Blogging with Narcissus

It’s summer in these parts. In the last few days, I’ve heard at least five people saying they’ll have less time for blogging in the coming weeks or months, either by choice or because they’ll go places without instant internet access. I have to say I’m happy to hear there are still places like that.

Lofoten Island, 1895, by Feliksovich Lagorio [Public domain]

Lofoten Island, 1895, by Feliksovich Lagorio [Public domain]

blogging resembles flux

I’ve looked at my experiences with blogging and I’ve noticed that it perfectly resembles what the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus called flux: people and blogs can disappear in an instant, or engage in metamorphosis. If you read this, don’t say you never heard of Heraclitus, because I’m pretty sure that you have. He’s the one that said you cannot step into the same river twice. Or at least, that’s how Plato understood him:

Heraclitus, I believe, says that all things pass and nothing stays, and comparing existing things to the flow of a river, he says you could not step twice into the same river. (Plato Cratylus 402a = A6, quoted in the SEP)

The article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy goes on to say that Heraclitus may have been misquoted by Plato. What he actually meant to say may have been oversimplified. Heraclitus lived in Ephesus around 500 BCE, I guess we should be happy if anything he said has survived.

“If this interpretation is right, the message of the one river fragment is not that all things are changing so that we cannot encounter them twice, but something much more subtle and profound. It is that some things stay the same only by changing. (…) On this reading, Heraclitus believes in flux, but not as destructive of constancy; rather it is, paradoxically, a necessary condition of constancy, at least in some cases (and arguably in all).”

And that’s exactly my image of blogging. It goes on changing and therefore it stays the same. It doesn’t matter if some people go on holiday or quit and others start afresh and try to build a community. It doesn’t matter, as long as we manage not to cling to what’s familiar to us. And that isn’t always easy! The people blogging form an intricate network of relations that gets renewed all the time. Like a fishnet that’s in the water during the day and that gets mended every evening. Sometimes, there are big holes in it that take much time to fill.

Heraclitus’ style of teaching philosophy is described as inductive: he used familar images from nature and let his readers make their own generalisations and draw their own conclusions. This allowed for freedom of interpretation, for using the imaginative right side of the brain, but it also meant the depth of truth depended on the quality of the reader; some subtleties may have been overlooked.

“Sound thinking is the greatest virtue and wisdom: to speak the truth and to act on the basis of an understanding of the nature of things” Heraclitus

blogging with Narcissus

Flux is all about relations. It’s the way the threads are knotted together. And this could be anything from a first, tentative ‘like’ to a comment that is longer than the original article. It might also be interesting to look at the two sides of a relationship.

The Death of Narcissus, by François-Xavier Fabre [Public domain]

The Death of Narcissus, by François-Xavier Fabre [Public domain]

“Here Narcissus, tired of hunting and the heated noon, lay down, attracted by the peaceful solitudes and by the glassy spring. There as he stooped to quench his thirst another thirst increased. While he is drinking he beholds himself reflected in the mirrored pool–and loves; loves an imagined body which contains no substance, for he deems the mirrored shade a thing of life to love. He cannot move, for so he marvels at himself, and lies with countenance unchanged, as if indeed a statue carved of Parian marble. Long, supine upon the bank, his gaze is fixed on his own eyes, twin stars; his fingers shaped as Bacchus might desire, his flowing hair as glorious as Apollo’s, and his cheeks youthful and smooth; his ivory neck, his mouth dreaming in sweetness, his complexion fair and blushing as the rose in snow-drift white. All that is lovely in himself he loves, and in his witless way he wants himself…” Ovidius, Metamorphoses

Narcissus took the relationship with himself to its extreme. He didn’t eat or drink and died by the spring, gazing at himself. Is there any relation with blogging?

Without becoming overly dramatic, I think there is. And it depends on our reasons for writing.

