(The writing of this essay was inspired by the lectures and ideas of Alan Watts.)
When I speak about Ego here I am talking about the accumulation of labels. Your ego is an accumulation of your name, morals, race, political views and anything else you identify with. People get very defensive when someone disagrees with their political views, why? Because people identify strongly with their political views and when someone disagrees with them , they feel personally attacked. The ego is terrified of its own death- meaning it is terrified of someone disapproving or destroying an identity it has held onto.
Human intelligence is built upon conscious attention, the sum of what we can focus on at any one time. Because conscious attention can only manage so many variables at one time, we use a system of linear scanning to analyse the world around us. Linear scanning is the process of translating the world around us into numbers, words, and symbols. This makes it easier for us to understand and describe. Symbols are not real, they are just a means of understanding and communicating. However we tend to get confused with symbols and reality. For example: the word ‘apple’ will not satisfy your hunger, but an actual apple will. The word is the symbol while the apple itself is reality. The word is not the same thing as the apple.
The ego is the symbol for ourselves. It is as much of us as we can fit in our conscious attention summed over time, which is not very much. It is a caricature of ourselves. We are not aware of the fact that we are managing our nervous system ,digestive system and millions of other functions. The ego does not include information about any of these bodily operations. In the same way we are not aware of our connection with the world around us (our environment).
The problem is that when we identify with our egos, we feel separated from our environment. Because we feel separated there is a fear and due to the fear we feel the need to control our environment. Through our need to control we have done a lot of damage — think industrialization and climate change. What we don’t realise, due to the limitations of human intelligence (linear scanning), is that we are not separate from our environment. We are actually one with our environment. You cannot talk about an organism without at the same time talking about its environment.
There is a transactional relationship between organism (you) and environment (world), where one cannot move without the other. There are 2 ways we can look at this
Everything that happens is my own doing (i.e. I am God) or
All my doings are happenings of nature.
Think about when you drive a car, do you push or pull the steering wheel? Both, for one hand to push the other hand must pull. So your relationship with your environment is like this. Quantum physics is changing our views of cause and effect whereby both arise mutually. Meaning “A causes B” and “B causes A” are both true. This tells us that for there to be an experience (A) there must be an experiencer (B) and vice versa, both arise simultaneously. You cannot have A without B or B without A, this tells us that they are one in the same thing. So you are A and your environment is B( or vice versa).
We not only do damage to our natural environment, but we also damage interpersonal relationships when we are blinded by our ego. When we disagree with someone, particularly someone we care about, sometimes we get triggered. When you are triggered you feel hurt and often say things you don’t mean. Often when we are triggered it is because our egos have been attacked and it goes into full defence mode .
All we need to improve these two problems is to bring more awareness into our lives. Become aware of this ego, learn what you identify with. The ego is not necessarily a problem. How we handle our egos can become a problem: it is a problem when it creates conflict in our personal lives and it is a problem when we try to control and manipulate nature for our own profit. When we realise that we are not our egos we will feel our relationship with nature, as well as other people, on a much deeper level.
Thanks for reading, please let me know what you think?