The Ego is an Egg

How can people of diverse backgrounds harmoniously live together? In the same way that people of similar backgrounds can harmoniously live together.

The obstacle to harmoniously living together isn’t the diverse backgrounds part. It is the living together part. When people of a similar background live together (in a family or a house or a city or a country), inevitably they too find reasons for disagreement, for disharmony.

If Christians and Muslims and Atheists aren’t able to live together in peace, it is no help to simply separate the groups. For a group consists only of Christians or Muslims or Atheists, inevitably what will surface are disagreements about what means to be Christian or Muslim or an Atheists.

Or an American or an Indian or Brazilian. Or a democrat or a republican or a communist.

The appeal of the bogeyman they, those others who are causing the disharmony (by they immigrants, or the alt right, or the Muslims, or the rich, or the communists, etc.) is that it covers over the internal disagreements of a group. In the face of the they, we and us acquires a shiny, harmonious facade. As in: we are alright, we are good to each other and get along and live in harmony; the trouble only begins with them, their arrival, their interference in our lives.

The bogeyman they gives a feeling of harmony in the us, that we are united, that we have gotten past our internal disagreements. It gives a soothing sense of harmony, of peaceful living within ourselves.

But even the feeling of harmony never lasts. Because it is not a harmony earned through honest toil, but is a simple, Band-Aid fix.

What is the honest toil?

To face up to the fact that harmoniously living together is not a matter of diverse or similar backgrounds. It is a matter of egos colliding. And egos collide as much within our family, neighbors, fellow republicans or democrats, fellow Christians or atheists, with people we call our own.

The ego is our sense of self defined in contrast with others. Ego is the sense of one’s uniqueness, all the big and little things about oneself, all the self-conceived good and bad things about oneself that make one feel different from others.

The ego feels good, strong and happy when those things seem good and strong; when those things are valued as good in the communal space of egos evaluating each other. And the ego feels sad, weak and unhappy when those things seem sad and weak; when those things are criticized and jeered at in the communal space of egos.

I have a Corvette. I have crooked teeth. I am good looking. I am poor. I went to a prestigious school. I have an illness.

In the ego consciousness most of one’s thoughts and feelings are these evaluations, of oneself and others. A constant comparing, how one’s self and one’s kin and social group, measure up. Trying to line up all the good things on one side, and put the bad things on the other side.

I have a brilliant idea. I am unpublished. I love this book. I dislike that author. I will help the world. I am failing in that task.

The root of social disharmony is this ego consciousness. Once the ego is accepted as real and as myself, as who I really and truly am, such that the ego’s constant evaluations mark who I really am, then it doesn’t matter who I live with, or who are my citizens. No matter who they are, even if they look and act and think like me, I and they will fight and argue.

For the ego loves to evaluate, oneself and others. Evaluating is its mode of being, it’s very existence. But the ego hates to be evaluated, by oneself and others. The ego bristles at any criticism, any judgment, even as it criticizes and judges others in the course of congratulating oneself.

The ego is never at peace with itself. It cannot be. It forever craves affirmation, and in the craving it creates distrust and chaos and pain, within itself and with others. And the ego covers all this over, as if it is nothing but the pure innocence of a child or a river in a meadow.

When the ego is accepted as real, as who I am, disharmony is inevitable.

But harmony is possible, because really the ego is not who I am. The ego is not the self, not myself. The ego is but the first stirrings of myself trying to know myself.

The ego is only an egg, which carries within itself who I really am. Who is truly me, I, myself. When the egg is hard and strong, and seems unbreakable, as if it is already identical with me, pain and strife follow.

But when the ego breaks, and a light shines forth that is myself without an other, where I am not defined in contrast with others, then true peace and harmony are realized.

The ego is but the shell which is carrying me in this life, in this body and this social circumstances. And from within the pure light of myself is breaking through, bit by bit. That is the natural progression: the ego shell breaks and the pure light shines through. Then the ego has done its job of letting the light shine into the world, and its purpose is fulfilled.

