Narcissus was, according to legend, a hunter. Walking in the woods, he was seen by the nymph Echo, who falls in love with him. The nymph had been cursed by Hera, the wife of Zeus, such that she could only repeat the last words heard and not say anything of her own. Narcissus rejects Echo’s love. After praying to Aphrodite, she disappears, remaining only as a voice heard by all.
The goddess of revenge, Nemesis, punishes Narcissus by leading him to fall in love with his own image reflected in a spring. Different outcomes, none of them good, await Narcissus, depending on the version of the story you read.
This is a wonderful story full of meaning for me. Much of my career has been in solving problems using logic, models and the innocence of algorithms. Computer systems are Echo in the legend, not being able to innovate but responding only to the commands and inputs that drive them. Programming and delivering technology solutions have been very kind to me, one might say they have loved and looked after me. They have brought me much satisfaction, a good standard of living and travel.
Ten years ago, I made a change of career and became a teacher. Gazing upon my own reflection of myself as an educator, I like what I see and am proud of the effort I have put in and the things I have achieved. This view is not by any means shared by all those I have come into contact with in education. On occasions, people have tried to make me feel shame for what I have done. At worst, it has been trivialised and I have been made to feel irrelevant. Sometimes, it seems that the harder the teacher tries to make a difference, the less he or she is thought of. There is an expectation that contract terms only apply when it suits the employer, that it is a matter of “professionalism” to surrender hours and weeks of your own time to meeting core responsibilities. I have done this for long enough.
Jesse: It’s weird is all, okay? It doesn’t compute. Listen, if you’ve gone crazy or something… I mean, if you’ve… if you’ve gone crazy or depressed, I’m just saying… that’s something I need to know about. Okay? I mean, that affects me.
Walter: I am awake.
Breaking Bad, Season 1
Now, I am not Narcissus but I get the message from his story. I could remain by the poolside, gazing at myself, all the while aware that no matter how hard I work, no matter how much I sacrifice important things to the roles I take in education, it will never be appreciated by others as much as it might. Alternatively, and this is not the way the legend goes, I could requite the love of Echo – fortunately, I have kept her alive during the last ten years – and let her love me and look after me once again.