Narcissus

2:55 PM

Caravaggio, Narcissus, 1597-99
'Whitey was standing... his fists doubled up, tears streaming down his face. "I'm no good," he said. "I'm no good. Can't anyone understand I don't know what I'm doing?"' -- William S. Burroughs

There's a difference between wanting to look at yourself and having to look at yourself. When you want to, you see your regular flaws and problems,  but you say, "Not too shabby... I mean you did put on pants today.". When you have to look at yourself, things that previously felt invisible are now glaring problems. You change your clothes twenty times, beat that one unruly piece of hair into submission...
"Why are you even putting on pants today?" Aware of these flaws, your eyes flit back and forth across your reflection, primping and fixing until the person staring back is recognizable again.

Burroughs explores this cycle of emotion in Junky, a largely autobiographical account of his time with junk. It is clinical and unforgiving, explaining addiction in ways so matter-of-fact that he could be talking about what he had for breakfast. He mirrors himself with words and blunt honesty, giving the reader a brutal look into addiction. This may be by choice, but his honesty is raw. Caravaggio, on the other hand, explores this idea of a mirror visually, giving the story of Narcissus a darker light, the water below losing any liveliness or movement and instead becoming a dark mirror for Narcissus to stare into. He escapes into his ego, the mirrored depths his escape. His posture is that of a doting lover, his gaze and facial expression gentle but intense. Caravaggio manipulates the light in the piece to bathe Narcissus in light and remove any background. It is unnecessary. His only focus is his reflection.

As a fresh new senior, this cycle is far too familiar to me. The feeling of walking through these doors for the last first time was not lost on me, someone not very sure if she can make ramen noodles without making them explode in her microwave, let alone being able to look at myself and think I'm ready for the journey of the year ahead. Everything is about to change. Now, that's not to say I want to gaze at myself as lovingly as Narcissus... I don't. His end doesn't appeal to me. Looking to the year in front of me, there is an overwhelmingly bittersweet mood throughout it. I hope upon looking back at it that I will be proud and ready to go on with the next adventure. As long as there's no junk, I think I'll be all right.


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