Not understanding this, the ego becomes alarmed at any break in its shell. It sees any break as something other egos can point at and criticize. So the ego tries to fix itself, repair the break, cover over the inner light from within breaking free.

But it is losing battle for the ego. It is the nature of the egg to ultimately break and for the life within to come out, unhindered, free and strong.

When all the ego-eggs break and hatch, humanity will live in harmony.

4 thoughts on “The Ego is an Egg

  1. Gautam

    One might push the analysis even further. The bogeyman “they” gives rise to the “us”, which in turn gives me a feeling of kind of harmony with myself, with no internal disagreements (e.g., with no conflict over what my role is, where I stand vis a vis other people) — my place in the world feels more secure. That is to say, the bogeyman “they” is needed to cover over a psychological conflict within myself.

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    1. Bharath Vallabha Post author

      Nice. Yes, the communal “they” gives the illusion of a harmonious “we” that is pristine and internally harmonious. The illusion here is that the experience of the we, even as it is contrasted with the they, is experienced as intrinsically self sufficient and as more basic than the they; that the they are disrupting the natural flow of the we left to ourselves. This sense of the self-sufficient natural momentum and intrinsic nature of the we – that is an illusion of the ego. Or better, it is the illusion which is the ego.

      This is as true of the individual ego as of the communal ego. Bharath ego thrives on the sense of what is self perceived as Bharath’s “natural” trajectory, something like the intrinsic unfolding of Bharathness. That sense of trajectory defines Bharath ego, and feels like it is as natural that Bharath will follow that trajectory as that a lion will kill or that a spider will spin webs. And so any obstacles to this trajectory by others are experienced as “he”, “she”‘ “they” going against how things out to be. That he, she, they are going against their own nature and not staying in their lanes, and are disrupting everything. Hence, the main task of maintaining bharath ego becomes actually, or in one’s mind, getting others to stay in their lanes. What is ignored here is the reality that bharath ego is not an intrinsic entity, but a point in an ever shifting social framework of mutually defined egos. There is no such thing as others staying in their lane, because there are no lanes. There are only egos mapping and drawing lanes, each in their own way and trying to define oneself through defining the contours of others. Bharath ego wants to be define the contours of other egos, but doesn’t want to defined by their contours of him. That is the inevitable conflict of egos.

      I am not bharath ego. So I am not all the properties of bharath ego: male, indian-american, married, living in america, etc. I am simply I, the same manifesting in all egos.

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  2. Prabhu

    Bharath, you noted that “I am not all the properties of bharath ego: male, indian-american, married, living in america, etc. I am simply I, the same manifesting in all egos.”

    I wonder what the content of the “I” is, independent of our social roles. Does the I also exclude some parts of our personality? Given that our ego tends to permeate the ways in which we see and express ourselves to others, what would “I” be if it were possible to strip the ego from our personality? Would the “I” have any real content then?

    Your metaphor of the egg suggests that you think there is an essence to each human being, that essence is kept from expression by the shell of the ego. I guess I’m unclear what this essence is, or if it exists. Maybe the egg is empty, full of air, and the cracking of the shell leads to the realization that “there is no us and them, or I and thou, there is only us.”

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    1. Bharath Vallabha Post author

      The I beyond the ego is contentless, in the sense that it can’t be captured in concepts. So it could be expressed as I, or we, or nothingness, emptiness, God, child of God, and so on. The realization as u characterize it, “there is no I or thou, there is only us”, sounds exactly right.

      This awareness beyond the ego is mysterious in the sense of unexplored, but not in the sense of something magical or spooky. The ego manifests in different ways: physical, emotional, intellectual, and so on. For example, the ego in the intellectual mode is thinking and arguing as a way of affirming that “I” am right and the “other person” is wrong; not merely in the sense that what they are saying is wrong, but that “they” are wrong. To get beyond the ego is let the thinking happen without this added sense of “my thoughts” are right and “their thoughts” are wrong. Is such a mode of thinking and being possible? Yes, and it is already itself the ideal of thinking. So the awareness beyond egoistic thinking is not some other thing beyond thinking. It is thinking in a certain way, or a mode of being when thinking.

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