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Worshipping Lali

Blistering barnacles!

“Someone asked me recently, ‘how do I get rid of the ego?’ My response? ‘Good grief, why would you want to undergo such a terrible procedure?!’ (I really should have begun my reply with something more profound, like ‘Jumping Jehoshaphats!’ or ‘Blistering Barnacles!’) Surrender is not a state of being egoless. In fact, I might argue that the quest for egolessness is the ego’s last defence mechanism – its most patronizing trick that underscores an inability to recognize that it is not at all separate from the rest of the material equation we hesitantly (and often rudely) call ‘nature’. The ego is not the problem; the problem is maybe the paradigm that treats it as diseased and alien, cut off from the rest of the world, out of touch. The ‘solution’ is not to empty ourselves of it, but to notice the umbilical cords that still tether us to a festival of vitality. The ego is the wilds beyond our fences.”

4 Comments
  • Diana van Eyk on June 22, 2016

    There’s a lot of slagging of ego where I live too, and it doesn’t seem to make people less egotistical. The war on drugs only brought more drugs, the war on poverty, more poverty. It’s kind of the same thing. A more sensible goal to me is a healthy ego.

  • Maia on June 23, 2016

    Totally with you, Bayo! Til I got to “The ego is the wilds beyond our fences”. Noticed a strong attraction to this “wilds beyond our fences”… immediately followed by a cloud of confusion and objections. But, but… Whose fences are they? Not our cultural ego’s fences?
    Your re-envisioning of “ego” is so different than anything I am acquainted with! Love that. But trying to understand how to connect my own current operational definition of ego as the part of experience/self which is insecure, defensive, needy, always looking for ways to feel stronger, better, safer, etc. So if ego is “the wilds”… what about all my (our?)frequent experiences of insecurity, defensiveness, neediness, et al, are they part of the wilds, too? You mean ego hasn’t been tending those fences, repairing and guarding them AGAINST the wilds?? 🙂
    Thank you for your surprising mind…

    • Bayo Akomolafe on June 23, 2016

      Yes, Maia. Let me explain it this way. A french philosopher, Descartes, postulated that the world was inexorably made up of ‘things’, or givens and distinctions – some of which were self-evident to the clear thinker. One of those self-evident truths about the world was the truth of the ego. In Descartes’ mind, and in the narrative of western civilization ever since, the ego is separate from its environment. There are clear boundaries. That cut/chasm between them is fixed and resolute. However, our notion of the self is changing. This has a lot to do with many material practices (such as biological explorations of nonhuman species, advances in psychological theory, insights from quantum physics and cognitive neuropsychology, and even the study of entheogens, psychedelics in nonwestern places, and cross-cultural studies in anthropology) and trends that now make it difficult for us to understand ‘self’ outside of and independent from its context. This has led to ideas about the self being an ecological construct – no longer the duality-vision of autonomy, but what the environment is doing. What ‘nature’ is doing. So, even ‘your’ experiences of insecurity, of neediness, of unworthiness are part of what the world is doing! Why this is so difficult to understand is that most people still like to think of ‘nature’ as this place of goodness and harmony, and the ego or self as an orphaned child trying to find its way home. They associate their negative experiences with this idea of ‘evil’ or something we must get rid of. But, when we see that the ‘self’ is also that which is ‘outside’…the wilds beyond our fences, beyond the cultural cuts and exclusions we’ve enacted, then even monsters and shadows and grief are allies. This means we have never been ‘human’. Just as a wave is what the ocean is doing, the self is what the world is doing – and all imaginations of arrival are consequences of thinking we are disconnected in the first place. It also means our shadows, crevices and bumpy places have a significance and matter beyond our anxious attempts to reel them into our plot points and linear trajectories. An Arabic proverb says, “sunshine all the time makes a desert”. The question, of course, is then – I propose – how do we meet our shadows…not to fix them, or get rid of them, but know them in a way that acknowledges their importance? This is my ethical framing of the ‘wilds beyond our fences’.

      • Maia on June 24, 2016

        Yes. This is what I/we’ve been coming to. And “know”…except when we forget.

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