“You are one of the most refreshing and insightful voices I’ve come across in recent years. What is the secret to your wisdom?”
I have a big ego.
In fact, if egos were penises, I’d be a pornstar.
“What are you doing, precious? You’re supposed to be downplaying your ego. Hell, you’re supposed to be claiming not to even have one. A guy spouting wisdom while claiming to have an ego is like someone giving financial advice while being in massive debt. Don’t you know that, precious??”
So, says the little Gollum that lives in my head that I’ve learned to let talk, yet pay little heed to.
Yeah, so as I was saying. I have a huge pe… I mean, ego. And this may pose a bit of a paradox to some people. Because we are used to equating “wisdom” with a certain image in our heads. There is a certain personality type that one expects that sort of wisdom to come out of. Usually, it is someone gracious, magnanimous, kind and humble. I don’t come across as any of those things.
I swear profusely, crack dirty jokes like a juvenile, tell people to fuck off if they’re annoying me, get annoyed easily so tell people to fuck off even more, am excessively argumentative and arrogant yada yada yada…
“OMG, OMG! What are you doing! Say something nice about yourself! Big yourself up, precious! My precioussss!”
Uh huh. K, whatever. Anyways, I’m a bit scatterbrained this morning so you’ll have to bear with me if my transitions aren’t as smooth as usual. Where was I?
If you’ve ever watched the academy award winning film Amadeus you might have a sense of what I’m talking about. Mozart’s character is the diametrical opposite of what one would expect of such a legendary classical music genius. He is a petulant youth, obsessed with drinking, gambling and sex. He basically comes across as a total superficial airhead. And yet, the music that he composes and the manner in which he sees it in his mind are beyond genius. And it is this paradox that is unbearable to his nemesis Salieri. Saileri is consumed with envy because he can’t believe that God has endowed such a worthless prick with such a musical gift, whereas he himself, who is a model of morality and manners, has been given only a mediocre talent.
“Nice! Nice precious! I see what you did there! Compared yourself to Mozart indirectly! Ooooh hoo hoo! Wonderful precious! Clever precious!”
No, fuck that. I’m no Mozart. But I do know that wisdom and egotism are not mutually exclusive. I know that one can find great happiness, can make peace with life, can live authentically, can live in truth DESPITE having a king sized ego. I know this because I am living proof of this “impossible” paradox.
So, I’ll let you in on a little secret that I’ve learned along the way: IT’S NOT THE SIZE THAT MATTERS, IT’S HOW YOU USE IT.
Contrary to what most people believe, no one has any control over the kind of ego they have. The ego is a function like memory.
Some people naturally have a fantastic memory and some people have an unreliable one. We can all do things to develop our memory but the effects of our efforts are minor when compared to the overall propensity to remember things, names, faces, places and so on that is innate to us.
Similarly, the ego one is born with is pretty much hardwired. And the experiences we go through life will further shape that to a certain extent, yet the basic structure of it remains intact. Age erodes it a little, just as it erodes the memory. And so people’s egos generally do become muted with age.
But beyond that little changes in the fundamental form of ones ego. Of course, one can CONTRIVE all sorts of things and seem like they are very different. I could quite easily pretend to be more humble than I am, or wiser that I am, or more loving than I am or whatever. This is something most people are doing pretty much all day. Making compensations for their egos so as to present an image to society that is quite different than what they actually are like.
So, the ego doesn’t really change all that much. However, what can and does change, sometimes drastically, is the manner in which we relate to our own egos. In other words, “how we use it”.
I know people who appear to have hardly any egos at all. They seem easygoing and agreeable and genuinely unflustered by things. And yet, when they feel offended by something they hold on to that offence for decades. I, on the other hand, explode like a volcano yet cool down just as fast. And in the aftermath there is hardly any residue leftover from the occurrence. It’s pretty much out of my system.
As a result, any suffering I cause or am caused tends to be extremely short lived. Because I let things go almost immediately after I first take hold of them. No matter what happens, my default mode is always to return to a clean slate.
In fact, any kind of buildup of negative emotional energy within me whatsoever causes an immediate and visceral allergic reaction. After a spat with the missus, if there is even a bit of residual negativity I am harbouring, it will make me feel sick to the point of throwing up. I can no longer keep it in. So, there is always this urgent imperative within me to let it go.
That wasn’t the case when I was younger. I held on to things forever. And I suffered madly and deeply as a result…
Our spiritual culture is a culture based on suppression because of this basic misunderstanding. We believe our egos are the problem. They are not. The problem stems from how seriously we take our own egos. How desperately we cling to them. From our inability to let things go.
So, what allowed me to change the way I “use it”?
Well, for one I got fed up of suffering so damn much. And second, I began to notice there was a reality beyond the world of my ego that seemed entirely unrelated and unconcerned with the drama that was going on inside me.
I could be pining for that girl who dumped me and lamenting how my life is over, meanwhile the mother robin hasn’t paused from building her nest outside my window. I could be bashing my own parents in my mind for fucking me up as a teenager and blaming them for what a fuckup I’ve become, meanwhile a grasshopper is desperately trying to mate but keeps falling off each time he tries to mount his beloved.
And it occurred to me, “man, these two realities are WAAAAAYYYY out of sync! It’s like two completely different channels playing at the same time!” One is the drama channel and the other is the nature channel. Which one do I want to watch?
And I found that whenever I switched channels, reality itself changed. When I switched to the drama channel in my head, all kinds of exciting, suspenseful, horrifying, romantic, inspiring, comic, heart wrenching stuff would unfold. But then I would switch to the nature channel and a dull voice in the background would say, “…behold the common sparrow as she bobs her head in search of a worm to eat…”
Seeing first hand, that what I gave attention to shaped my reality was what did it for me.
I also came to realize that what I had been trying to achieve as a seeker by subduing my ego was all wrong. I had been trying to dumb down the drama channel and make it more BORING like the nature channel. Why?? The beauty of the drama channel was that it was so dramatic! Hell, I had my own Netflix subscription in my head and I DIDN’T EVEN PAY FOR IT!
Ironically, leaving my ego be also gave me some freedom from it. It gave me the freedom to change the channel more effortlessly. Since I was no longer concerned with changing it, manipulating it or suppressing it in any way, my attention became freed up to turn towards other things. Like the nature channel.
Over time, I became fascinated with the nature channel to the point where I hardly watched the drama channel ever. Yet, that was also a phase. Now, I turn on whatever channel I’m in the mood for. And when I’m watching, I’m watching wholeheartedly.
This freedom to switch between objective and subjective realities without accepting either as being absolute is where my clarity and insight has emerged from. Not wholly nirvana, not wholly samara. Not wholly mind, not wholly world. Not wholly I, not wholly this.
Holding paradox in the palm of ones hand and keeping it front and centre is how wisdom arises.
Hope that answers your question.
“You did it! You did it, precious! I didn’t know where you were going with it! But you surprised me! Oh, you so sneaky preciousss! You so sneeeeakyyy!”
Yeah, whatever dude.