I am disturbed. Disturbed at how quick it is for me to judge and criticize others; disturbed at how, despite my best intentions, I mostly end up thinking that I am better, that I could do ‘it’ better; and disturbed because I am not alone and what I have seems to be a universal malady.
Sample the following excerpt from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
“The alchemist picked up a book that someone in the caravan had brought. Leafing through the pages, he found a story about Narcissus.
The alchemist knew the legend of Narcissus, a youth who knelt daily beside a lake to contemplate his own beauty. He was so fascinated by himself that, one morning, he fell into the lake and drowned. At the spot where he fell, a flower was born, which was called the narcissus.
Narcissus by Caravaggio
But this was not how the author of the book ended the story.
He said that when Narcissus died, the goddesses of the forest appeared and found the lake, which had been fresh water, transformed into a lake of salty tears.
‘Why do you weep?’ the goddesses asked.
‘I weep for Narcissus,” the lake replied.
‘Ah, it is no surprise that you weep for Narcissus,’ they said, ‘for though we always pursued him in the forest, you alone could contemplate his beauty close at hand.’
‘But… was Narcissus beautiful?’ the lake asked.
‘Who better than you to know that?’ the goddesses asked in wonder. ‘After all, it was by your banks that he knelt each day to contemplate himself!’
The lake was silent for some time. Finally, it said:
‘I weep for Narcissus, but I never noticed that Narcissus was beautiful. I weep because, each time he knelt beside my banks, I could see, in the depths of his eyes, my own beauty reflected.’
‘What a lovely story,’ the alchemist thought.”
What really struck me as I read this particular portion was the lake’s reasoning for mourning and weeping for Narcissus. It mirrors my behavior as I interact with others. It would be easy to ‘hate’ Narcissus and to vainly believe that I am above his sort of blatant self-indulgence but looking closely I realize that I am probably more ‘lake’ (for lack of a better word) than I would care to admit. It is so much easier to ‘do good’ when I know that it will make me ‘look good’.
Which brings me back to being disturbed and I begin to wonder… Would it be possible to listen and really ‘hear’ another person without relating it to myself? Would it be possible to look and really ‘see’ another person without shades of prejudice? Then I would not sit in judgement of another and I would be truly free. Free to love without fear. Free to enjoy the beauty and the wonderful talents in others without competition. Most of all, I would be free to be myself and all that I aspire to be.
And that is just the point. While being ‘narcissistic’ is a bummer, I shouldn’t be the ‘lake’ either. I should not be so vain as to imagine that everything is about me whether it is through being overly critical of others or not realizing how much others are worth because I am too involved in myself.
Did I just have an epiphany? Probably. Will my life change because of it? Maybe not as much as I would like to believe but I will make an effort. To listen more, to understand more, to judge less and hopefully to be kinder where I do not understand with the realization that this may just well be another ‘baby step’ towards the person that I’d like to be.