Art: Lani Irwin
I came across the post header quote in an essay on the art of Lani Irwin, a female painter I've often admired. I don't usually 'read' the paintings of others, preferring rather to experience them as one might do with abstract expressionism. I think that might make me 'self-referential' :).
Be that as it may, while reading the essay I was referred to this and that article on the subject of narcissism and recognized how large a role that condition plays in the life of gay men. I only speak about gay men because I know very little about gay women, much less normal women. Just last week I had to ask someone what a vagina was. On one level, I was being facetious, but I have to admit I wasn't entirely sure of what the difference is from camel toes, and to be sure, I had no idea they could yawp.
More seriously, I think a great deal of the problem with gay, especially in contemporary culture, is a problem of charity - love of God and neighbor - the first neighbor being ourselves. Yet our self-love is inordinate, which to some extent is natural and grace is needed to overcome it. Left unattended, it becomes disordered.
Years ago someone once left a comment on a post I wrote citing evidence of narcissism on blogs. My critic remarked on how ironic it was for me, a man with 3 blogs, to be calling out others for what most of us consider a character defect. She was right of course. I'm a big narcissist.
Narcissism becomes a sort of impediment to not only friendship, but to love of God. Indeed it is excessive self love which leads us to satisfy our every inordinate appetite and desire. What heals that is surrender to God's love. All traditional spiritual writers make that clear, so I have nothing to add. I'm just sharing a light that dawned for me which helps me understand an aspect of what may be going on with younger gay men - be they the New Homophiles or just gay and happy with it.
Just some thoughts ...
... to say my body is myself is to say that to love my body is to say I love myself. The narcissist falls back on what Freud called the “body ego,” and in a sense can never get beyond it: the narcissist loves the body of the other as a reflection of her own body. Self-love— narcissistic curiosity about, even fascinated concern with the female body and with that the female self ... - SourceMen do that. Porn is a staple for gay men. Idolizing the male physique - addicted to the gym. Fantasy romances with hot actors. Gay is very much about idolatry and narcissism. (Disclaimer: Before you hit me for generalizations... This does not apply for the perfect, well adjusted gay man of course, and certainly not ALL gay men, and to be sure NOT ALL gay Catholics. Oh, and this is so not about clinical narcissism - the disorder. What?)
As Arnold Hauser points out, narcissism, at its most serious, involves “self-observation, in the sense of self-examination and the acquisition of self-awareness.” - Source
And isn't that what all the writers end up doing? Navel/crotch gazing?
For me, the essay is somewhat provocative - here's another thought to mull over ...
The narcissist is peculiarly “self-alienated”: without her reflection—and Hauser, following the lead of Valéry’s “interpretation,” notes that the Narcissus of the legend is as much female as male—she feels incomplete and insignificant. She needs that reflection to be herself, even though the reflection is an illusion, a sort of false self. For Hauser, mannerist art is quintessentially narcissistic, suggesting that Irwin’s narcissistic art is quintessentially mannerist. Her use of mannerist “postures and movements” to “fetishize” the figure into static perfection, along with the mannerist view that “all the world’s a stage”—a sort of “costume” party in which everyone is playing a role, in which everything is artificial, however natural it may look—confirm the mannerism. Are Irwin’s roses artificial or natural? They must be artificial, because they do not decay. - Donald Kuspit
Narcissism can be healed of course - that's the Good News, in fact therein lies the secret of freedom from unwanted same sex attraction. (If you want to be gay and same sex attracted, that's a different matter.) The ordinary way of healing is pretty much a maturing process - yes, a self-acceptance - although not of what we project ourselves to be, or what culture dictates we must be. As a Catholic it is found in and through the ordinary means offered through the Church, sacraments, prayer, ascesis, and going out from self to serve others. It doesn't always mean one must join a group or an organization or even volunteering at church. We go out of ourselves through self denial. We can serve others through prayer and the ordinary fulfillment of our duties in our state in life. That is the greatness of ordinary life. The narcissist cannot tolerate ordinary life ... The narcissist needs to be exceptional and clings to that which makes him so.
Think about it.
If we have charity we cannot sin against our brother or his body.
I say móre: the just man justices;Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not hisTo the Father through the features of men's faces. -GMH