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Philosophers, Artists and Theologians and the The Narcissism of Selfies

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By Eric Blauer

Are you psychotic if you post ‘selfies’?

This may be a possibility according to a recent study coming out of The Ohio State University.

This proposes a problem for me, as an artist I have a deep admiration for the beauty and challenge of sculpture and painting that captures the human form and portraits. I am also a lover of the revolution of photography that has arrived due to the power and convince of smartphone cameras. I must confess I have indulged in a fair amount of ‘selfie’ taking, particularly related to ‘bearding’ which is probably another indicator of deep narcissistic associations.

One look at the definition of the word narcissism should give anyone a paranoid spook!

Narcissism: “excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.
Synonyms: vanity, self-love, self-admiration, self-absorption, self-obsession, conceit, self-centeredness, self-regard, egotism, egoism. Psychology: extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type.

My other problem is that my favorite artist is Vincent Van Gogh, an artist that had a prolific portfolio of ‘selfies’ and we all know where that ended up.

So what’s a full-blown Instagraming, Twittering, Facebooking, Tumbling selfie-taking, self-portrait making artist supposed to do with this revelation? I’m also a writer and poet that indulges in biographical narratives and autobiographical contemplative reflections. Is that also an example of psychopathic tendencies? As a pastor, I have sought to be transparent and accessible in person and online. Is this generational and technological narcissism at the root of the emphasis within evangelical and missional circles regarding the importance of being vulnerable and real in today’s leadership endeavors?

Then there’s the problem that my favorite philosopher is Soren Kierkegaard, who’s penetrating analysis of the human condition seems to resonate with these thematic findings too:

“The thing is to understand myself: the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die. That is what I now recognize as the most important thing.”
—Søren Kierkegaard

But maybe there’s something important in all this anthropological and theological ‘selfie’  analysis. The apostle Paul contemplated the human search to know and be known in 1 Corinthians 13:12:

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.”

What can satisfy this deep existential quest found in human ache to know and be known. I think it reflects the eternal thirst of the human spirit, as St. Augustine, my favorite theologian famously said:

“And men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, yet pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought.” 
― Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions of Saint Augustine

Maybe by gazing into the deep image mystery of who we are, we can come to know who created us?

King David had a melodramatic flair that seemed comfortable in celebrating the created in light of the glory of the creator:

“Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it.” (Pslams 139:14)

Ultimately I think the thirst can lead to the source and all these human streams of experience : theological, philosophical and artistic can lead back to the great ocean of meaning that is found in God.

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” 
― Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions of Saint Augustine
So maybe there is something sacred in the selfie?


About Eric Blauer

I am Frederick Christian Blauer IV, but I go by Eric, it sounds less like a megalomaniac but still hints at my Scandinavian destiny of coastal conquest and ultimate rule. I have accumulated a fair number of titles: son, brother, husband, father, pastor, writer, artist and a few other more colorful titles by my fanged fans. I am a lover of story be it heard, read or watched in all beauty, gory or glory. I write and speak as an exorcist or poltergeist, splashing holy water, spilling wine and breaking bread between the apocalypse and a sleeping baby. I am possessed by too many words and they get driven out like wild pigs and into the waters of my blog at www.fcb4.tumblr.com. I work as a pastor at Jacob's Well Church (www.jacobswellspokane.com) across the tracks on 'that' side of town. I follow Christ in East Central Spokane among saints, sinners, angels, demons, crime, condoms, chaos, beauty, goodness and powerful weakness. I have more questions than answers, grey hairs than brown, fat than muscle, fire than fireplace and experience more love from my wife, family and friends than a man should be blessed with in one lifetime.

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