With spring now with us in the Northern hemisphere many of the roadside verges, municipal parks and private gardens have their fair share of glorious Daffodils. These plucky flowers are one of a brave group of blooms to emerge from the ground when the weather still has the potential to be bitterly cold. The sight of them in reassuring clumps gives everyone a much needed lift, reinforcing the idea that spring is just around the corner.
Daffodils and Jonquils are known collectively as Narcissus. The name possibly comes from the Greek word narkē meaning numbness in reference to the fact that the narcissus is poisonous. The plant and more particularly the bulb itself contain a high concentration of lycorine and can cause a nasty stomach upset if ingested.
It is suggested that the name may also come from the boy Narcissus in Greek mythology. There are various versions of the story but the most familiar is that Narcissus bent down to take a drink from a river and was so enamoured by the beauty of his own reflection that he could not tear his gaze away and died there on the riverbank to become the flower that bears his name.
The myth has been painted by many of the great painters among them Caravaggio.
These pretty little flowers which have come to resemble such hope for the new spring therefore have a darker side to their etymology which their sunny white and yellow heads give no hint of.
From Narcissus also comes the word narcissists – those people so obsessed with themselves that they cannot look beyond their own wants and needs to consider anyone else. In our rushed 24-7, selfie obsessed world, narcissists abound, absolutely convinced we are as obsessed with them as they are with themselves.
We can all become caught up in the toils and troubles of life. We can all turn inwards and focus on ourselves to the extent that we can push away those closest to us. Who hasn’t seen a couple sharing a table in a restaurant, scanning their smart phones for social media updates instead of talking to one another? Perhaps you’ve been one of those people. The flotsam and jetsam of Twitter and Facebook will continue whether we are a part of it or not and sometimes the moments we share with loved ones are too precious to share with the world.
Today we run the danger of not truly enjoying the moment if we haven’t shared it with our followers. We somehow need the validation of that status update to give the experience more meaning when it should be enough just to be savouring the moment with the people who are physically present. It’s hard to live in the now if you are fiddling with a phone and worrying about your internet connection.
So next time you see a swathe of beautiful daffodils, remember that in their beauty is a warning against the dangers of self-obsession. Remember poor Narcissus and don’t step too far down that road. Put down your phone and talk to someone in person.