A Defense of the Ego

I love egos.  I love big egos and small egos and purple egos and polka-dot egos.

It's astonishing, when you bring up the word "ego" how people will immediately begin to snarl, their lips curling in aggression and disgust. 

But ego is simply the Greek word for "I".  It represents the self, or more often, the self-concept.  If you say, "I hate the ego," this is not too far from saying, "I hate I" or "I hate myself" or "I hate the very concept of myself."

When I use the term "ego," I am thinking of the mental construct that you create, to some degree consciously and mostly unconsciously, on the basis of your social and cultural context, to represent yourself to yourself as a distinct individual being, with your own desires, attributes, personality, and so on.

There are some people out there who think that egos are bad, and that they should be annihilated - that if we could attain permanent egolessness, we would be kinder, better, more conscientious  people, living in a healthier, more loving, more harmonious community. 

There was a lot of this kind of talk in the 60s and 70s, among hippies and new agers.  Ironically, many of the very people who were telling their followers to rid themselves of their egos turned out to have the most extreme egos of all - they were often pathological narcissists, sometimes cult leaders, and quite often abusers - not to mention all the Hollywood actors and producers, rock stars, celebrity intellectuals and authors.  It's not hard to see how this works.  People who have vacated themselves of all sense of self are easier to manipulate and control.

Probably some of these cult leaders, celebrities, etc., who were saying that we should stop having egos, were sociopathic manipulators from the very beginning, who never believed the ideology that they were peddling to their flock.  But I think that was the minority.  I think that many of the people who were pushing this kind of ideology genuinely believed in it, believed that it was good and true, and that they were helping people by spreading it.  And furthermore, I think it's quite possible that some of these people attained states of consciousness, however briefly, in which the ego was indeed neutralized, and this was, for them, a transcendent, beautiful experience that they wanted to share with the world. 

But here's the thing: the ego comes back.  And it comes back with a vengeance.  It may come back so subtly and sneakily that the practitioner does not notice that it has returned, but having come face to face with its utter oblivion, it worms its way back to control, pursues its interests, and exacts its revenge.  There's nothing more dangerous than a wounded ego.  

And by the way, many of the people you know who act like jerks, and cause everyone around them to say, "What a big ego that guy has!" are actually people with deeply wounded, small, weak egos, who desperately build all kinds of defenses to shield their painful vulnerabilities.  Pathological narcissism is the result of a wounded ego.

So, rather than striving to annihilate the ego, we should be striving to keep our egos strong and healthy, which is just as difficult a spiritual discipline as the attempt to kill it. It is a lifelong path requiring a similar degree of dedication and sacrifice, as well as nuance, care, and tenderness.

The ideology that says we ought to be annihilating our egos presents itself as an ideology of peace and love.  But it's not hard to see that it is a hateful ideology, an ideology that says, in effect, "I think your self should be destroyed.  Your self has no right to exist.  Kill your self."

Strangely enough, some of the very people who advocate destroying the ego are people who profess to believe in a "non-dual" practice, a philosophy or religion or spirituality or political ideology that has "overcome the binary" - for instance, overcoming the binary opposition between self and other.  And yet, very obviously, their ideology is extremely dualistic.  First of all, anyone who hates the ego is clearly a dualist, because hate implies dualism. Even if there is no hate, even if they truly are motivated by nothing but love, the very fact that they think the ego should be destroyed implies that, to them, the ego is some separate "other" thing.  They may make this binary opposition in a variety of ways - for instance, they may distinguish between the ego and the "true" self (which may be understood as identical with the community, if not the entire universe), so that the ego is bad and should dissolve, while the true self is good.  But again, this is an extremely dualistic worldview and one that is paradoxical and riddled with contradictions.  Others may go further and claim that there is no true self.  But this itself has a variety of interpretations: for instance, on the one hand, the idea that all that is real is material reality - the universe, including the body (in which case I would say: good! Then there is nothing to destroy....?), or on the other hand, the idea that beyond the veil of illusion there is Nothing, absolute Nothingness (in which case I would again say: good! Then there is nothing to destroy).  Any belief system in which there is the ego and there is something other than the ego in the universe is by definition a dualist belief system.  If one were to believe that the ego must be destroyed, and at the same time to be consistently and rigorously non-dual about this belief, one would have to come to the conclusion that there exists only one thing in the entire universe, and that is ego, and it should be destroyed - i.e., that the universe consists of nothing but ego.  But even this leads to a kind of contradiction.  We can sum up the entire thing this way: If you wish to rid yourself of ego, then... who or what wishes this?  Is it the ego that desires to be free of the ego?  By fighting against the ego, aren't you only becoming more fully ensnared and tangled up in the ego?

