Ego - Volume 2 : From glass to sand

This is the second volume of a multi-volume series aiming to hack the 'ego' 


Ego is grease

The ego is obvious though not explicit. it's a smell everybody perceives and grins about but never mentions. The ego is similar to a fart. Sorry, I couldn't find another metaphor. So ego is a fart. It ferments in one's innards. It reveals something's wrong inside or not working well. It means the person is ingesting and hence being exposed to some bad things and influences.

Ego is self-promotion. It is what ego does best. And it's indiscrete. Very. It's when someone tells a personal story and tries to camouflage it in randomness whereas the sole goal is to paint a brighter picture of himself. Ego will invariantly lack subtlety, at least to subtle eyes. It's an oily stain. Try as you might to take it off, it'll remain. And in a way it's good that it's greasy. As it makes it easier to find. when you think of your week, ego moments, such as when you down-talked your colleagues, are clearer than all the rest.

Ego is hunger

Ego means more. It's a form of hunger. A mutation, if you will, our species got as part of that exceptional 'self-consciousness' package we bought in throughout evolution. A person gives you attention and you ignore it. Why ? Because you want more of it. A person gives you her love and you give little back not because you don't want it but rather because you want more. You're looking for raving fans. You want to be hailed and the ego is that inner emperor with a stiff nose waiting for every one to bow. You need to feel worshipped. And it's the worship that you cherish ... or worship. Your ego is eating itself.

Kundera has an amazing conception of friendship which, though cruel, hits the nail on its head in some case. You see, according to Kundera friendships are a way to cultivate memories, to feel more like oneself. Friendships are a reminder for the self of a part of it. Individually, they act as time capsules.

“Remembering our past, carrying it around with us always, may be the necessary requirement for maintaining, as they say, the wholeness of the self. To ensure that the self doesn’t shrink, to see that it holds on to its volume, memories have to be watered like potted flowers, and the watering calls for regular contact with the witnesses of the past, that is to say, with friends. They are our mirror; our memory; we ask nothing of them but that they polish the mirror from time to time so we can look at ourselves in it.”


Kundera then stipulates that in our post-modern society, friendships might be dying because we don't face dangers together anymore. The fantasy of two or some brethren's united against the world is fading away. Of course, it still pops up from time to time, be it in super-hero movies with Batman and Robin against all the world's evils as well as in phenomena such as "bromance" or "the bro code".

Still, the foundations aren't there to counter the weight of the underlying trend: Friendships, conceived as companionships, are disappearing.  Rather than fighting tigers and physical enemies like we used to, today we're fighting organisations, big abstract masses of power and control. And friends have no power to help us in that struggle.

Ego is a side-kick

Regardless of whether it is disappearing or not however, perceiving friendship as a mirror is pretty bleak and supportive of the hunger-nature of the ego. That innate mechanism we have of ignoring others' outreach to attract them even more is half-reminiscent of the economic principle of scarcity (the less available it is, the more expensive a commodity becomes, given it is still as desirable) and half-reminiscent of kids' tyrannic strategies to pull their parents' attention. And here the dilemma arises: 

For the child is thought to be ego-free. A child won't ignore another person's text or attention or delay his answer to a Facebook message to convey an un-neediness or play an immature push-pull with the other. The child doesn't hide in each question and remark a way to route the conversation back to himself. The child accepts criticism easily. he absorbs and learns. He knows he can be wrong and accepts it. 

So maybe people with the smallest egos are the ones who were most loved in their childhood ? The ones who never had to ask for more. Or maybe all this ego-less child is only valid for kids younger than a given age ? Maybe ego grows with time and develops like a reflex. 

In a way, one develops a reliance Ego slips into the slits of behaviour and acts as a filler. You're trying to attract a person and you ignore her by times because that's your fall back option. That's the thing you do when you can't do anything else. The ego becomes your side-kick. You're talking to a friend and suddenly, during a conversation down-time, you fit in a story about yourself and a bragger race begins.