PAUL AND HELENE
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
For Helene, mere appearances, which she judged good or evil according to her prejudices at the moment, were almost everything. For fear of feeling diminished, she could not afford to entertain her own contradictions to understand the underlying crisis or hypocrisy of humankind, that perfection is impossible, that her ideal of herself did not and could not exist, that it was not really her ideal in the first place, but was merely a conventional reaction imposed on her by society’s dissatisfaction with the human condition, that of being born into the sin of individuality contrary to society’s falsifying ideals.
Helene’s saving grace was her respect for intelligence and creativity in others as expressions of the absolute power everyone worships in different forms. She had for herself the creativity and intelligence of a wild creature, a thing that she feared and endeavored to discipline by playing a contrived role lest she go stark raving mad. In fine, she was no narcissist as popularly defined; she was histrionic. The world was for her a stage, and she perceived herself as an actress upon it although she complained that she could not perceive herself as she really was. And she was a fine actress thereupon, a natural born saleswoman as long as she managed to repress her duplicity with faith in her product, which she placed, above all, on a pedestal. The Product no matter what she was selling was none other than Helene, whosoever she might really be.
Paul, on the other hand, withdrew inward to his grandiosity, hence is another sort of narcissist himself, a self-stimulating narcissist, an introverted narcissist, a true narcissist in the sense of the myth of Narcissus, the Bewildered or Confounded One. The classical Narcissus did not desperately crave approval, he did not need others to worship him. Indeed, he spurned the water nymphs and the echoes that would have allured him with their charms were it not for their imperfections. He would know no other but himself, so the pleasures of sexuality born of the need to propagate the species were absolutely introverted in him, to his ultimate doom.
In truth one really loves his self in others, so Narcissus lives on in us all, but not to his full extent. Tragically, no other but Narcissus, divided as an in-dividual, could reflect Narcissus hence the insoluble problem for him was that no other, which he vainly sought in his reflection in the pool, was good enough for him, because he himself was flawed; whenever he touched his own image, the image was distorted before his eyes.
If only he had placed his hopes in others, Narcissus would have been a male Madame Bovary, falling in love with his high hopes projected unto one woman after another, none of which would satisfy him, but at least the command to go forth and multiply would be fulfilled.
In the final analysis, that of his dissolution in the reflecting pool, the prophesy of the blind seer came true, that he would live as long as he did not know himself, for he perished when he discovered he was nothing without another besides himself. That is, the self alone is nothing at all.
Wherefore Paul’s grand experiment in unconditional love, which he thought was an intentional, philosophical endeavor, was his last unwitting attempt to save himself from his own doom, that is to say, from knowledge of the essence of his being, which was nothing without any relationship at all with another. According to his hypothesis based on the Doctrine of Hypocrisy or the underlying crisis of human beings, any other, the first woman he encountered who was willing, would be good enough to that end in itself.
That other for him was destined to be Helene, whom he by chance or by the wiles of the three fates who reside behind the moon met on Miami’s People Mover. Helene was perfect for his purpose despite her superficial flaws. Every friend has flaws, and every friend is free to have them, for the root of “friend” is “free.”
She happened to be the light of his life, a reincarnation of the flame of the Western World, and it was his good fortune that she was the only one who would put up with him.