This is the first volume of a multi-volume series aiming to hack the 'ego'
This is the first of many attempts to explore, de-construct and hopefully find a way to bring the ego to an end. The project is the product of a double encounter. Both out of a distant past : Osho and Ben Vautier.
Osho is an Indian born meditation master famous for books such as 'Maturity' and 'Courage'. Both amazingly simple to read but easy to overlook while growing up as one puts them 'on the side' and moves on, thinking he 'gets it'.
Ben Vautier is the ultimate 'provocateur'. And one of his favourite targets is the ego. He is famous for his child-like white writings on black canvas and sentences such as 'Tous ego' ('All ego' in French with a wink at 'All equal').
What really, and shamefully, got me thinking however is this simple quote:
If you're working out in front of a mirror and watching your muscles grow, your ego has reached a point where it is now eating itself. That's why I believe there should be a psychiatrist at every health club, so that when they see you doing this, they will take you away for a little chat.
Osho has a wonderful quote about ego :
Where does the ego get its energy? The ego feeds off your desire to be something else. You are poor and you want to be rich – the ego is absorbing energy, its life-breath. You are ignorant and you want to become a wise one – the ego is absorbing energy. You are a wretched nobody and you want to become powerful – the ego is absorbing energy.
And it related to another excerpt, courtesy of Brainpickings and stated by David Wallace during a commencement speech he gave:
If you worship money and things – if they are where you tap real meaning in life – then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already – it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power – you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart – you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.
If you're secretly waiting for compliments after a presentation or a job you did, you're staring at your muscles growing in a mirror. And your ego is feeding on itself. At its core, it feels as if ego means taking oneself seriously. It has nothing to do with taking one's thoughts seriously as this is the essence and the produce of an individual. Taking the self seriously however means raising a barrier and fleeing self-ridicule. Osho writes:
As the ego becomes strong it starts surrounding intelligence like a thick layer of darkness. Intelligence is light, ego is darkness. Intelligence is very delicate, ego is very hard. Intelligence is like a rose-flower, ego is like a rock. And if you want to survive, they say – the so-called knowers – then you have to become rock-like, you have to be strong, invulnerable. You have to become a citadel, a closed citadel, so you cannot be attacked from outside. You have to become impenetrable.
Ego is isolation and correlates with a lack of confidence (which often manifests through self-ridicule). Realizing ego is self-devouring is the first step. The solution however is constant mindfulness: "The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness". Like everything else, Ego is a habit. The brain is plastic. And just as ego builds up, ego can be destroyed through incremental and constant progress.