Thursday, November 08, 2007

The EGO Project/Ed Dorn OnVoting/Obituary/

Happy Thanksgiving 2007

(P1) Philosophical

The EGO Project

Recently I sent the following observation and inquiry to several individuals who I thought might be interested in weighing in on the subject of the good, the bad, and the ugly about "Ego." I'll follow my opening salvo with the thought-provoking responses from these folks.
I ask that you, dear readers, then join this informal forum with your own views on the general subject of "ego."
I began, "As I write, or as any artist does his/her art, and likes what he or she sees, isn't it a natural tendency to want others to enjoy it as well? When I play chess, certainly I enjoy the experience, but I also play to win. When I speak, I use the word "I." Yet all about me, well-meaning folks disparage the ego and tell me that we must do all in our power to drop it. We are counseled also not to desire. It seems to me that both of these injunctions are counter to our human natures or human habits. Are we here to seek to expunge our very humanity? Is this sort of counsel another aspect of preparing for some "pie-in-the-sky" after-existence? So stay with me for a moment. Let's even posit the possibility (faint though I believe it to be) of an afterlife or even of an existence of pure energy where no ego exists. Then why (if the word "why" has any significance at all) are we here? Were there an internal consistency to all of this, whether a "cause" or a "logic," then isn't it most plausible that this present experience that we all experience exists for "ego" or "personhood" rather than for its expunging? Perhaps, along with Walt Whitman, it's time again to proudly exclaim that, "I celebrate my self!"

Here are the first responses in alphabetical order:
Ed, Not to go pendantic, but I think it helps to define terms. “Ego” has come to be interchangeable with “egotistic” which the O.E.D. means excess of ego, in a negative sense, whereas “ego,” I’ve always understood, is simply that part of the personality that is concerned with the self -- in a healthy sense. If I remember my Freud (maybe you know him better than I), the ego is a very healthy component...where the “super ego” is fraught with potential harm..left uncontrolled it’s dictatorial, judgmental, punitive. I see George Bush, for example, as having a weak ego — probably low self-esteem, making it impossible for him to hear points of view other than his own. . . But he has a way overactive superego making him rigid, moralistic, contemptuous. Given all that, I disagree that we’re here to do away with healthy ego or our human personality. I think people who deny their personalities end up resentful and fucked up, and, ironically, become the very person who tries to snuff out others’ uniqueness. I think Whitman’s “self” is a healthy ego because it allows for all kinds of new experiences, comes across as robust but not domineering. There’s nothing harsh or mean in his poetry Also, what does “celebrate” really mean? Expressed in a healthy way, it delights in itself, revels in being who it is....but that’s not the same as hitting everyone over the head with it or suppressing the very same thing in others. I feel if I can’t “celebrate” myself, I can’t celebrate anyone else either, which renders me a bad friend, lover, parent, etc. In a practical way, say performing in public, I think I strive for a kind of double awareness that lets me revel in the attention and gives me a glow of well-being, and be fulfilled through recognition, but some other inner voice is saying: easy, now. Keep it in moderation. You’re not the only thing happening here . . . and let’s not be too starved for adulation because that way madness lies. David Beckman

try not to bait a buddhist
first, you need an ego
(that's an integrated ego)
before you can loose it
r(richard denner)

Phew! Eddie, you sure dream up some good ones! My off-the-top reply is that I go with Walt!
But, I'll get into this later. Right now, it's Sunday Night Football, Bears and Packers. I'm going to watch a lot of BIG egos go to work.

