It’s amazing what you can do when you have no choice.
(Yeah, that’s it.)
It’s amazing what you can do when you have no choice.
(Yeah, that’s it.)
This morning, I got a pretty clear indication that I am old; in fact, I would go so far as to say that it was an unequivocal sign that I have crossed the boundary from middle age to old – albeit just.
And what would that be?
I got a kick out of trying on some new socks that I got as a Christmas present.
Usually, when people asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I didn’t know what to ask for; in fact, I didn’t even know what I wanted to receive except that I wanted to be surprised, so I said, “Surprise me.” No-one looked particularly satisfied with my very honest answer, but there’s no accounting for taste, as they say. I mean, what did they want me to do? Lie to them?
I guess that was the last vestige of my youth – the wish to be surprised – having its last hurrah because this year, I had a whole different answer:
I just love them; indeed, I adore them with an almost – dare I say it? – childlike delight, so maybe old age really is one’s proverbial second childhood.
Merry Christmas everyone.
(And thanks for the socks!)
All this talk about Islam lately, including Trump’s call for a moratorium on Muslim immigration got me thinking, not just about those issues, important as they are, but multiculturalism in general, along with the reason that I will never accept it.
Deep down, I want to belong somewhere, not just in the places I choose to go, like the friends I keep, my church, and so on, but in a larger sense – my country, in other words.
I used to have a country: it was called the Dominion of Canada, mostly British and French in origin against the backdrop of Western values in general, which had a profound effect on our culture. And culture, by the way, consists of more than exotic foods and colourful folk dances; it is the whole constellation of behaviours and believes of a people. We used to have a more or less unified culture, albeit with a few subcultures and countercultures, but it was solidly there, whether you chose to embrace it or push against it.
I liked that, and I miss it.
I cannot, and will not accept anything less. My country has a history, traditions, and yes, a culture, and I choose to embrace it: it is a Western nation, and that is part of what has made us great.
The alternative, multiculturalism, pretends that all cultures are equal with none predominating but all equally valued.
I reject that premise utterly.
No country can be successfully build on such an idea.
I want mine back – now.
Can anyone doubt it anymore? We (the West) are at War with Islam in the same way that we were at war with Germany, Japan or Russia (war of the cold variety in that case).
I’m getting sick of people saying things like, “Not all Muslims are bad,” or, “The terrorists are a minority.” Both those statements are true, of course, but not every German was bad, nor every Japanese or Russian. War is waged by the minority, but war is war, and we’re in the middle of one right now and it’s getting worse, especially because we do not adequately recognize what we’re in the middle of.
The ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) controls an area larger than the UK, and is sending adherents or sympathizers to places like . . . Paris. And Islamist terrorists have stuck far and wide, preying on innocent men, women and children, not as collateral damage (such as the US is so often accused of) but as intentional targets. Can you imagine the reaction if the US started targeting civilian targets with an aim to creating maximum terror amid it’s enemies in the Mideast? (Yes, I think that makes “us” better than “them”. Why wouldn’t it?)
And ISIL is but an extreme instance – think beheadings, burning people alive and throwing homosexuals off tall buildings – of a worldwide phenomenon in Islam, which is an extremely intolerant religion/culture. Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia (one of the West’s few allies in the Levant) treat women horribly – they aren’t even allowed to drive. Sharia law – think beheadings, the lash, and amputations – is widespread in Islamic countries. Hatred of Israel is ubiquitous – there is a store named “Hitler 2” in the Palestinian zone of Israel where face masks and knives are sold with terrorist mannequins out from. It’s wildly popular.
What about here in Canada? What about moderate Muslims? I think of the middle school in Toronto that allows Muslim prayers Friday afternoons in its auditorium. The boys sit up front, the girls behind them, and menstruating girls at the very back. Can you imagine a more disgusting way to treat a girl? A more accurate term would be “shaming a girl”, if you ask me. That’s mainstream, “moderate” Islam at work.
We in the West believe in the equality of men and women. Why aren’t the feminists raging about this?
So no, not every Muslim is “bad”, and there is no excuse for so-called “hate crimes” – can’t we just call them crimes? – but but we cannot sweep our differences under the rug and pretend they don’t exist.
To do so is dangerous on so many levels.
I just watched “Do You Believe” on Netflix, a movie about life, death and Jesus from the people who made “God is not Dead”, whose theme was similar.
I liked it, a lot.
