Last night I picked up Paulo Coelho’s book “The Alchemist” and was struck by the Prologue.
It tells the story of Narcissus who knelt by a lake each day, mesmerized by the beauty of his own reflection. One day he fell in and drowned.
But this story did not end there. It went on to tell how the goddesses of the forest arrived at the lake the next day, looking for Narcissus. Instead they found the lake, which had been fresh water, now salted by tears.
The goddesses said, “It’s natural that you mourn Narcissus. He was so beautiful and you were the only one lucky enough to have been so close to him.”
“Narcissus was beautiful?” asked the lake.
“How can you not know of his beauty? He spent hours each day, gazing at his reflection,” replied the goddesses.
The lake explained, “I cry for Narcissus because deep within his eyes I would see the reflection of my own beauty.”
What a story!
I’ve been pondering it and reflecting on it (no pun intended) since last night.
We usually associate the story of Narcissus with a warning of the dangers of vanity, superficiality, ego and self- centeredness.
However, Narcissus did not know he was beautiful. He had no idea it was his own reflection he came to admire each day. He only tried to get closer to this thing of beauty he’d discovered and eventually drowned in the process.
The lake also had no awareness of Narcissus’ beauty. To him, Narcissus’ daily visits provided an opportunity to appreciate his own beauty.
So I’ve been pondering what this story says about all of us.
Why do we look for beauty outside ourselves?
Can we only see our own inner beauty through the eyes of others?
Are we only truly beautiful, useful and meaningful when we can reflect off other people?
Narcissus and the lake certainly did this for one another.
When we help, love, assist, support and empower others, we become the most useful and beautiful version of ourselves.
We see our value reflected back in the smiles, thank yous and silent gazes of appreciation of those we serve.
For me, that’s the moral of this story.
If you have a different interpretation or lesson you take from it, please leave me a reply and share your thoughts. I’d love to read them.