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  1. #1
    ojaantrik's Avatar
    ojaantrik is offline Platinum ILite
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    Default Echo and Narcissus -- A Lesson from Mythology

    I was reminded of a tale from Greek mythology after reading Chivish's Be like a Bee, not a Fly. Although Chitvish's post is not directly linked to what follows, there was an indirect connection that I thought I perceived. She used the word "I" in a rather special way, indicating which sort of "I" one should aspire to be. This took me back to Ramakrishna Paramhamsa's preachings in the Ramakrishna Kathamrita. The Paramhamsa says in certain parts of this compilation that we ordinary mortals should refrain from the use of the word "I" as much as possible. Ultimately, ego being one of the prime causes underlying human misery, one should aim towards shedding one's vanity. This is what Gautama Buddha preached too. However, the task being duanting, the Paramhamsa's simple advice was to try and not use the word "I". Through the ages, humanity has expressed this same piece of wisdom in different guises. The Greeks too had a version I think, the Echo -- Narcissus tale. I am quoting the tale as related by Bulfinch (See link at the end for the source). I am also adding a painting based on this tale. And, as should be obvious, I don't know yet how to write my sentences without the pronoun "I". Passive voice is a possibility, but it would be an example of bad English!!


    Echo and Narcissus -- A Lesson from Mythology-echo_nar.jpg
    [Painting: Echo and Narcissus, Oil on Canvas by William Waterhouse , 1903]


    Echo was a beautiful nymph, fond of the woods and hills, where she devoted herself to woodland sports. She was a favorite of Diana, and attended her in the chase. But Echo had one failing; she was fond of talking, and whether in chat or argument, would have the last word. One day Juno was seeking her husband, who, she had reason to fear, was amusing himself among the nymphs. Echo by her talk contrived to detain the goddess till the nymphs made their escape. When Juno discovered it, she passed sentence upon Echo in these words: “You shall forfeit the use of that tongue with which you have cheated me, except for that one purpose you are so fond of -- reply. You shall still have the last word, but no power to speak first.”

    This nymph saw Narcissus, a beautiful youth, as he pursued the chase upon the mountains. She loved him and followed his footsteps. O how she longed to address him in the softest accents, and win him to converse! but it was not in her power. She waited with impatience for him to speak first, and had her answer ready. One day the youth, being separated from his companions, shouted aloud, “Who’s here?” Echo replied, “Here.” Narcissus looked around, but seeing no one called out, “Come.” Echo answered, “Come.” As no one came, Narcissus called again, “Why do you shun me?” Echo asked the same question. “Let us join one another,” said the youth. The maid answered with all her heart in the same words, and hastened to the spot, ready to throw her arms about his neck. He started back, exclaiming, “Hands off! I would rather die than you should have me!” “Have me,” said she; but it was all in vain. He left her, and she went to hide her blushes in the recesses of the woods. From that time forth she lived in caves and among mountain cliffs. Her form faded with grief, till at last all her flesh shrank away. Her bones were changed into rocks and there was nothing left of her but her voice. With that she is still ready to reply to any one who calls her, and keeps up her old habit of having the last word. Narcissus’s cruelty in this case was not the only instance. He shunned all the rest of the nymphs, as he had done poor Echo. One day a maiden who had in vain endeavored to attract him uttered a prayer that he might some time or other feel what it was to love and meet no return of affection. The avenging goddess heard and granted the prayer.

    There was a clear fountain, with water like silver, to which the shepherds never drove their flocks, nor the mountain goats resorted, nor any of the beasts of the forest; neither was it defaced with fallen leaves or branches; but the grass grew fresh around it, and the rocks sheltered it from the sun. Hither came one day the youth, fatigued with hunting, heated and thirsty. He stooped down to drink, and saw his own image in the water; he thought it was some beautiful water-spirit living in the fountain. He stood gazing with admiration at those bright eyes, those locks curled like the locks of Bacchus or Apollo, the rounded cheeks, the ivory neck, the parted lips, and the glow of health and exercise over all. He fell in love with himself. He brought his lips near to take a kiss; he plunged his arms in to embrace the beloved object. It fled at the touch, but returned again after a moment and renewed the fascination. He could not tear himself away; he lost all thought of food or rest, while he hovered over the brink of the fountain gazing upon his own image. He talked with the supposed spirit: “Why, beautiful being, do you shun me? Surely my face is not one to repel you. The nymphs love me, and you yourself look not indifferent upon me. When I stretch forth my arms you do the same; and you smile upon me and answer my beckonings with the like.” His tears fell into the water and disturbed the image. As he saw it depart, he exclaimed, “Stay, I entreat you! Let me at least gaze upon you, if I may not touch you.” With this, and much more of the same kind, he cherished the flame that consumed him, so that by degrees he lost his color, his vigor, and the beauty which formerly had so charmed the nymph Echo. She kept near him, however, and when he exclaimed, “Alas! alas!” she answered him with the same words. He pined away and died; and when his shade passed the Stygian river, it leaned over the boat to catch a look of itself in the waters. The nymphs mourned for him, especially the water-nymphs; and when they smote their breasts Echo smote hers also. They prepared a funeral pile and would have burned the body, but it was nowhere to be found; but in its place a flower, purple within, and surrounded with white leaves, which bears the name and preserves the memory of Narcissus.

