
Echo and Narcissus (Ted Hughes, Tales from Ovid) 2/3
Echo and Narcissus (Ted Hughes, Tales from Ovid) 3/3
The reading is from the book Tales From Ovid by the English poet, translator, and children's book author Ted Hughes. Here are a few stanzas from near the beginning of the story -
The boy she bore, even in his cradle,
Had a beauty that broke hearts.
She named the child Narcissus.
Gossips came to Tiresias: "Can her boy live long
With such perfect beauty?" The seer replied:
"Yes unless he learns to know himself."
All regarded these words as a riddle-
Till time solved them with a peculiar madness.
A stranger death completed the explanation.