I believe that if you love all that exists in the universe, including yourself, you can play chess competitively and not worry about having an ego. Who's judging you, anyway? Only you.
As to why we are here, I believe it is because we are natural "accidents". The Eternal Energy (if you will) is creating constantly and humans just sort of happened, as did trees and monkeys and eagles and mountains and moons and suns. We are not here for any "why", we are just here. When our physical presence dies, our ego dies with it. But our Eternal (spiritual?) Energy, that which caused us to be created, continues on. Forever.
While your Ego is present in this existence, you may find yourself being more happy when you make another ego happy. You may find that your existence is more fulfilled and peaceful when you show love and compassion for others. And, not just human egos, but all things, animal, vegetable and, yes, mineral. Does not the weed compete with the rose for space, water, sunlight? Does not the horse compete with the buffalo for grass? These are competitions for survival and are a part of this existence. The human being has evolved past those competitions (you'd never know it from all the religious and political wars going on!), but still possesses the competitive trait or "nature". I believe all things have a "nature" and part of the human "nature" is to be competitive. I don't find this contrary to finding peace and enlightenment within. Friendly, innocent competition, such as a chess game, will not detract from your enlightened state, at whatever stage that is. Exhibiting, or releasing the need for, that competition in sports and games is a harmless way to live a full and, at the same time, loving life.Announcing "Check Mate" proudly, triumphantly, is not a statement of "I'm better than you", unless you want it to mean that. If your thoughts at that winning moment are, "I won that one, perhaps you will win the next one", what harm is done? If your thoughts are "I won that one and I'll win them all from you, dolt ,because I'm better and smarter than you!", then perhaps you should examine your soul.Is this part of a plan? That's the question that brings us back to the "Why?" issue. I don't think there is a plan and don't give it much thought. We're here,and it's better to be nice and have good fun, than to be mean and grouchy."
Okay, I quit. Gotta finish working on my race car so I can be COMPETITIVE! :-)

Hi Ed,
I love these kinds of explorations for ultimately it is the stuff of soul that emerges, taking us to a new level of consciousness, carved out by the angst of ego. Your question has the age old paradox of East vs West. I hold that anytime we either/or anything we can get into trouble. We live in an incredible time of learning how to have both, a weave if you will, of an individuated ego with a soulfilled spiritual presence whose fruits are the necessary components that serve the world.
Ego gets me into trouble when I loose site of my connection to unity consciousness, feeling I am alone and have to do something to fix or save the world. But, my ego becomes apart of the spiritual dance when I listen to what it loves and what its dreams and desires are. For me the spiritual process is helping to mature my ego to have it under the more wise direction of my true essence or the Self that listens to Soul.
I believe that never before this time, are our contributions more essential. May our contributions serve the world, to heal and empower news ways that serve the greater good. I read a newspaper headline while I was in Europe: "Never has there been a time, where so few have control over so many". We have to individuate, and express our unique self, our 'ego, our I' without falling into the trap of self pride and aggrandizement.
I could say more, but maybe that could be my ego. I do love this kind of exploration. One more thought however, the Shamanic world would say, that a healthy life is built upon the foundation of a healthy ego. Ego or I is knowing who I am, what I love, value and desire, while believing in myself and my ability to attain that which I desire. This is wholeness. The ego can only be transcended once it is whole. Splitting ourselves from our ego may infact be the reason so many of us are co-dependent and lost.
Just thinking and thanks for asking.

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Slow Coup

If voting changed anything

it would be illegal

Ed Dorn

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(P3) Poetical

At a late age, he was born
of no father or mother
he simply emerged.

He could not do what he was told
to do by any single soul,
but he tried.

Detours overwhelmed him
with allure and sadness,
few lines ran straight.

Walking the long walk,
he preferred those vast dark spaces
among infrequent stars.

(Ed Coletti
© 2007)

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Ed of Nice said...

Damn! I always seem to be saying the same thing over and over.

I be
what I be
for being.

But I didn't consult my colon or my stomach or my genitals or their egos. Was I supposed to? Was that part of the exercise?

Seriously, are you planning to bring this up in our next life?

What if we are on different planets?

What's the strategy here?

The more I think about what you are asking I wonder if it all doesn't boil down to timing. Maybe in a thousand years this discussion may seem more meaty or salty or something.

Was I supposed to say that? What if no one is listening? Does that mean I am in the forest? Ouch! What just fell on me?

