Friday, November 30, 2007

Talking to the Owl

I’ve had a morbid fascination with narcissism for about 4 years: How to recognize it. How to deal with it. How to laugh at it. Certainly narcissism has a dark side, but it also has a completely ridiculous side as well. One of my favorite narcissists is Nick Bottom in a Midsummer Night’s Dream. The scene where the director of a small theatrical troop (Quince) is introducing the play Pyramus and Thisbe is so insightful on how a narcissist approaches a project.

Quince: You, Nick Bottom, are set down for Pyramus.

Bottom: What is Pyramus? a lover, or a tyrant?

Quince: A lover, that kills himself most gallant for love.

Bottom: That will ask some tears in the true performing of
it: if I do it, let the audience look to their
eyes; I will move storms, I will condole in some
measure. To the rest: yet my chief humour is for a
tyrant: I could play Ercles rarely, or a part to
tear a cat in, to make all split. (blah…blah…blah)

So here is the wonderful introduction of the “workaday narcissist” he must function with charm to gather the idolation he feeds on but his real desire is to be a tyrant (like Richard III).

As Quince presents the roles to the other actors, Bottom interjects at each one, claiming to be able to do it better and he really would rather any role but the one he has been given. I can’t help but extrapolate to the development arena and think of how Bottom would act if he were a developer and not an actor. Bottom would want to write everything by himself! Instead of leveraging frameworks and application servers, Bottom would build not just the framework, but the entire application server - from scratch! His massive applications will transform computing as we know it!

The really funny thing about a Midsummer Night’s dream is Bottom’s treatment by Titiana after he becomes an infantile ass, braying about oats in the arms of a beautiful fairie. It is a wonderful deconstruction of the bully that he was in a few scenes before.

There’s a lot of interesting psychological stuff on narcissism on the net, but Bottom is my character study. I can usually spend about 10 minutes talking to someone and if their grandiose ideas and subtle intimidations start to trigger a “HeeHAW” in the back of my mind, I know I’ve made aquantance with a narcissist, and I would do well to let them crawl back into the unimportant anonymity where they belong.