It’s Narcissist Friday!
Many generations ago, in the nearly forgotten times, there were two young people bound by their own needs. One was the nymph named Echo. Echo loved to talk. She longed for lasting relationship with someone who valued her. She extended every conversation by adding one more comment, thus pulling the person more and more into relationship with her. One day Echo entered into a conversation with a beautiful woman. Frustrated by the girl’s need to have the last word, the beautiful woman (who was really the goddess Juno) placed a curse on Echo. She would have the last word of every conversation, but never the first; and her last words would always be the last words of the person with whom she was talking.
Soon Echo was driven to the woods and hills to escape relationships. She despaired of love and acceptance. But then she found the young man named Narcissus. Narcissus moved with the grace and assurance of a young god. He was beautiful to look at and all people loved him. They had showered him with praises from the time of his birth. Echo fell in love with Narcissus.
But Narcissus loved no one. When Echo reached out to him, she was able only to speak his own last few words back to him. A conversation ensued and Echo believed there was hope for a relationship. But Narcissus did not enjoy the sound of his own words. Their stark honesty made him bitter against Echo and he pushed her away. With a broken heart, Echo retreated to the caves and hills again. No one has seen her since.
But Narcissus continued his life, never opening his heart to another, rejecting all who came to love him, until the day his own curse came to its fruit. He stopped at a pool where the water was perfectly still and he looked at his own reflection. Suddenly, Narcissus was in love. No one had been so beautiful, so full of promise, so wonderful in potential. For the first and only time in his life, Narcissus found a relationship he would enjoy.
No matter how others urged him, Narcissus would not leave the pool. From time to time he reached out to embrace his image, but the water stirred and the image was lost. Forever just out of reach, the image called to him and captured his heart. Finally, one day people noticed that Narcissus no longer leaned over the little pool. He was gone. In his place stood a beautiful white flower which has forever borne his name.
So, there you have it—the story of Narcissus and Echo. Those ancient storytellers understood human nature in ways we are just beginning to reclaim. The classic narcissist and his classic victim captured in a tale told to children for millennia. The story has different versions and is told with different emphases, but the message continues to explain what so many see today.