We're all self-involved. I mean, in a world where you have to advocate for yourself to survive, what else is there? But the next time you judge another for their actions, try finding the context first. You know, context, background, parameters...we all have it. Why? Despite the fact that "why" is never a truly valid question, I'll answer: Because we have a beginning, which in turn implies an end. Because we are not infinite. At least, our bodies aren't. Because, those very PARAMETERS dictate a kind of fear that drives popular culture, politics, war, literature, film, governments, society, you name it! The fear is primal. We're born with it (which makes you wonder who put it there in the first place and what the motivation was...but we'll talk about that another time). So how is narcissism tied to judgement?
Narcissism in and of itself implies a kind of judgement that the self is so great (greater than ANYTHING else), it's necessary to devote all possible resources to it. But when we're the only ones who matter in our own personal world, is there room for others? Is there room for things like compassion? Wisdom? Aristotle felt the best way to help the self was by helping others--he even called it a selfish act. My point today is that we all need to put our hands in the air and step away from the mirror...at least, once in awhile.
Have you ever had a co-worker who seemed aloof, even rude? You might take the co-worker's attitude personally, maybe she doesn't like you; maybe you somehow make her uncomfortable. But if you can just step back from your mirror, you might see a person who's not aloof or rude with deliberation, but out of low self-esteem. Many people often don't feel worthy of friendship, or they've been hurt so many times, they're simply no longer open to it. The attitude you perceive is an illusion, and an illusion that has NOTHING to do with you as an individual. But we tend not to be generous toward our fellow humans...and it's mostly because we simply can't stop looking in the mirror.
Shakespeare slyly made fun of courtiers in Elizabethan England by translating them as fairies in one of his plays; there's a line in an adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream about how putting a mirror in front of a fairy will distract it from everything else, and in fact, one of the characters, Oberon, employs such a method when intruding on the sleep of the fairy queen, Titania. We are no different than that fairy. We drive our car, go to work, share time with family, all while looking in the mirror. How do these words I'm saying reflect on me? How does this action I'm making reflect on me? How people perceive me is important so I will make sure to do this or the other thing to acheive that perception.... It's true. Even when you do things for others, you get something out of it. But the great thing about helping others is that maybe, just maybe, you can begin to see their context--read people--kind of like a book without words.
Hannah Arendt called this mirror problem the "banality of evil," when otherwise good people go along with a majority idea, even if it's morally corrupt, simply because a majority is in agreement. It's like that with the example of the aloof, rude co-worker. You're not the only one who sees her this way; others agree with you. Others also agreed with the genocide of the Holocaust, with Apartheid in Africa, with slavery....but does that make those ideas right, simply because a majority thought so??? Ignorance is the excuse of the apathetic; apathy is the excuse of the narcissist.
The irony is, narcissistic tendencies and behaviors don't lead to self-betterment--it only ever leads to misery. A collective misery for every single time you were controlled by FEAR instead of doing what was right. You may have justified it as self-preservation, but that's the problem with things like justification--it's a logical fallacy. Yes, it seems to make sense, seems to be consistent with the truth, but it's still a lie--just prettier.
I know, I know, you feel depressed by what I'm saying. You may even feel a twinge of guilt or shame if you can relate all-too-well to my words. But alas, think of the people beyond your mirror when you feel that twinge. Those are the people who have to pay for your choices. That co-worker becomes the butt of office jokes. People talk about her behind her back. The office chatter moves from the water-cooler to the boss's ear...affecting your co-worker's chances for promotion, for a raise, but worst of all, influencing how others see her--a totally innocent person trapped by the infectious, viral rumors produced by your narcissism. And she feels it. Yet she has no agency to overcome the selfishness of others--that's something individuals have a responsibility for to themselves...and yes, it's for the sake of others, as much as it is for your own. The fact that your co-worker has no agency to change her situation is small consulation to her...wouldn't it be for you?
My dog will only live about 15 years. Knowing my dog has a shortened life-span, I do everything in my power to make my dog's life not just good, but better. I spoke about this in a previous entry--but all human life is temporary, just like my dog's. We humans feel that somehow, because we have 80-90 good years on the planet, that the word temporary doesn't really apply. We don't even live beyond ten decades. Understand? So when we cause misery in other's lives because we simply can't stop looking at ourselves in the mirror--we SERIOUSLY need to take about ten steps back and check in with reality.
This is life. Leave your apathy at the door. Keep your narcissism to yourself. And please, be sure to turn off your cell phone when the movie begins....you get the idea. Don't let Death's shadow remind you too late how to behave humanely. Take advantage of the now. Many of you already do this but many more don't. We're working on the honor system here. There's no score cards or gold stars. I can't threaten you with Hell or promise you Heaven...all I can do is speak the truth. And hope that someone out there finds it. Isn't that what Agent Mulder was trying to do???
Until next time, dearest readers! And thank you for kindly indulging my own narcissistic tendencies.... ;)