I had at some point succumbed to the new age distorted notion of Ego. That it was this thing in need of remodelling because it interfered in everything we did and how we related to the world and people, until I realised that the problem was the exact opposite- most of us just did not have enough of it – anymore!
Arrogance is not ego, neither is materialism, nor seeking to possess another person or to self-gratify yourself with no reasoning. Instead, I have come to understand Ego (inclined to capitalise the first letter) as an ability to feel a significant sense of self and worth in this universe. This means you would believe in the impact you can have – both negatively and positively, and by the virtue of that significance, feel that others or the world would in some way be missing something without your presence and existence; to need and feel needed and to let it matter that you feel so.
I wondered then, can one fall in love if you have no Ego? Can you change your life for another, if you have no Ego? Can you perform selfless acts – sacrifice your life for a country, an idea, a movement – if you have no Ego? There was a good dose of Ego when I reflect on the lives of innovators as the contemporary Steve Jobs or the more olden day type as Marie Curie. How about the controversial Mother Theresa, revolutionaries in the likes of Che Guevara, and even fictitious superheroes such as Wonder Woman, who in the latest trailer was cautioned by her mother, “If you choose to leave, you may never return,” and her Ego response was, “Who will I be if I stay?”
Without Ego, we would not believe that something counts as much. For the ego-free, life may be a daily journey of any possible occurrences whose probability may be somewhat scientifically calculated. Decisions may lack depth, because, well, that too shall pass and life will go on, “what am I but a speck of cosmic dust.” That person, that place, that idea, their very existence will pass. As it will for us all, right? But is passion lost in the process? Does it matter if it is? To which Van Gogh said, “I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” Of course, he did die of passion. That is what the ego-free escape- these daunting nuances of life- by virtue of living stoically meaningful lives.
Maybe I do admire the ego-free for that ability, but like Van Gogh, I may not envy them, even if I know it might bring me hardships and pains.
So then, why do spiritual philosophies teach us to suppress the Ego, instead of being encouraged to maximise on the goodness and positively passionate experiences a healthy ego can offer?
Some teachings say the Ego is terrified of what is in the inside, that it defends only itself. But I asked, if our Ego did not allow us to fear death, how would we value life? If it did not allow us to feel valuable, how would we contribute to society? If it did not defend itself, how would our species survive? How would we overcome our own fallibility? How would we manifest a result to our passions?
*strictly personal opinion
N.B: the definition of stoically in this context does not infer lack of emotion, but rather the repression of emotion.