We all blog because we’re looking for recognition. We’re not in it to make money, and putting together a readable article takes time, so it wouldn’t be at all strange if we are looking for something in return for our effort. We adorn our articles with all the mesmerising attributes of Narcissus and then we send them out and we want them to be found. And liked. And commented on. Well, I won’t speak for others but I know I do.

The travelling companions, by Augustus Egg [Public domain]

The travelling companions, by Augustus Egg [Public domain]

However, I’ve chosen to write about Narcissus for a second reason. There’s another explanation of the word recognition and there’s a different way of looking at this ancient Greek myth.

It is said that Narkissos had a twin sister; they were exactly alike in appearance, their hair was the same, they wore similar clothes, and went hunting together. The story goes on that Narkissos fell in love with his sister, and when the girl died, would go to the spring, knowing that it was his reflection that he saw, but in spite of this knowledge finding some relief for his love in imagining that he saw, not his own reflection, but the likeness of his sister.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 31. 7 – 9 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) found on

Maybe Narcissus was looking for his twin, knowing he could only find her as part of his own mirror image in the water. When blogging, we meet people with many different talents and experiences,  from all parts of the world. One of them might share our hopes and dreams and recognise us upon reading.

I think we all, at least partly, read and write to be found. If a book or an article stays in our memory it’s because we somehow see ourselves in it. Either as the person we are, or as we want to become. And before we condemn Narcissus, or call him egotistical or vain, we might want to find out what he was gazing at.

About Pipteinpteron

Catch a falling feather. Don't keep it.
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39 Responses to Blogging with Narcissus

  1. sv says:

    Love your post , you have neatly summed up the idea of blogging ,but i don’t think blogging is narcissistic , I may be biased, but i speak from my own experience – i started blogging in 2010 , when i was through a rough phase in life , my blog was private , but the bloggers at wordpress who blog/ are blogging candidly about their depression, transitions etc. helped me accept myself and as a result i’m interacting through my blog. The haikus , original works , opinions are anything but superficial or narcissitic . I feel facebook is a more narcissistic platform (too many selfies !!)- -blogging platforms like wordpress or tumblr , can help a lot dealing with the real stuff in life – the quotes , pics , philosophy your own post about alain botton for example , well that was my opinion.

    • Thank you for your comment, sv!
      I am happy to hear that blogging helped you going through a rough phase in life. It wasn’t my intention to call blogging superficial or narcissistic in any way.
      I’ve never been on facebook, but I take your word for it. If blogging can be inspirational or helpful in dealing with real life, I think that is very important indeed.

  2. makagutu says:

    I used to think of the vain Narcissus, the second explanation of what he could have been gazing at changes the story somewhat.
    Beautiful post friend and I agree with on one of the reasons I write is to be found, to engage with people whether we agree or not is not important so long as we can engage in a civil manner.
    Have a pleasant summer day!

  3. Wow, Livelysceptic, that is brilliant! I have often asked myself that question “why do I do …”. Your association of Narcissus and the alternative views of him says a lot of things and explains why we are both narcissistic, social and ‘act’ for the greater good at once. It’s a great set of new angles and I love it. Thanks!
    Sent from my BlackBerry® Smartphone supplied by Swisscom

    • Thank you for your comment, Genetic Fractals. You point out exactly what I had in mind when I dreamt up the image of Narcissus in relation to blogging. Your image also ties in well with the competing drives that make up flux.
      I’m happy you liked the article. 🙂
      PS Good luck with your new blog on genetic fractals!

  4. Karen says:

    Loved this post too. It reminded me of something an Australian comedian, Mary Coustas, said in the paper on the weekend “life is not out to get you. it’s there to teach you and introduce you to yourself”. I agree that Narcissus was on to something when he looked at himself, perhaps the trick is being able to look away from the reflection when you need to and never lose sight of the bigger picture.

