Thursday, January 19, 2012

Day 301: Fun Fact Friday - Narcissus Was Trying to Stay Hydrated!

My week of staying hydrated has been perhaps too successful.  I've been running to the ladies room more frequently than puppy Noelle goes out to her potty spot!  Between the two of us I think we're averaging 3 bathroom breaks an hour.  With all this focus on water, I couldn't help but recall one of the most stunning mirror myths in our cultural history: that of Narcissus.

Oil on canvas by Caravaggio, 1597-1599.
In a beautiful (pun intended) warning of the dangers of vanity, the story of Narcissus is of a handsome youth who falls in love with his own reflection in a pool of water, not realizing that it is merely an image.  In the version told by the poet Ovid in his Metamorphoses, Narcissus rests by a spring and, while drinking from it, "a new thirst grows inside him" and he is "captivated by the image of the beauty he has seen" and falls deeply in love with "all the things for which he himself is admired."  He then wastes away with love for himself, trapped by the inability to leave his reflection.  A while later his body is gone, and in its place is a narcissus flower.

Yikes - I wish one of you had warned me about this risk when I told you I'd be drinking a lot of water this week!  Luckily, none of my coffee mugs has been "grande" enough to clearly reflect my own "image of beauty" ... I'm sure I would have been quite captivated, had this been the case!

In all seriousness, I'm surprised I haven't already written about the Narcissus myth.  A wariness of destructive vanity is at the heart of this project.  I was once trapped by my own image, though it was more of a love/hate relationship.  Whether we stare obsessively at our reflections because of extreme pride and self-love, or due to crippling insecurities, the result is the same: we might not literally die from it, but in those moments we stop actively living our lives.  I'm tempted to track down a potted Narcissus plant to keep on hand as a reminder of this lesson.  Any green thumbs out there know how to grow one (and keep it alive!)?

For you art fans out there, check out this intense painting of the Narcissus myth, by Salvador Dali.  
Oil on Canvas by Salvador Dali (1937)
By abandoning the romance in favor of an image more treacherous and surreal (again, pun intended!), this painting captures the Narcissus myth more to my own experience of vanity.  What do you think?
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  1. The Dali painting is so much more powerful in person

  2. Wondering if others agree that what we see in the mirror is often not what others see when they look at us - even if we are glancing in the mirror to see how others might see us. This is probably especially true for anyone with eating disordered thinking, but perhaps for others too?

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