On Being – Chapter II – Talking About Ourselves (part IV)

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Ego can only play a zero-sum game

The ego’s worldview is binary. It has, or it does not have. It wants, or it does not want. If one ego acquires a hankering for something which belongs to another, it might take it, even if it meant leaving the other with nothing. Some, save for the most ego-entrenched, may experience guilt afterwards. This is one example of the egoic cycle of reaction-guilt. To assuage any feelings of guilt, we might invest serious time in rationalizing how it is we are deserving of our good fortune and the other is not. These feelings are due to an element of non-egoic sensitivity. Those who do not experience the egoic cycle of reaction and guilt, are the extreme case; their ‘hearts’ are hardened, their minds are closed. Even the most non-egoic falls victim to their ego from time to time. It just isn’t possible to be perfect in the 3rd  Emanation.  The partnering  between ego and non-ego is as timeless as that of good and evil, light and darkness, male and female, and of the universe.

Self-consciousness is Ego-consciousness

From an early age, I have been prone to anxiety whenever people happened to be watching me. I dreaded getting into fisticuffs in high school where the other kids would be standing around watching. I did not want to embarrass myself by losing – or by winning – in front of all those people. I was woefully self-conscious. I remain afraid, to this day, to get up and speak in front of people; yet, when I am called upon to speak without any forewarning, I can do so without nervousness. One time I found myself in front of a large class; it was not until the moment I became conscious of the fact that I was not nervous, that I began to feel nervous! I had allowed my mind to be distracted from what I was doing, what I was present in, by ego. As I became more conscious of my nervousness, I was less conscious of my purpose for speaking, and less effective.

My reason for speaking was to communicate a message – what other reason can there be? People never come to hear you; they come to hear what you have to say. How ridiculous to have to point this out, yes? But that is exactly how ego ‘thinks,’ or rather, compels the mind to think. The ego specializes in making everything about ego.

Self-consciousness impairs our connection with the Divine, not to mention the world we are in. The knowledge and power of the Divine is available to anyone who is open to, and engaged with, their surroundings. If we are overly focused on what is going on between our own ears, we cannot be, at the same time, in Divine-reception mode.

A story from the Christian New Testament is demonstrative of this egoic process: Jesus invites Peter to step out of the boat, and join him across the water. Peter does so without giving a second thought to the fact that he must walk across the water to do that. He steps out of the boat and onto the water, then begins walking toward Jesus. After a moment, ego grabs his attention, and this sinks him like a boat anchor. Ego reminds him of the impossibility of what he is doing, while he is doing it. His mind, distracted, begins to switch from non-egoic to egoic mode. Jesus admonishes him for having so little Faith; but I believe ‘little Faith’ to be a euphemism for allowing ones mind to be distracted by ego.

Faith is not believing, Faith is knowing; only blind faith is believing.

 

Ego, Not Money, is at the Root of All Evil

Money helps to facilitate the exchange of goods and services. Money is not intrinsically evil; neither is it qualified to be a ‘Holy Grail.’ Money has no value of its own, but rather acquires its value, second-hand, from what might be obtained with it. Its value is therefore implicated in the perception of the buyer or seller.

Perception can be a funny thing, however; it can be fickle, mutable, à la ego, and cannot be expected to reasonably determine the value of anything. If you do not think so, please explain to me how a professional hockey player can earn 20 million per season, whereas an oncologist, entrusted with saving peoples’ lives, earns perhaps 2% of that? Which of these accomplishments has more intrinsic value: the hockey player who scores the game-winning goal or the oncologist who successfully removes a child’s brain tumor and provides the youngster with the opportunity for a normal life?

Rarely is the amount of money that changes hands in a particular transaction, determined solely on the basis of a product or service’s intrinsic value. Were it otherwise, the first Europeans to trade with North Americans could not have, in all good conscience, accepted native gold as payment for their glass beads. They would have felt an obligation to pay what the gold was worth to them. Instead they exploited, then annihilated most of the indigenous. Those who were not moved out of the way of European expansion, were reduced to second class citizens in their own lands.

The story of the European expansion exposes the egregious evils which human beings are capable of perpetrating one upon the other, when money, something in and of itself valueless, becomes their primary goal and forms the basis for standards of human conduct.

The true value of money is determined by the hand that wields it. The ego-bound mind will use money in accordance with its nature; and its nature is to be self-serving.

At the root of all evil, all sadness, all disharmony, is ego. At the root of all goodness, all joy, all peace, is non-ego. Non-egoic consciousness opens the mind and the person to Truth and Joy.

 

Ego and the Inversion of Values and Priorities

In university I sketched out a fantasy novel that I am still intending to write. I wanted to call it Topeth, named after a district in Old Testament Jerusalem where worshippers of Baal and Moloch were purported to use children for burnt offerings. The general motif of the book is inversion. Although I had yet not named ego as the culprit, I wondered at the curiously inverted value system people and societies in the real world appeared intent on cultivating. What we should rightly consider least desirable, is what we actively seek. We appear to view our health and the environment as fair exchange for personal wealth and global  competitiveness. We allow millions of Canadian men, women, and children to wallow in poverty. We spend billions annually in additional health care and justice system costs that derive directly from poverty.

Do we not have it backwards? Should we not put some of the billions that we are pumping into healthcare, straight into the hands of the poor, and annihilate the great social evil that poverty is?[i] Would it not make more sense to focus our efforts on root causes rather than symptoms? So long as we focus on symptoms, the problems will continue. Ignoring them will not help us; the disease will continue thriving just below the surface. By not committing to end poverty, and by using the money instead to keep up with the increasing, poverty-induced, loading on healthcare and on the criminal justice system, we are simply putting good money after bad. The money is sure to run out; but the disease will still be there.

The inversion of values is an outgrowth of our promotion of ego to active consciousness; relegating our non-ego to the subconscious.

Ego Is Not a Seeker of Wisdom

While absorbed in self, we put a spin on things which draws upon our habitual expectations, fears, and desires. The reality we perceive is, therefore, real only to us. Other people have different expectations, fears, and desires, and different realities. The degree to which our perception is affected by ego is proportional to the degree we are self-absorbed. Our discernment is affected by what we expect to see, fear to see, or desire to see. We are not able to properly evaluate situations because our egoic bias will have led us to form an opinion; before we have fully explored the facts. ‘Exploring the facts’ is something the ego will rarely find necessary; because it sees what it wants to see – and so it already ‘knows’ the facts.

How then, can we advance along the path which is leading to truth, happiness, and fulfilment? It is quite easy: we need only acknowledge our avoidance of taking that first step in the right direction. The beauty is, one step is all we need to take, and we are there. Conversely, the steps in the direction ego is taking us are many, and we will never arrive at the ‘goals’ ego is setting for us.

 

 

 

[i] According to an article appearing in the National Post, 28 September 2011, poverty costs taxpayers 24B annually. According to a report issued by the National Council of Welfare, a federal government advisory board. The report says it would have cost about 12B to bring everyone out of poverty. Poverty costs manifest through shelters (because of inadequate housing; police and prison costs, healthcare costs, lost productivity). Diane Finley, minister of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) is quoted as saying: “The best way to fight poverty is to get Canadians working. Our government is squarely focused on job creation as part of the economic recovery, and through the Economic Action Plan, we have created 600,000 new jobs since July 2009.” Hmmm….recent (2015) reports from Statistics Canada and CIBC are telling a very different story about the welfare of working Canadians, the working poor, not to mention those who cannot find work, or those who are too old or too disabled to obtain work.