Ego is a funny thing. We can get so wrapped up in it without even noticing it. Differing from our functional self, which helps to get things done on a day to day basis, ego is a large part of the representational self, the story that we tell ourselves and the world around us. Is it true? Probably, for the most part. It is from a biased perspective? Absolutely – everything that we perceive is. Is it something that is worth having? I’m not so sure…
Our society fuels the ego like no other. Social media is a great place where one can either be puffed up or dragged down by people they have never met. (Yes, the irony/hypocrisy of writing this on an online blog is not lost on me.) People can use social media to help fuel the ego, and not in altogether productive ways. Sure, expressing your creativity is great: put up that piece of artwork that you’ve worked so hard on. Give us an excerpt from your latest book. Tell us of the charity work that you are doing in India. This is an expression of your self that is not separated from your functional self. It’s not all representational – unless you are totally attached to it.
I am a conduit. I am an interpreter. I am not the thing itself.
When it becomes all about the representational self, that’s where the problem comes in. We begin to live inside our heads, inside our stories and do not seek alternative points of view. We can become deluded by our story, confirmed by people we may have never even met. We can react viciously to things that upset us, through online comments, blog posts, etc. Why would we want to do this? Why would we want to hurt another? Why should this be? Is it because the ego is such a fragile thing?
The ego seeks to reaffirm itself in everything that it does. It’s based on its own self-preservation, fuelled by an erroneous concept that one would lose their identity with the loss of ego. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are plenty of people out there with a very strong sense of identity and purpose, yet who are not fuelled by their ego. These people are inspiring, for they know that the work they do and how they live their life is more important that who they are.
No one is perfect. Everyone succumbs to their ego every now and then. But when we live entirely through the ego’s whimsy, then we are in big trouble. We may see other people’s success as our failure. We may take slight at something because we haven’t been included in it. We might want to make someone look bad and undermine everything that they do because they have hurt us in some shape or form. We cease to see with the eyes of compassion, instead only seeing through the eyes of “ME”.
Where does this all lead?
Is it worth it? What will be the outcome of living in your ego?
I don’t think it will be happiness. We will rage against those who argue against us. We will delude ourselves with notions of grandeur, or delusions of all shapes and forms. We will spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about things that don’t really matter. We spend all our time reinforcing the ego. What really matters in life? Your ego, or living well?
These are questions that I have asked myself, as I quest inspiration to live an integrated life. For me, integration cannot happen without the falling away of the ego’s hold on our reality. It’s about realising that I am not important, that no one is important; what is important is the work we do, not so much the words we say (though speaking honourably is a good thing). Our actions are important. Our walk, rather than our talk is important. It’s all about getting the work done, through the functional representation of the “I”, without the representational “Me” getting in the way.
Is this all semantics? Quite possibly.
The Song of Amergin is not an ego-boost. It’s about integration, realising that one is not separate from nature. It is about seeing the universe in yourself. It is about knowing that you would not exist were it not for everything else. It is about relationship.
At this time of year, when darkness fills my life, fills my soul, when the songs of winter flood through this land I see the little spark of ego, clinging desperately onto its belief systems and self-affirmations. And I smile to it as I watch it go out, letting the darkness and silence of integration fill my mind and my world. I am reminded of the Zen saying “hold lightly to your opinions”, because they will change. Impermanence is the nature of the world, the nature of nature.
This blog post was inspired by a Guardian article I read today about the backlash from the pagan community on Alex Mar’s latest book, as well as our government’s reaction and bombing in Syria. It’s not entirely about these things, but about these things and more.
Thank you, a well-timed post. In the endless sea of online “debate” (or the childish name-calling that passes for debate much of the time) it’s easy to forget about this. Your post is a reminder to step back, ask why do I care what strangers think, and return to a simple Druid practice.