I’m not a fundamentalist, so I think they would be kind of disappointed in me, but that’s okay. I’m a Christian, but I take some of it metaphorically, which I think they would be doubly disappointed in me. I do not, for instance, believe that a loving God would consign anyone to an eternity of damnation for any reason.
I have a personal relationship with Jesus, but my faith goes beyond that.
How? If they dug up the bones tomorrow and proved that He did not rise from the dead, my faith in the spiritual dimension of life would not be diminished in the slightest. We are eternal spirits. Of that I am certain.
Which brings me to my point . . .
Just as my faith would survive the disproving of the Resurrection so would it survive any disproving of my core beliefs, including the existence of the soul.
Let’s be logical for a minute. When it comes to “the big picture”, there are only two alternatives, really: either we have an immortal soul or we don’t. God either exists or He doesn’t. Things matter or they don’t.
But there is a deep craving in the human psyche for meaning, for belief in something more than our limited earthly existence. Darwin couldn’t kill it, nor could any form of scientific rationalism. Nietzsche signed God’s death certificate, but He crawled out of the grave. People left the Church in droves, but their belief in “something” continued.
There really does seem to be a God-shaped space in the heart of Man.
Again, there are only two choices: that space exists because we know, deep in our hearts, that there is something–indeed, only one thing–that can fill it or there isn’t. But if there isn’t, why should it exist? Delusion? Wish fulfillment? Cowardice?
But it is our deepest conviction. Even atheists have a tendency to transfer it to some other ideal because it just – won’t – go – away.
And so, at our core, we either sense the truth of our spiritual existence or we are one – big – fat – hairy – joke.
And that’s the line in the sand for me, the absolute bedrock of my belief. Even if you could somehow prove to me that all of existence is a senseless prank of chaos theory, you cannot prove that about ME. Even if the universe is a joke, I’m NOT. I will not believe that, and no sane person should – “It’s all one meaningless and so am I” is the kind of talk that lands people in mental wards, so I’ll take a pass on that.
I believe in MYSELF, which means that I honour my deepest beliefs, which include my belief in the immortality of the soul and the meaningfulness of life. Why? Literally, because I do.
With apologies to Sartre, I AM therefore IT IS.
So, yes, I believe.
Here I am, back at the shore of Lake Ontario, not at sunrise this time, as I once did, but mid-afternoon, which seems fitting because I am not here to begin a quest for wholeness, as I was then, but to continue that journey, to expand and refine my application of its lessons in my everyday life.
The last time I was here, I was in crisis, desperately wanting to exorcise my demons and enter into a new way of living, one of greater insight and freedom, to get rid of what people euphemistically refer to as their “baggage”, which I called–more accurately, I think–my burden.
It’s been a couple of years since then, and I think that I have made a good start at it–perhaps, it’s a lifetime’s task, I do feel generally calmer and happier, I regain my balance more quickly when my equilibrium is disturbed, and it’s a lot quieter between my ears than it once was. Oh, I still have what the Buddhists call “monkey mind” but with fewer monkeys, calmer ones, too.
As I sit here on the shore, watching the waves come in, something tells me that it’s a metaphor, that I should do the same thing in my life, and that I have already begun to do so, that I should let things come to me instead of chasing after them and holding on to them, even if they are trying to slip away, as most things, eventually, do.
The waves roll in. I can see them coming from a distance, and then they crash on the sand before me–ooooh, that was a loud one! I cannot make them come faster or slower, nor can I prevent them from slipping back down the sand and away–only a lunatic would try.
The waves come and go, but the water is always there . . .
I recognize that, in my life, I have sometimes tried, in vain, to hang on to things that were, irrevocably, slipping away from me, like the receding waves I see now, and I am sure that I am far from the only person to have done so . . . me and my merry band of lunatics, comprising most of humanity.
But no metaphor is perfect.
In my life, I do not sit on the shore watching the waves; I am out there among them–I am a wave myself.
And there are deep forces at work.
There is, I believe, a resonance that brings certain waves to me and me to them, even if it is not apparent, and those waves are not simply lateral but move in all dimensions and direction, interacting, reinforcing or negating each other, weaving experiences and impressions . . . creating the fabric of our lives.
And in that interplay, we attract not what we want (as those who, in programs like The Secret say) but what we are. Opposites may sometimes attract, but like and like resonate.
I choose to trust that resonance, and when I do, a voice deep within me sighs, “Yes.”