    [The text is an extract from Thomas Bulfinch: The Age of Fables.]

    Last edited by ojaantrik; 1st February 2009 at 06:49 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Echo and Narcissus -- A Lesson from Mythology

    Dear Oj San,
    Narcissus- a man who is self admirer.It is used as an expression of unprincipled self-preoccupation.

    Your preface on "I" gives the whole gist of the post. "I" with humility is fine while capital "I" is with EGO. ERASE GOD OUT.

    Narcissus - self love is best example of this obesssion with I , Narcissus was gifted with extraordinary beauty and he was also possessed by unyielding pride, causing him to reject all overtures of love and intimacy from others, merely playing with their affections.
    Narcissu is all-consuming self-love which has its risks. Instead of consuming self love one should go about with healthy self love.
    We all need to use the mirror sometimes. We need to love ourselves and to hear praise and receive validation from each other. All children need to be the center of attention from time to time. Teens, in particular, go through periods of intense self-preoccupation, vying for each other’s attention amidst the turbulence of the adolescent years. As we get older, we face cultural biases favoring youth and youthful appearance. In our maturity we must learn to sustain a positive outlook, keeping a smile on our face when we can, doing what’s right for our health and appearance, and learning to appreciate the value that we add to each other’s lives. Self love is needed but not preoccupation.
    In another point of view :Narcissus is not in love with himself. He is in love with his reflection.
    There is a major difference between one's True Self and reflected-self.
    Loving your True Self is healthy, adaptive, and functional. while loving a reflection has a draw back.1) one needs a reflection and 2) not sure how true is the reflection. But in this world the narcissist is forced to use other people in order to feel that he exists.
    There are many who suffer from this syndrome.
    May God bless you
    Jaya


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    Default Re: Echo and Narcissus -- A Lesson from Mythology

    Dear Jaya-san:

    You have raised a serious issue and I am not sure that I follow you completely. I can see that you are thinking deeply and making classifications in self love. It appears to me though that the real distinction is between self-respect and self-adoration. The first is necessary, the second ought to be avoided. Perhaps you are saying more than this. I need to think more to figure out. This is a difficult question to resolve. In fact, it is not even clear what the question(s) is (are)?

    Sometimes asking the right question amounts to solving 75% of the problem. I will think more.

    Thanks for the fb.

    oj

    Last edited by ojaantrik; 1st February 2009 at 10:10 PM. Reason: typo
    'What makes the desert beautiful,' said the little prince, 'is that somewhere it is hiding a well.' - The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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    jaijui0 is offline Junior ILite
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    Default Re: Echo and Narcissus -- A Lesson from Mythology

    hey OJ ,
    nice post ..
    If the ego is still there , it doesn't matter whether we use the word I or We or Mr OJ ..i hope u agree :)
    i loved ur story of Echo ..poor thing
    Narcissus I am familiar with
    jaijui


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    Default Re: Echo and Narcissus -- A Lesson from Mythology

    Quote Originally Posted by jaijui0 View Post
    hey OJ ,
    nice post ..
    If the ego is still there , it doesn't matter whether we use the word I or We or Mr OJ ..i hope u agree :)
    i loved ur story of Echo ..poor thing
    Narcissus I am familiar with
    jaijui
    Dear jaijui:

    I agree of course. If it's there, it's there. You can't do much about it. Like the rose, ego is ego whatever name you call it by.

