Dali painting

New Year’s Narcissism

By Eric Blauer

“Grandma….mommy won’t wake up.”

“She overdosed and was left to die in the front yard by her dealer, she arrived at the hospital brain dead and died.”

“I don’t have any money to pay for heat.”

“I am being put in a group home but I don’t want to leave my church family.”


All these quotes come from people I have recently come in contact with in my neighborhood.

The first was the tragic overdose/suicide of a young mother over Thanksgiving a couple blocks from my home. She leaves behind a 1-year-old and 13-year-old who found her.

The second is the tragic death of a heroin user who had just got out of jail and had been clean but couldn’t stay above water. Her ex broke the new to me on a Sunday morning.

The next lines reflect the many neighbors here that struggle between the hammer and the anvil of mental health, poverty which so often leads to displacement, which intensifies the first two conditions even more.

These stories are played out every year in this neighborhood, the turning of a page on a calendar rarely promises much change, except new faces and problems.

“The poor you will always have with you…,” Jesus (Matthew 26:11)

This is partly true…if you choose to be with the poor.

The older I get the more New Year’s resolutions look and sound more like the reflections of Narcissus in the pool of self worship.

This time of year is most often turned even deeper upon oneself. We agonize over all the areas of our lives that haven’t met some standard of improvement or excellence. We stand before our pools, called mirrors and fall into the death of self, either it’s beauty or horror. Our calendars reflect back upon us the many things we need to accomplish and we preen and primp over them attempting to pull from them more time and opportunities. All our other lovers around us are brushed off in our moments of longing as we dream and envision how to improve the image of ourselves we see reflected back at us.

All this seems so empty and vain when someone pleads with you in tears about how to forgive the drug dealer who spent a half hour slapping the overdosed and then left her out on the lawn on one of the most freezing nights of the year.

This city, this new year, our own souls, need less narcissism and more death to self.

I believe that the ‘myth’ of Narcissus points to the true path of life most fully explained in the teachings of the Son of God. The Christian vision of the truest fulfillment is found in the call to die to oneself. To open oneself up to the love of God and be filled up and spilled out in service to others.

My new years resolution is to more fully dwell in the death of the baptismal waters and be reborn afresh into a fragrant flower of beauty for the sufferings and hopes of others.

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Brad Thompson

If I may offer an alternative perspective, I’d like to suggest that the distinction between narcissism and askesis is purpose. My “resolutions” do center around becoming a more complete, more highly functioning version of myself, but they do so in the context of making myself a better servant, a better follower. Any benefit I accrue from increased strength, or compassion, or wisdom, is secondary to my increased usefulness as an instrument of Grace. Or so I tell myself…

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