In the Land of Narcissists

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In the Land of Narcissists

How many narcissists does it take to change a light bulb? One. He holds the bulb while the world revolves around him.

Jesse James, a naughty narcissist has humiliated his wife and our collective darling Sandra Bullock. This after she won the Academy Award for best actress, and the same week told Barbara Walters that “her work got better because she could be both fearful and braver knowing she had her husband to go home to.”

Just days after her crowning achievement she learned that Jesse was carrying on a tawdry sexual affair with Michelle “Bombshell” McGee, a grotesquely tattooed woman who claims she slept with James for eleven months, providing intimate details and saved text messages as evidence.

This is the guy Sandra Bullock stood by and supported as they fought for and won a custody battle for his children, the product of his second marriage to a slightly less heavily tattooed porn star.

Jesse apologized to Bullock saying: “the vast majority of the allegations reported are untrue and unfounded. Beyond that, I will not dignify these private matters with any further public comment. This has caused my wife and kids pain and embarrassment beyond comprehension and I am extremely saddened to have brought this on them.”

Somehow his dignity and sadness seem peripheral to this story.

But these kind of lame apologies pour forth like saliva from a Bassett Hound off the lips of Tiger Woods, John Edwards, Governor Mark Sanford, Ted Haggard, former governor Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Swaggart and dozens of other men and a few celebrity women caught in adulterous relationships.

In our jaded age some commentators spun the Bullock-James story as a lucky break for Tiger Woods because Woods’ scandal becoming old news is the best PR strategy Tiger could implement before his return to the Masters.

Good to know we live in a society that has its priorities in order.

Behind all these stories is some version of narcissism, the inordinate fascination with oneself, excessive self-love or vanity. Social historian Daniel Boorstin observes, “As individuals and as a nation, we now suffer from social narcissism. We have fallen in love with our own image, with images of our making, which turn out to be images of ourselves.” In such a culture celebrity is lauded more than character and looking out for number one is assumed to be normal human practice, especially if you can get away with it.

For a few generations now America has been sucked in to a self-improvement craze with self-help books and gurus multiplying to meet the ever-increasing demand for selves who need improving. This weekend I heard a scholar express his concern for the younger generation because “all of their cultural role models are narcissists.”

We are now seeing the result of our folly; a nation of narcissists. A young man was explaining to his date why he wasn’t taken seriously at company meetings: “I’m too good looking. As soon as I walk in the door everyone stares at me and assumes I’m too good looking to be smart. The worst part is, I’m usually the smartest person in the room.”

Breaking a marriage vow always involves some level of self-love and sexual infidelity is symptomatic of our national illness.

Before we rush to gather and cast stones, let me hasten to add that every human is guilty of self-love at one point or another in life. Some people just have the misfortune of putting it on display for the nation or world to see.

According to the oldest story in the Bible, the original sin in the Garden of Eden was not eating forbidden fruit; it was worshipping the human self in place of the creator. As Fyodor Dostoevsky said, “man, so long as he remains free, has no more constant and agonizing anxiety than find as quickly as possible someone to worship.”

We come forth from the womb as worshipping creatures and we will worship something ~ if it is something other than God we are guilty of idolatry and if we become our own idol we are narcissists.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

PS 2. Order one of Dick’s books from amazon: Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters
The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite

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    Posted in Staublog in April 7, 2010 by | No Comments »

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