    Nonetheless, sometimes mechanical exercises could help. I am reminded of the robber Ratnakar who metaporphosed to Valmiki. The story goes, or at least the Bengali version, that a sadhu advised him to keep reciting Rama's holy name (this was before Rama was born of course, since it was Valmiki who created Rama) to attain purity. Ratnakar failed to pronounce Rama, since he had done so many evil deeds and he admitted his inability. Then the sadhu told him to keep reciting 'mara' (pronounced 'mauraa' in Bengali and meaning a corpse). Mara-Mara-Mara-...-raMa-Rama-Rama was the result.

    Of course, this story is well-known. I brought it up simply to point out that, sometimes at least, a set of mechanical rules can help a person out.
    Letting go of one's ego though is the toughest goal humanity can strive for. You need to be a Gautama Buddha to succeed.

    Thanks for the fb.

    oj

    'What makes the desert beautiful,' said the little prince, 'is that somewhere it is hiding a well.' - The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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    Default Re: Echo and Narcissus -- A Lesson from Mythology

    dear oj-da,
    thanks for sharing the story..i remember being fascinated by greek mythology, as a kid ..jason and the golden fleece and the three headed medusa(am i correct as i remember very vaguely)

    this was equally fascinating.......but poor Echo..

    i do know valmikis story but did not know he was called ratnakar before...
    regards
    Mindi


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    Default Re: Echo and Narcissus -- A Lesson from Mythology

    Quote Originally Posted by Mindian View Post
    dear oj-da,
    thanks for sharing the story..i remember being fascinated by greek mythology, as a kid ..jason and the golden fleece and the three headed medusa(am i correct as i remember very vaguely)

    this was equally fascinating.......but poor Echo..

    i do know valmikis story but did not know he was called ratnakar before...
    regards
    Mindi
    Dear Mindi:

    Poor Echo indeed. The best part of this story is that it tells you where the word 'echo' came from.

    But poor Echo, true enough. Do you notice that she transformed har ability to repeat what others said into a language for communication? That was marvelous.

    I too am fond of mythologies.

    Regards.

    oj-da

    'What makes the desert beautiful,' said the little prince, 'is that somewhere it is hiding a well.' - The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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    Default Re: Echo and Narcissus -- A Lesson from Mythology

    Dear Oj San,
    Iam sorry, i wasn't able to communicate my thoughts properly. This is what happens to me often, iam just a bundle thoughts, unable to unwind the coil properly.
    I have this bad habit of looking at the other side of the coin. Sometime try to justify everything.
    This was one tale i used to like a lot because i used to call most men as Narcissist. Ops! dont get me wrong.
    Echo- its a lovely name, the pregnant meaning of it.
    Sorry abt nor clear in my thoughts.
    May God bless you.
    Jaya


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    Default Re: Echo and Narcissus -- A Lesson from Mythology

    Jaya-san:

    Very few amongst us can communicate clearly. If we could, we would be sages. Never mind confusions. We are all confused. It's always nice to talk to one another to get confusions clarified. Sometimes we get even more confused after discussions, don't we? Big Laugh

    oj

    'What makes the desert beautiful,' said the little prince, 'is that somewhere it is hiding a well.' - The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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    Padmasrinivas is offline Gold ILite
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    Default Re: Echo and Narcissus -- A Lesson from Mythology

    Dear OJ-da,

    The title 'Echo and Narcissus' was what actually drew me to your post. The story of Echo and Narcissus is one of my perennial favourites! As a child, the predominant feeling towards Echo was one of love and pity for her sad plight. Narcissus was a selfish fellow in my eyes and deserved every bit of the curse, as he lay near the river, filled with unrequited love as he watched the beautiful face in the water, not knowing it was his own reflection. And when he was transformed into the beautiful Narcissus, a natural feeling of admiration for he beauty of the flower took root in my heart.! Even today, the daffodils, narcissus and iris are some of my favourite species of flowers!

    Coming to the "I", the nominative personal pronoun (in the first person)....

    My English teacher always emphasised the fact that use of the 'I' should be kept to the minimum.

    One who uses "I" very often in spoken or written language is automatically dubbed an 'Egotist' , or in other words, a Narcissist.

    Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi advocated Self-Enquiry, 'Who am I?', to attain a state of happiness, finding the answer would automatically subjugate the Ego, the"I".

    OJ-da, that was a very thought-provoking post, one that called for a lot of mental exercise to post a reply...

    Very happy to see that yours truly was able to circumvent the use of "I" to denote self in this fb...

    Yours humbly,
    Padma

    "If you don't invite God to be your summer Guest, He won't come in the winter of your life"

    Finest Post June 2009 - Caught in the cross-fire...
    Blessed are we...Reflections What the signs foretell...

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