We don’t have what Narcissus wrote, even if only in his mind, so we are left with mocking his self-absorption.
As a writer, I am narcissistic, necessarily so; perhaps this is true about all artists. I’m writing this post because, in making my shift from clandestine writer to “I am a writer,” I unwittingly swept away the cover my brave secrecy provided for my narcissism. So I’m getting used to bald, bold, narcissism, though a mild shame and disorientation continue since, before “I am a writer,” I was a dialogue practitioner for many years. I am still a dialogue practitioner, but that’s the muted role now, as I veil and bound the practicality and radical non-narcissism of a good dialogue practitioner’s action-in-the-world.
The narcissism of writing was not a conscious choice for me, there was no scheduled moment of “time to look at my face, my self.” Rather, I became aware of this self-regard in grand moments of seeing the world: through myself, in myself, and, of course, myself in the world. These are divine, Bhagvad Gita-esque moments, Whitman-esque moments. Depending on the writer, these moments may or may not have tints of self-consciousness, may or may not have magnificent bursts of megalomania, may or may not implode into despair at the banality and limitations of human being.
I’ve come to realize that, as writers, we look into a mirror; and we ourselves are a mirror. We don’t just look at our, and others’, best features, from the best angles, in the best light, but we look at that greying hair on a granular mole in the shadow of a nostril, and write about that. The beauty, from the best angles, yes, but also the mole.
This then is my movement – perhaps an oscillation more than a one-directional plunge – from the radical non-narcissism of the dialogue practitioner to the living narcissism, at best the wholeness, the mole-y, whole-y narcissism of a writer.