PKoneazny said...

what fun though I probably shouldn't weigh in here after having watched the film "Derrida" last night. but here goes: It occurs to me that "ego" is an inside job. That said, do notions of inside and outside actually "mean" anything, when "ego" by definition seems to depend upon the existence or at least possibility of an Other? More or less a materialist myself, I'm untroubled (really? she asks herself) by the idea that "I" (are "I" and "Ego" one and the same?)may be an ephemeral aggregation of particles of original star dust (bearing in mind that "origin" too is suspect since physics can't or can't yet travel further "back" than an instant AFTER the Big Bang). That said, whatever the Ego is or I am, it is only the "I" that can speak at all. It is the only position from which I can speak and it is I's only mode of experience. To rid oneself of the Ego (other than in the Buddhist sense perhaps) would be as if one had hollowed out the brain. The real question, I think, is not so much whether the Ego is good, bad, or indifferent (it just is) but what the relationship is between the Ego/I and an ethics (what motivates the I's actions vis a vis the Other--and not just the human Other). Paula

Bob F. said...

There is just no place for a contrary point of view…. No middle road…only ‘my way or no way.’ If you are attempting to reach the
Reagan Democrats the message has no hope of reaching them. If you abstracted words from the Kennedy platforms…………….maybe???

A blog is an advocacy-based medium; therefore, success is limited to those who are already in the same mind set. That raises the question: What do you accomplish by being in touch with those that already agree with you. If you want to reach a broader audience there needs to be something in it for the other 50% of the voting public. Yes?

Ed Coletti said...

Dear Bob,
1. Check out some of the “comments” to past postings. Eg. Paul Stagnoli, our chess playing friend and organizer of the Exchange Bank tournament comments frequently from the right and makes excellent points. You’ll enjoy these along with those of others who don’t always agree.

2. I’m not attempting to “reach” something called “Reagan Democrats,” “Kucinich Republicans,” “Kennedy Nostalgiasts” or any labels whatsoever. I don’t like labels very much.

3. However, what I am is passionate about this country and about what is being done to it daily by greed, ignorance, sophistry used to hide from the truth, and I’m especially passionate in support of the middle class and poor who are no longer taken into any equation utilized by government. Finally, I am disgusted by the sell-job that’s been done to the very victims of such neglect – the use of the Reagan axiom that “the problem is government.” No, Bob, I believe that the purpose of government is to provide for the health and welfare of its citizens. I recognize that some folks do not accept this. When such is the case, we can only agree to disagree. But thanks for being interested, and don’t hesitate to comment by pressing the comment button as well. When disagreement occurs, that’s what dialectic is all about. Nothing wrong with passion. Yes, there is room for dissent. That’s why I do this.

4. But, Bob, you’re apparently also missing the fact that this “blog,” is NOT just about politics. Do you ever read the philosophy or art sections. I also try for a fair amount of humor.

5. Finally, I try not to scream from the left as loudly as do many of the even more one-sided blogs. While I have a very distinct point of view, I entertain others as well. When I fire back at a comment, I never intend to be malicious.

6. I have a suggestion. Give me permission to put these two comments of yours on to the P3 as comments along with this reply. (This has been done). Then let’s see what happens.

7. Thanks for your friendship and interest, Bob.

Anonymous said...

My first concern is your position that a denial of ego is some sort of religious direction. It is not, unless you subscribe to Marx's "opiate of the masses". Did anyone have a healthier ego than Jesus? A stronger sense of self and purpose?

As one blog noted, there may be a difference between ego and egotism. Certainly an excessive ego, or preoccupation with self, is unhealthy. Think of Narcissus as an early example the Greeks used to demonstrate the issue.

An interesting question for consideration might be, "What is evil?" Is it perhaps true that all evil is a feeding of the individual desire versus the good of another? As an example, adultery is simply an ego driven desire since the actual experience is the same as one would have with a spouse.

I believe that evil is a turning into oneself while good is turning outward to others and a consideration of others versus one's own desires. You must have a sense of self to turn away from your self and toward the world around you. That is not some "pie in the sky" notion, rather humility and love versus a preoccupation with self.

David Beckman said...

The Ed Dorn quote: "if voting changed anything it would be illegal" rocked me, in the sense that I resisted it, then embraced it. Question: Have we come so far in our loss of deocracy that such a starkly alien statement seems to carry the seductive weight of truth?

American men and women have bled for concepts such as representaion, free voting, free press, equal right under the law.