I trust that which truly resonates with me. I believe that that which truly serves and nurtures me will appear, and that since it is right for me, I need not try to hold on to it, only to be present and open myself to it, acceptingly . . .
. . . just as I am right now, right here on the shore of Lake Ontario.
“Quo Vadis?” means, “Where are you going?” And, as the title of this post indicates, I am asking that question of the ego.
Many who pursue a spiritual life seek to release themselves from what they see as the tyranny of the ego. Wayne Dyer, for instance, draws a sharp distinction between the ego and the higher self, leaving no doubt as to which he prefers. Much of the time, it sounds as though he would like to be rid of it altogether. Perhaps now, in death, he has. Who knows?
But we live here, at least partly – and I would say largely – in the physical world.
I may be oversimplifying a bit, and people who know more than I do may wish to correct me, but I see a real difference between Buddhism and Yoga, and it is in how they approach the idea of enlightenment.
The Buddhists see the self (including the ego) as an illusion with no permanence that they wish to dissolve in order to become enlightened. Of course, to me, if the self has no permanence, it is hard to imagine what aspect of ourselves becomes enlightened. Wouldn’t it be a contradiction in terms, as a Buddhist, to even say, “I” seek to become enlightened?
The yogis see things differently. They, along with the Hindus, believe in an unchanging core to our being, a permanent soul, what they call an “atman”. And they seek enlightenment by contacting that deeper self and allowing it shine through the rest of their being, bringing enlightenment to the whole person.
If I understand this correctly, the ego is not annihilated, it is bathed in spiritual energy – and that, to me, feels much better as an idea and as a goal, one that makes it, indeed, possible to say, “I” seek enlightenment.
At that makes a tremendous amount of sense to me because the ego can also be looked at as the will, the part of us that chooses, and even pursuing enlightenment is a choice, presumably from the ego, is it not?
And so, personally, I choose to seek deeper communion with my deepest, most authentic self so that it may illuminate my whole being, including my ego rather than commit what strikes me as a kind of suicide of the ego or perform an egoectomy.
I trust myself. I believe that the universe, somehow, works, even when it sometimes does not seem to. I believe that I am not a flawed being, a mistake, a joke. And I certainly have no intention of choosing (with my will or ego) to destroy that integral part of my being.
I believe that every part of our being is good and important, including that ego. Problems can arise when it is out of balance, when it becomes the master, edging everything else out, but then the answer is to get it back into balance, not destroy it!
One of Wayne Dyer’s more clever teaching analogies – for he is a primarily a teacher, to my mind, in his public persona – was to refer to the EGO as an acronym for Edging God Out, as an out of balance ego sometimes does.
And what’s the answer to that? To edge God back in, to put the psyche back in balance.
One of my personal challenges has been one of balance. While I have had to deal with a number of security issues (which Eastern Philosophy would say come from the lower chakras), I also have a tendency to live in my head. On person I used to know said, it’s a wonder your head doesn’t float off your shoulders. And so my challenge has been to rebalance my psyche, to become more grounded, through things like gardening and therapy (both formal and self-directed), not to cut off my head because it was too predominant (as some people would do with their own egos if they feel that they are too driven by it).
And excising the ego doesn’t even work, if you ask me. The ego is a tricky beast that will do just about anything to survive. I have even seen the marvel of some spiritual seekers who become quite egotistical about it, even to become egotistical (prideful) about their humility! It is, as they say, “a mug’s game” (an activity in which it is foolish to engage because it is likely to be unsuccessful or dangerous).
I admit that I have had to reign in my ego from time to time, even frequently, and I am interested in ways of doing it. I will share a few of them:
This is not narcissism or letting myself off the hook for my responsibilities; this is getting things in balance. It is not a way of dealing with genuine guilt, either; it is a way of dealing with shame.
Brene Brown draws the distinction between guilt and shame more clearly and effectively than anyone else I have heard or read. She says, “Guilt is feeling that I made a mistake; shame is feeling that I am a mistake.” Big difference! So if we have guilt over something, some kind of realization followed by action is necessary, the simplest being an apology and attempt at sincere restitution. But with shame, at least according to the way Brown is defining it, the methodology is quite different. But that’s the subject of a whole other post . . .
You may have some tips for me, things that do not appear on the list above. Please feel free to write them in the comment section.
My humility will thank you.
And to answer the question in the title, Quod vadis, ego? or Where are you going, ego?”