The staring effect

The Metamorphosis of Narcissus by Dalì

The enduring power of myths lies in their capacity for endless retelling.

“Here, the boy, tired by the malaise of the century and his enthusiasm for the chase after meaning lies down, drawn to the grove by its look and by the fountain, something he’d never seen before. While he desires to quench his thirst and forget about the centuries-old chase for self-fulfillment, a different thirst is created. While he drinks he is seized by the vision of his reflected form, mediated yet deceptively immediate, inviting him to endless self-curation. He loves a bodiless dream, the disembodied mix of user experience and self-fashioning, an intoxicating bundle of feelings of power and identity empowerment, shivers down his spine, pixels and binaries combining and recombining.

He sees a body, which is only a shadow, an avatar on the screen of the water, the mirroring not of himself, but of ideas of himself, all suddenly within grasp, all ready to be projected outwards for all to see. He is astonished by himself, and hangs there motionless, with a fixed expression, like a statue carved from Parian marble and Silicon Valley circuitry.

Flat on the ground, Narcissus contemplates two stars, his eyes, and his hair, coming together in the perfectly carved profile fit for Bacchus, fit for Apollo, fit for showbiz, his youthful cheeks and slender neck, the filtered beauty of his face, admiring everything for which he is himself admired. Unknowingly he desires himself, and he thinks himself universally admired, pebbles and likes coming rushing down at the edge of the water, miraculously failing to disturb the image staring back in his face.” (Ovid’s Metamorphoses, book 3, with my apologies, mutatas dicere formas).

For when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares also into you, baiting you for more exposure and self-exposure, revealing the imagery of a life deprived of ikonicity, transcendence and free-gifted redemption.

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