A.M.'s Myth and Folklore Blog

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Category: Week 3

Week 3 Story: My Bonnie Lies O’er the Pond, My Bonnie Lies Through the Looking Puddle

Echo looks on as Narcissus loves in vain, vainly.

“My love and my lover, why will you not spend the night with me?”

With me. With me…. Night.

“Every day as Helios drives his chariot to the horizon, leaving the sky dark and bereft…”

Bereft.

“…you too fade and leave me behind as cold as the air and as lonesome as the moon and as weak as the dimmest star.”

“To where do you retreat in your watery abode? You return with such faith and consistently each morning to light my spirit as all morning’s light never could; why, then, must you leave me lonesome”

Lonesome. Lonesome.

“in the night?”

Night.


Night falls, the curtain drawn across the heaven and Helios retreats to deserved rest. Narcissus laments and Echo repeats, responds, and laments in turn, trapped each in their torment and prison without walls.

Day breaks, and Helios returns followed soon by Narcissus’ beloved, brought back by the bright light reflecting on the calm pond.


“Why are we thus separated, my joy and light? What celestial force is so set against our love, feels it is so dangerous, and is so committed to that delusion?”

Delusion, delusion, delusion!

“I care not! I will visit you my beloved, yes, I will breech the wall placed between us by the gods and come to you if you will not come to me!”

“For my love for you knows no bound and no force can oppose it; no wall, no god, nay — not even death!”

And Narcissus dove into the water, pushing deeper and deeper, searching for the beautiful man in the glistening prison without success, the world growing darker and darker as he went down, and down, and down.

Death, death, death… death.

Bibliography: The tale of Echo and Narcissus from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Books 1-4, Part B from the UnTextbook, translated by Tony Kline.

Image Source: Echo and Narcissus, a painting by John William Waterhouse. (Image from Wikipedia.)

Author’s Note: This isn’t strictly an retelling of Echo and Narcissus from the reading, but it takes the idea and goes in a different direction with it. I liked the possibilities of Echo only being able to repeat what Narcissus says last, and I wanted to present more of a dialogue with as little narration as possible.

The title is an out-of-place amalgam of Through the Looking Glass and an old Scottish folk song, “My Bonnie Lies O’er the Ocean.”

Week 3 Feedback Strategies

This week, I read the feedback articles “Try Feedforward Instead of Feedback” by Marshall Goldsmith and “How to Give Bad Feedback Without Being a Jerk” by Adam Grant.

I like Goldsmith’s idea of feedforward, which essentially states that input should be focused on what improvements can be made for the future, rather than concentrating on the flaws of what has already happened. Generally, I completely agree with this idea, but I think it has two important caveats that go unmentioned in the article:

  1. Not all things are set in stone. Stories, documents, plans, and so on can be changed, and often their revision with external input is a critical part of their creation. Focusing too much on the future can rob you of a lot of improvement in what you’re working on now.
  2. All worthwhile “feedforward” will be based on the critics experience of the other person’s past work. It has to be based in what they have already seen of the other person’s work and attitudes. So, “feedforward” isn’t distinct from feedback in origin or content — it’s really just an issue of framing.
A more accurate expression of the idea of “feedforward,” if you ask me. (Image from the Feedback Cats class blog.)

I also liked Grant’s article. I dislike giving vapid, empty feedback but often find myself in a similar situation, unsure of how to present it in a way that doesn’t feel like an attack. I’m a strong believer that negative feedback — even when blunt, unpleasant, and even in bad faith — is critical and often positive in the long run: a lack of it prevents people from improving themselves and their skills and often leads to delusions (or just confusion) that are far more devastating when broken after a long time. Given that, I like Grant’s point that the most important thing about negative feedback isn’t softening it with meek platitudes: it’s explicitly clarifying that the point of the negative feedback is that you have faith in the other person’s ability to do better.

I’ve heard the lack of that called the “tyranny of low expectations,” and I don’t think there’s any better phrase. It might be comfortable now, but in the long run, it’s devastating.

(Of course, there is a balance: if people are scared to try, that is just as bad. Like everything, it’s all about equilibrium.)

Week 3 Reading Notes: Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Books 1-4, Part B

Reading Source: Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Books 1-4, Part B from the UnTextbook, translated by Tony Kline.

For these reading notes I chose the story of Narcissus and Echo.

Echo and Narcissus in a painting by John William Waterhouse. (Image from the UnTextbook.)
  • Tiresias, through an incident with the gods, is given the ability to foresee the future. He goes through the Aonian cities offering prophecies; in one, a child named Narcissus is born.
  • Narcissus’ parents come to Tiresias to ask whether their child would live a long, happy life. Tiresias, cryptically, responds: “If he does not discover himself.”
  • Narcissus grows up to be extraordinarily beautiful and is desired by all; his pride and self-involvement, however, lead him to spurn all suitors.
  • One day, the nymph Echo sees Narcissus and is instantly struck with love for the youth, but Echo had previously been cursed by Juno:
    • Echo has, in the past, delayed Juno with complicated conversations and long diversions, allowing Jupiter’s many nymph lovers to escape before Juno could catch them in the act.
    • As vengeance, Juno curses Echo: she may now only speak by repeating the last words said by another.
  • Echo comes across Narcissus in the woods one day and, by choosing to repeat only parts of his words, expresses her affection, but spurns her.
  • Even after Echo passes from the physical world, her spirit and voice remain.
  • Eventually, one of those rejected by Narcissus becomes vengeful, and Nemesis, goddess of revenge, engages to curse him.
  • Narcissus comes to a spring in the woods, and, upon seeing his own reflection, Nemesis curses him to fall in love with it, leaving him there to passionately pine for that which he can never have, reflected teasingly in the water.
  • Eventually, driven mad and stripped of all his former glory, Narcissus dies and, as a sign of pity, is transformed into the flower that bears his name.

Week 3 Reading Notes: Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Books 1-4, Part A

Reading Source: Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Books 1-4, Part A from the UnTextbook, translated by Tony Kline.

For these reading notes I chose part 6, “Callisto.”

  • Jupiter, while in the middle of some janitorial duties (repairing the walls of heaven and the surface of the Earth from a great fire), finds himself again smitten with a denizen of the Earth.
  • Callisto was a nymph and a companion of Diana, and is described as “not like other girls”: she has a clasp on her tunic and carries a spear and a bow. She was much in favor with Diana as well.
  • Callisto stops to rest in a grove in the woods and Jupiter sees an opportunity to strike; taking the form of Diana he comes and accosts Callisto.
  • Callisto greets the one she thinks is her mistress as “greater than Jupiter,” even though “he himself hears it.” Jupiter, entertained, only becomes further smitten, and violently rapes her in the woods.
    • There’s an interesting stylistic element in this telling where the narrator directly addresses a god while commenting on the story:
      “I wish you had seen her, Juno: you would have been kinder to her”
  • Diana and her attendants discover that Callisto is no longer a virgin when they stop to bathe in a sacred fountain and see that she is pregnant; Callisto is cast out from Diana’s retinue.
  • When Callisto bears a son by Jupiter, Arcas, Juno’s rage reaches a breaking point and she decides to take revenge on the nymph. Juno transforms her into a speechless bear and leaves her in the woods.
  • Many years later, Arcas, hunting in the woods, comes across his mother in the form of a bear. Though he can tell that something is wrong, he raises his spear to strike.
  • Jupiter, unwilling to allow such a painful end to their story, stays Arcas’ hand and took mother and son together into the heavens, forming the constellations of the Great and Little Bear.
The constellation of Ursa Major, or the Great Bear. (Image from Wikipedia by Till Credner.)
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