Thursday, November 06, 2003

The Gravity of Ego

The Gravity of Ego

We always have to be examining the underlying motives of our actions. I might even go so far as to say that most of the things we do are driven by the ego.

Self-preservation is an instinct honed by millions of years of evolution. It is only natural that most of our actions are guided by selfish interests. Even when we appear to be magnanimous or altruistic, we are sometimes driven by the desire to be recognized or we could be attempting to allay feelings of guilt inside us. All of these are still egoistic motives.

Sometimes we claim to be working for the greater good--we criticize what we think is wrong in other people or in the society which we live in. Yes, wrongdoings need to be pointed out but with the sincere intention of rectifying them. It can be done with great tact and subtlety; one's first instincts should be to help, rather than to condemn.

Often we are tempted to criticize because it gives us a certain "pleasure"--we are implying that we ourselves are free from such faults, and that we are better than them. We are indirectly praising ourselves. The ego is again lurking somewhere beneath.

Is it such a sin then to be egoistic? Shouldn't we feel proud of ourselves, our own abilities and our achievements? Is it that bad to satiate the ego a little bit?

Well, I don't see such things as good or bad. I see them as natural physical processes of the universe, obeying natural laws. If we do not understand and learn how to master the laws of nature, we ouselves would suffer from their consequences. You see, ego is like gravity.

Ego is the natural tendency of the self to accumulate things--be it praise, wealth or attention. Anything in the universe that possesses mass, exerts a gravitational pull on other objects with mass. That's Newton's Universal Law of Gravitation.

Stars and planetary systems are formed basically from the attractive forces between lumps of matter in the universe. Matter attracts matter, and in space, they lump together to form massive stellar objects such as stars, which further attract more matter to themselves. (I have used this celestial analogy before in a slightly different context, in my previous entry on marriage.)

In the end, some stars become so massive that they collapse under their own weight, attracting everything that come their way, including light and become what astronomers call, a black hole. Such "egoistic" stellar objects are frightening. They "puncture" the very fabric of space-time itself.

People who constantly satiate the demands of their ego risk becoming a "black hole"--someone who's so self-absorbed that he or she has no single thought for anyone else. Their ego is so inflated that any perceived slight-- which normally would be brushed aside with a laugh--becomes a great insult to them. Any minor defeat, a great humiliation. These people suffer greatly from their own "gravitational collapse".

We must always be conscious of the size of our ego. Keep it in check with great doses of humility. The ego is always there in the background, attracting, growing and inflating.

White dwarf stars with masses exceeding what astronomers call the Chandrasekhar Limit, could collapse into a black hole. At some point too our ego becomes so big that collapse becomes inevitable, and we become a "black soul". That is indeed a frightening prospect.

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