Egolessness and The Fetish of the Individual

What is egolessness?

An interesting idea I picked up some place in my education is that there can be strong and weak versions of most theories. The strong version of a theory (or belief system) posits that the theory explains everything, while the weak version posits the theory might be shed some light on some situations, the weak version often has qualifiers such as “usually, occassionaly, in some cases.” So the strong theory of G*d controls the Universe states that everything that happens in the Universe is G*d’s will, while the weak theory states the G*d influences some events in some cases.

I told you that to tell you this.

A weak version of “the fetish of the individual” says that sometimes some of us seem to place more importance on individuality than is warranted. A strong version might say we falsely belief we are independent, autonomous beings like individual atoms.  (of course, the idea of an individual atom might be suspect, but that is another story.).

I think a strong version of the fetish of the individual might state that the opposite of FOTI is egolessness. Which brings up the question, what is egolessness?.

Egolessness,  as I am using it, refers to the idea that I or Me or Myself, or Michael Sanger is an illusion, an idea that we take as a thing.  It is sort of like an actor who, playing Hamlet on the stage for years, comes to think he really is Hamlet.  Or a person who, in a dream, thinks certain things are happen really believes they are happening.  And they are, in the dream.  But once you wake up, you usually realize “it was just a dream.” Now I have dreams that I which I could get back into, dreams that seem ‘better’ than my waking reality. But just because I want the dream to be true, doesn’t make it true.

The person playing Hamlet is Hamlet, at some level. But he really isn’t Hamlet, that is not who he really is. And the person I am in a dream is the person I am in a dream, but that isn’t really who I am. Which then leads to the question, who are we really?  Who are we if we go behind or beneath or beyond the names we have, the roles we play, our definitions of “me” that we hold and that are held by others?

Finding the real “you.”

There is a comedian who does a great bit on being in therapy and his therapist telling him he is trying to find his real self.



Finding your self from a Buddhist perspective

There are many Buddhist teaching that ask you to examine where “you” actually exists. Are you your head?  If so, who is the “you” that has a head?  Or are you the one looking for yourself? If so, where is that “you” and when you see it, who or what is seeing “you.”  The basic idea is that there is no self or ego as a self-existing, independent thing. Here is a more elegant explanation,  and here is what Ken Wilber has to say. Notice that both of the authors of these pieces have experienced egolessness, and they are still able to write.

What is the relation between egolessness and The Fetish of the Individual?

Most of us want to have a “healthy ego” but don’t want to be too “egotistical,” so where does egolessness fit in with that, and how does that relate to the fetish of the individual?  Part of the problem in answering that question might be that the word “ego” is used different ways by different people–it has different meanings.  Which brings to mind ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

But as Humpty Dumpty says, what a word means depends on who is using it, and what they intend it to mean.  So how is ego used? (and this is just the English version, I assume that the words from other languages we translate as “ego” might have very different connotations.

Id, Ego, and Super-ego

Freud invented the idea that a person consists of three functions/activities: the id which is our animal tendencies, a super-ego which is the conventions of society, and an ego which tries to balance the two..

Ego and Alter Ego

So the idea that I am my ego (or that my ego is me) gets called into question with the idea of alter ego.  Are Superman and Clark Kent the same person, do they have the same I, the game ego? What about Dr. Jekel and Mr. Hyde? Are these different people, or different personalities?

Ego and Roles

Am I the roles I play, or is each role a different me? There is the idea of “master role” which is the role that decides which role to use/be when, sort of a like a main program calling subroutines (which might be an out of date way to think about computer programming.)

Ego and Personality

You can see where this is going (whoever  or whatever “you” are.) Am I my personality? Do I have different personalities at different times. Personality comes from persona, From M-W, it can refer to 1)a character assumed by an author in a written work, or 2) a plural personas [New Latin, from Latin] : an individual’s social facade or front that especially in the analytic psychology of C. G. Jung reflects the role in life the individual is playing — compare anima (which is the person’s real inner self)

Ego and Time

Am I the same me I was fifteen minutes ago?  Fifteen years ago?  How about when I was five years old, is that the same me? How about when I was five minutes old?  How about five minutes before I was born, or five months?

Ego and Sense of Self

No matter how one might argue that there is no solid continous thing that is “me” there is no denying that most of us have a “sense of self,” that sense that knows or feels or something even strong than that, that I am me.

Healthy Ego versus Egotistical

By “healthy ego” we tend to mean somebody has a good sense of self, of who they are. We often thing/say people who are easy to push around or who constantly doubt themselves need to develop a healthy ego. In contrast, by “egotistical” we tend to mean somebody who thinks too highly of themselves, or more accurately, somebody who thinks they are the center of the Universe (maybe not the center of the entire universe, but the center of their personal universe, the most important person in their world.) I think all of us (and I might be projecting my own view of me onto everybody here) see ourselves as the center of our universe. When I’m doing anything, or thinking about anything, I am at the center of things. Al Franken (the comedian, not the Senator 🙂 ) said it pretty well.

There are times when we ‘get outside ourselves,’ when we act based not on what is best for me, but rather we act selflessly. Often we call people who act in that manner heroes. Or Saints.

Ego and egolessness

Egolessness is one of the central, perhaps the central idea of Buddhism, but like any idea, there are a variety of ways Buddhists look at it. Here is an expanded discussion of egolessness, from Huffington Post. My teacher, Chogyam Trungpa, said this:

“Egolessness” does not mean that nothing exists, as some have thought, a kind of nihilism. Instead, it means that you can let go of your habitual patterns and then when you let do, you genuinely let go. You do not re-create or rebuild another shell immediately afterward. Once you let go, you do not just start all over again. Egolessness is having the trust to not rebuild again at all and experiencing the psychological healthiness and freshness that goes with not rebuilding. The truth of egolessness can only be experienced fully through meditation practice.

What I understand by that quote is we can let go of all our definitions and preconceptions about we we are and what the world is, and just rest in the resulting awareness. It is sort of like we are aware of something – chocolate in our mouths, the sound of a bird, or our sense of self — and we can either put labels on it and say “this is good chocolate, or a beautiful bird song, or me” or we can just have that experience without putting the labels on the thing. We can see things as they are, before or behind or beneath what we think about them.

I remember typing something very like that last sentence earlier today, and noted then and renoted now all the “be”s in that sentence (before, behind, beneath.) And maybe that is a hint that egolessness is more a state of BEing than a state of thinking.  Or something to that effect.

  All of the Above and The Fetish of the Individual

If the fetish of the individual is an unhealthy preoccupation with or attention to our individual self (aka “ego”) then all my writing about different takes on ego are meant too loosen up that infatuation with our own little egos.  As I’ve written elsewhere, the thought “fractal society and the fetish of the individual” came to me more than my thinking it up. And the basic idea is being less attached to our ego (our view of who we are as an independently existing and solid thing) allows us to become more aware of the fractal nature of society,

To say the least

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