Are we the generation condemned to see all this get shredded, and kissed goodbye?

Connie said...

Ego: the window through which I view my world. I celebrate myself, and I celebrate all that is not myself. I am a little fat globule in the Human Soup that inhabits planet earth. Unique and identical at the same time. Should I be celebrated? Hey why not? I’m a good person doing some really cool stuff! There are people who love me, there are people I love, and lots of ‘em. Should I also acknowledge that I’m contributing to global warming, doing diddly squat to alleviate starvation in the third world and I’m not doing my share to help old ladies to cross the street? Sure! I breathe beautiful clean air and return stinky farts, I pump a severely limited natural resource into my gas tank which benefits some bad guys somewhere, I regularly fail to express loving kindness to the best of my ability, in fact sometimes I shout “f… you” and mean it. Repeatedly. But! I also touch the heart of the near-stranger who I’ve been sending letters and cards to while he lays in anguish in a hospital bed. I remember a friend’s birthday and the exact kind of chocolate she likes best. On Good Hair Days life is very good indeed. Everybody is just like me, everybody is different than me. Net result: too early to say. I’m here, looks like everybody else thinks they’re here, too, and so wahoo it’s a party, what’s being served? We muddle through, we crash and burn, feel good, feel bad, behave well, behave badly, whatever. Clouds float by, there’s rain, there’s no rain, the sun comes up and goes down. We are apparently each free to assign significance, it’s a choice. Personally, I’ve not found any engraved stone tablets with the answers to anything whatsoever. Except of course that recipe for bran muffins…

bSue said...


In my view, everything we do as humans has something to do with "ego" in the broad sense of the word. Even if we are being altruistic or compassionate, there is something about the experience that refers back to who/what we think we are or how we see ourselves.

Ego, human, earthly existence...all fine. But I think these exist in a much (infinitely) larger realm or landscape of "Self" which is somehow connected to the "oneness" of all beings. This makes the human a way in which the Divine can view itself, which would not be possible otherwise (a huge "oneness' cannot "see" itself, having no eyes, and no substance, no flesh, etc.)

It seems to me that we are here as humans in order to communicate with each other; to behold each other as views of the oneness....

Peter Proehl said...

EGO: Latin for SELF. Some ideas and propositions:

Freudian nutshell: Ego negotiates between Id and Superego to find socially-acceptable thoughts and actions. Ego usually rationalizes what has been negotiated and what has been decided elsewhere. Ego makes a path for the individual, moment to moment, with plans and a narrative about itself. The narrative is normally postive and flattering, but Superego rarely buys it.

This is a rich conception, allowing for changes in the ego-formation, sublimation, and
ego-compensation. But I think it reduces our subjective life before we get to it. Surely the ego, intuition, and other elements of mind, can evolve more radically.

Spinoza developed the Stoic idea of self-preservation into a forward-moving equilibrium of feeling, thought, and soul.

Hegelian idea: rational thought conceives Natural Will to be a necessary element in the dialectic of self-determination (freedom).

Nietsche's Will to Power is the drive to create one's own life with a minimum of compromise. It is always expressed in some way, however covert or unknown it may be. It produces inventions and strategies in art, morality, culture, sex, love, politics, control over others, and other ways, even critical philosophy.

Is ego the source of self-consciousness? In the experience of mind or mind/heart is awareness of ego, intuition, cognition, sensations, and feelings not produced by ego. Mind is consistent and one thing. In this context ego directs thinking and makes a person capable of what we call self-consciousness. But is this anything more than consciousness of the self, of this moment's narrative?

What is ego? Detach from your thoughts, and listen.

What joy we have when a child knows his name,
his exact age, later his ambition.

Maturity requires awareness of the self
and what is beyond the self.

The ego seeks to control its experience,
a futile task. For this reason
ego is always insecure.

Ego searches for a secure path
stumbling from shame to pride.

You can't hit a baseball thinking
about winning or losing the game.

Ego's first scam is always on itself
the second is on others.
Beware of the collective ego!

What a tragedy
to inherit birth as a human being
and live with such self-importance.