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Do You Think I Am Who I Think You Think I Am?

The desire to be devastatingly good-looking or smart is really just a desire to impact others. It’s the same as robbing a bank or pulling a trigger or pushing dollar bills through the slot of a Salvation Army bucket with your fingertips. Narcissus could never be inherently selfish, because it’s not his own image he’s in love with: He’s in love with the possibility, the potential, of others being in love with that image, with him, to devote some portion of their time or mental space to his image. He wants to inhabit them, to inhabit as many people as possible, to spread his iconic seed wherever it will stick so that civilization is his progeny. The possibility that several human beings will think of him almost as much as they will think of themselves. The concept is godly. And there are certainly other Greek words to be thrown around here – hubris being one – but this kind of pride is more complex than 2500 years of myth. The bust is the representation but also the goal. The idea isn’t to be worshiped. We don’t want others to genuflect at an ivory statue that looks like us. We want them to buckle before us, or at least at the thought of us. A sculpture is a tangential idea, someone else’s representation, and we don’t even get all the mental credit. Because every individual – whether he is truly aware of it or not – is aware that he is the most important facet of his mental diamond (or nugget of coal). But the ironic part – not the soul-crushing pop cultural irony, but rather the binary-establishing metaphysical irony – is that the focus of this personal mental obsession, what straddles our motorcycle of selfish thought, is the ghost of a different rider – of thousands of different riders – because capital-I obsession is really only important if someone else is writing the sentences. Maybe we just get bored with looking in the mirror. I definitely hope you find me clever for writing this.

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