Narcissus and The Repairman

“the narcissist: he treats objects as props for his fragile ego and has an uncertain grasp of them as having a reality of their own. The clearest contrast to the narcissist that I can think of is the repairman, who must subordinate himself to the broken washing machine, listen to it with patience, notice its symptoms, and then act accordingly. He cannot treat it abstractly; the kind of agency he exhibits is not at all magical”  – Matthew Crawford ‘The World Beyond Your Head’

This paragraph highlights two modes of operating in the world, you can be a narcissist or a repairman. As with everything else in life, it’s not black and white we exist on a spectrum between the two. Sometimes we can be more like the narcissist who wants everything to conform to his will, other times we let the situation dictate our behavior.

The narcissist ignores the needs of the environment and only looks to serve themself. The repairman listens and responds according to what the environment presents. We can further illustrate this with some real-world examples. 

Meet Jimothy, the narcissist. Jimothy was on his way home from a friend’s house, he got on the highway for his typical 15 min drive home, but wait what’s that ahead? People are slowing down. GODDAMIT TRAFFIC. Jimothy began to swerve side to side, jumping from lane to lane as one came to a halt and the other would inch forward. This obviously isn’t going to get him home any faster, but narcissists don’t care about how reality is, but what they want reality to be. 

Jimothy wants to get home quickly like he usually does, and so that motivates his actions. Rather than realizing that there’s nothing he can do but wait, he jumps lane to lane the entire drive home. 

Now let’s see what Jimothy’s twin brother, the repairman creatively named, Jimothy2 would do. Jimothy2 also happened to be on his way home from his friend’s house, when he got caught in traffic. Jimothy2, the repairman, then responds to what the situation presents him. So, he equips patience from his toolbox, puts on a podcast, and chills till he arrives. 

Jimothy2 puts aside his egoic desire to speedily get home and acts patiently. This allows him to get home stress-free. Now how would the Jimothy twins respond in an interpersonal relationship?

Jimothy was fighting with his girlfriend, Womathy. he is frequently late when they’re going out on a date. This obviously frustrates Womathy and she tells him “Jimothy you’re always late! It’s so inconsiderate of you, why can’t you just be on time!”. Rather than listening to her and responding to her needs, Jimothy the narcissist responds with excuses “oh I was doing this blah blah, and I tried blah blah and I’m not even that late blah blah” Jimothy moronically defends himself which causes more tension between him and his girlfriend. Whereas Jimothy2 in that situation with his girlfriend, coincidentally named Womathy2, would respond by empathizing with her. He’d respond to her needs and he’d understand that when he’s late, Womathy2 feels as if he doesn’t care about her, which understandably would make anyone in a relationship feel bad. 

Again in our hypothetical example, Jimothy2 responds to reality as it is, contrasted to Jimothy who’s only thinking of himself as if only he exists. Which the quote at the start of this essay claims “(the narcissist) has an uncertain grasp of them(objects/people) as having a reality of their own”. With that perspective only your mind is of any significance, you don’t even stop to consider that anything else may have its own desires. 

To be a narcissist is to extinguish and discount the needs of everything else. You force your way through life, tension underlying everything. Be a repairman. Put aside your ego, open your ears and eyes to see what’s before you, let reality assist in dictating your actions, thus developing synchronicity between you and reality. 

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