  5. dyssebeia says:

    This is an excellent post. I think we have to take both versions of the story into account in thinking about blogging. Certainly part of it is finding fellow travelers and like minds, but that doesn’t seem to stop me from vainly checking my viewing stats frequently. Perhaps Narcissus began by looking for his sister, and ended up loving himself… 😛

    • Thank you dyssebeia. That is another option. Others say there was a nymph somewhere that caused him to lose sight of all distractions. But I thought it was a bit obvious to mention a vengeful woman. The story can do without that motif. 🙂 I prefer Narcissus longing to be rejoined with the twin soul he lost. It’s not a pragmatic approach by any means, but I can imagine how he felt.

  6. Brilliant.

    I like to think I blog to share useful info (and I think I do) but the likes, comments and occasional compliments definitely boost my ego.

    What’s more, I often find the comments and articles to either reflect my views, or at least cover things I care about. In many ways, it is about finding like minded people and ideas.

    • Thank you for your comment, BR. I couldn’t agree more. Well, I never imagined I had any useful info to share…I thought I’d make that up along the way. 🙂

  7. Beautiful post. I started blogging to force me to write instead of procrastinate, but I soon discovered my need for a community.

  8. grevilleacorner says:

    This sent me straight into a deep pool of reflection! 🙂

  9. ~~~S Wave~~~ says:

    After a post I just wrote I was directed to this article by GeneticFractals. Love the “flux” of blogging and the changes that make it constant. Exactly! Just when I think I’ve found my point, it evolves into something new….always being me and my little blog. Thanks for this piece!

  10. Bastet says:

    Reblogged this on Bastet and Sekhmet and commented:
    An interesting look at blogging…through “flux” Thanks againt to livelysceptic for a fascinating post!

  11. Bastet says:

    Absolutely brilliant…I feel like Narcissis who’s found his sister! What a wonderful view you’ve presented here…loved every word.

  12. Oloriel says:

    I was reading this word by word and I must say that I indeed found what I was looking for, a reflection of myself or something I lost or dreamed about,but most likely all of this together and the strings inbetween. It might be me getting over-fascinated, as many occasionaly deem me, but I simply wish to thank you for speaking.

  13. duncommutin says:

    Very true and wise – thanks, livelysceptic. I was particularly taken by your thoughts on Heraclitus. Anyone who has dipped a toe in philosophy will have heard the river aphorism – but the relation between constancy and flux is very pertinent. It seems to me it relates to the topic known in comtemporary philosophy as ‘Personal Identity’. You are not the same person you were a year ago, or even maybe five minutes ago. But in another sense, of course, you are. If you were not changing you would be dead – and have no personal identity at all. And widening these ideas out to apply them to the blogging phenomenon is thought-provoking.

    • Thank you for your comment, duncommutin. It’s one of my favourite things: to try and find out what’s behind a well-known quote. Sometimes it happens by accident, which makes it even better. BTW: I agree with your observations on personal identity.

  14. I hadn’t heard of the second explanation for Narcissus’ obsession with woodland pools. But I think your analysis of why we blog is right on the money – and I enjoyed the discussion of classical poets and philosophers.

    • Thank you, Butimbeautiful! I’m really enthusiastic about these philosophers and poets and your encouraging comments really help. There are so many of these texts available on the internet: originals as well as translations. It has become much easier to study them and I think it’s often quite easy to link them to everyday life.

  15. elkement says:

    Interesting to read this in my blogging break (taken by choice). I have blogged since more than 10 years, though my first “blogs” technically weren’t blogs, but “web sites” I changed frequently. In hindsight I can say I have always blogged in bursts – very often I was most active when I was in the middle of a change (personal / career-wise). Though I can relate to you reference to Heraclitus – I might blog in order to support the change that is going to happen anyway and/or writing is a catalyzer of change.

    • Thank you for your comment, Elkement! I wouldn’t be surprised if more people blogged in bursts, however short or long. To write in support of change and/or write as a catalyser of change is also a very interesting viewpoint. I often write to find out what I think, because I need to think more if I want to write my thoughts down. Same goes for writing about what I read. It’s encouraging to see you’ve been blogging for a long time and obviously still enjoy it.

  16. Pingback: Should a Buddhist Blog? | Trailing The Trail

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