by Kleitia Vaso

I admire people who explore themselves and still feel comfortable with what they are; on the contrary, I think less of people who avoid this treacherous process because, inevitably, they have less to offer. Yet, I also envy their daily level of comfort. Looking too long at the self betrays slight traces of narcissism, creates doubts about everything, and always reminds me of Alice’s confusing, labyrinthine fall into Wonderland. It seems that to go through the necessary steps of “normal” life, one shouldn’t look too long into the looking glass. Otherwise, one ends up on the other side of the mirror like Alice or fulfills Nietzsche’s famous and horrifying lines that “when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”

A conversation with J. sent me on an aimless and distracted investigation of this question. I was asking her about a friend who I wanted to see things as I did. The issue at hand does is rather inconsequential and, even if I wanted to recount it, I wouldn’t be able to. “Maybe,” I said, referring to what I considered a misunderstanding from the other party, “when he looks at my actions, everything will be clear.” “He won’t,” said J. “because no one wants to see the truth if it isn’t convenient for them.” Of course, I believe her. The times I have tried to accept an inconvenient truth, it has turned out to be a painful experience. But, as life truly is stranger than fiction, the writing down of this paragraph coincided with a character in the film Revolutionary Road, specifically April, the female half of a troubled marriage, who uttered this relevant phrase: “Nobody forgets the truth; they just get better at lying,” or something to that effect.

Another manifestation of the same idea – namely the convenient avoidance of an inconvenient truth-was mentioned in another, wider circle, in regard to the national Albanian trait of very precisely dissecting others while remaining– or attempting to remain– fairly naïve about one’s own suspicious thoughts and desires. Which one is the more advantageous path? As usual, for answers, instead of looking at the less colorful reality, I started to haphazardly look at myth, those wonderful sources of truth that simultaneously reveal and shape us. The first one I turned to was that of Narcissus, equally beautiful and hideous. While looking at the original myth and its many modern and contemporary interpretations, I suddenly read the name of Tiresias, the blind prophet of Greek mythology, who in Narcissus’ story warns the boy’s mother that he will only live a long life if he doesn’t “recognize” himself. This part of the story was unknown to me but it did remind me of the blind prophet’s key role in another myth; in Oedipus Rex, Tiresias repeatedly tries to prevent restless and cursed Oedipus from learning the truth about himself. Indeed, in this tragedy, the search for self-knowledge is presented as greedy and harmful. But, although Oedipus discovers his own patricide and the incestuous nature of his marriage, truths these which cause his self-blinding, would he be a king and one of the most enduring and explored mythical figures without his insistent curiosity? As always, the real question is one of balance and, perhaps considered in this way, one doesn’t have to choose between being a mythical creature, without the myth to render one immortal, and an ordinary, casual survivor.

by Kleitia Vaso