Monday, September 19, 2011

Pygmalionism

I was looking at a book called Weird Words yesterday. The title caught my eye, making me curious as to what they considered a weird word. Since you may also be curious, I will throw a few out there for you. A gnomon is the part of a sundial that throws its shadow. A scut is a very short tail, like on a deer or rabbit. And sciolism is a superficial show of knowledge, maybe akin to what I'm sometimes doing in this blog.

But the word that interested me most, or at least first caught my eye, was pygmalionism, a condition of falling in love with one's own creation.

Pygmalion was a legendary figure from Greek mythology. According to the legend he was a sculptor who created a beautiful statue that he loved more than women. While making an offering to the goddess Venus (Aphrodite) he prayed that his statue would come to life. When he returned, he kissed it and the lips became soft, and as he touched it the ivory became a woman.

What struck me about this story is how the artist became so enamored of his work that it became a form of idolatry. I know the feeling of satisfaction that comes from appreciating the work of one's own hands. How much appreciation is "rightful appreciation?"

Sometimes an artist can become so enamored of the godlike power of creation that he or she imagines that everything he does is the work of a god. But it's not only artists who can become enamored of their own works. Take, for example, Donald Trump. Or a hundred others like him who build airports, rocket ships and the like. Where is the line between healthy and unhealthy appreciation?

A related question, not exactly pygmalionism but a very modern facet of today's media-driven culture, is that of celebrity. Where is the line between healthy and unhealthy adulation of our superstar athletes, models, actors, musicians and the like? How do we know when we've gotten out-of-whack?

Just some pondering that took place last night. Time now to start another week.

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