I’m not a narcissist, I’m just better

It was last Sunday when my mother was shuffling through the weekly New York Times that we get only for the book reviews, NYT magazines and, of course, beautiful typeface. She has a tendency to read the headlines and divvy up some of the articles for my father, my brother and me to discuss without actually reading the articles herself. This particular Sunday, I sat down to the headline, “All Praise the Women of Menopause.”

“Menopause?” I asked as I walked away from the paper to make some coffee.

“What?” she said. She wasn’t even paying attention as she was squinting at her computer—squinting even though she had both lasik surgery and reading glasses on.

“The article.”

“No. Over here.” She peeled her eyes away from the screen and pointed to a rather skinny column on the side. The headline read, “Are You Narcissistic? Who, Moi?” and was written by Arthur C. Brooks, an advocate and writer for the cause of “Compassionate Conservatism” with a more than allotted combination of capitalistic wasteland and reigning theocracy.

Generally, the article was chock-full of the same baby-boomer nonsense that Lady Liberty is used to being bludgeoned over the head with anyway. Teenagers are on their phones too much and social media is totally screwing them over. Everything they do is shallow and ridiculous and it means they will be useless to society. And they’re totally screwing up the economy because they’re—wait, they’re constantly supporting small business and new markets… Anyway, who do they think they are with their Instagram. We’ve done far better. You get the idea.

       I have to include this quote from the article here because it’s just too rich to leave out: “A Greek god falls in love with his reflection. Sure sounds like Instagram.” Why do baby-boomers hate Instagram so much?

As you can imagine, the article concluded with some pretty lofty ideas about the way that our society is changing for the worse, how it’s being threatened by the narcissism of the younger generation, the lazy ones, the millennials.

I will say, I do believe that we as Americans are becoming more interested and invested in ourselves, but this is not at the cost of the attention to our surroundings.

Americans are finished evolving for right now. There is no survival of the fittest, there is no natural selection. Darwin’s theories are essential to our history but lost on our present. That being said, there is an instinctual and almost religious need for physical and biological progress in all living things. The universe doesn’t stop, it doesn’t slow down and it certainly doesn’t change its mind, so in what ways are we growing?

In America in 1913, the first New York skyscraper was built. Manhattan had seemingly been approaching a population cap. The buildings couldn’t be more than a few stories without being unsafe, so people spread off the island to Queens and Brooklyn and Long Island. Yet in 1913, they had steel and an entirely new sense of vertical thinking took urban life by storm.

Like Manhattan, we have reached our cap, our limit on biological progression. But people want to move to New York, people always want to move to New York, so where are they going to begin to go? Up. We are progressing in ways that some people can’t understand because it’s shifting the entire ideas of humanity, in the same way the Italian Renaissance beautified the self. Moaning about the largesse of the self and the importance of the self and the beauty of the self is congruent to being in the Renaissance and believing that everyone was taking themselves all too seriously. (This, of course, happened. People were pissed at the Renaissance, but these are not the people who prevailed.)

Now that we are done evolving physically, we are beginning to evolve mentally, and emotionally. The ones who are unable to make that step can sit on the sidelines and call it narcissism all they want, but their criticisms, however loud they may seem, are not going to even put a dent in the new cultural machine.