Those who wish to be free of all ego - liquefactionists, let's call them - will say that "the ego is an illusion."  And in this, they're not completely wrong, although I would phrase it differently.  The ego is a construct.  It is something that our minds have created.  Cognitive neuroscientists tell us that the brain appears to operate via many parallel processes that are continually working to some degree independently of one another.  The image of a single, unitary self that is at once receiving the output of all of these parallel processes, coordinating them, integrating them, and in some sense commanding them cannot be supported by evidence.  It is "made up," and at least to a very large degree, we seem to make it up retrospectively, after the fact, as it were.  And yet it is, in a sense, very real - it has real effects, in the real world, that can be measured and analyzed.

In a felicitous metaphor, Daniel C. Dennett compares the ego to a center of gravity.  The center of gravity is not a solid hunk of stuff - it has no smell or texture.  When gymnasts are polevaulting, they may bend in such a shape that their center of gravity is actually outside of their bodies.  The center of gravity is, if you like, a mathematical abstraction.  It is "just" an idea.  And yet it is real - as real as it gets.  It can be quantified and measured, and the physics of mechanics would be impossible if it weren't for this "concept," this "abstraction."

Anyway, even if we understand the ego as nothing but an illusion, I have a question for you.  Just because something happens to be an illusion, does that mean that it should be destroyed?

I think of egos as works of art.  Imagine that you're in a museum, looking at a painting of a duck.  Would you say to yourself, "That duck isn't a real duck!  I have to rip this painting apart immediately!"?  No.  You would understand that the image of a duck is different than an actual duck, but both deserve to exist, and you can appreciate the beauty of each independently of the other.

This is how I look at people as I walk around and talk with them.  I don't think to myself, "This person has an ego!  It needs to be destroyed!"  I appreciate people's egos.  I think to myself, "Ahhh.  This is how you've constructed yourself."  (Or, "This is how your social structure has constructed you.")  I marvel at how each construction is a little different, in an endless stream of creativity.  ("We are all of us greater artists than we realize," as Nietzsche said.)  Yes, these constructions may involve a certain amount of deception - even self-deception, but what of it?  (A deception that is deceiving the very same deception that there is a deception, when in reality there is no deception...?!)  Each artist borrows something from the artists that came before, but adds her own little variation.  I learn about the history of how egos have been constructed, how waves and fashions of styles of ego-construction spread out, very much like art history.  There is even a kind of dialectical historical development of ego construction, over many centuries.

The ability to appreciate egos is a core part of the cultivation of materialist aesthetics.  It is possible to have very good taste in appreciating egos.  Egos on the one hand can be beautiful; on the other hand they can be sublime.

The 60s and 70s have come and gone, and New Age cults aren't in the media as much as they once were.  But the liquefactionist ideology of egolessness lives on, in various forms: for instance, in academia, among deconstructionists and other post-modernists who vehemently oppose binary oppositions on the premise that every binary opposition privileges one side of the opposition.  These tasteless people, who make it a point of pride that they have lost all sense of taste, are forever opposed to the form of aesthetics known as materialism.

Then again, of course egos are not merely objects, to be aesthetically enjoyed.  They are people, to be respected and recognized and understood and defended and loved.

Still, there is a certain necessary element of fiction to a person.  When I meet a person - I mean, really meet them - I want to say to them, "Congratulations!  You have created a real character, a compelling character that I really care about, not merely a caricature, but someone with depth, and substance, a complex, three-dimensional human being."

*     *     *

Now I want to be clear here: I am not doubting that it is possible to be egoless.  In fact, I think at least 3 distinct states are possible (with quite a bit of subdivisions possible in each category, especially 2 and 3):

(1) the phenomenal experience of egolessness.  This would be the ecstatic experience that some people have, be they existential phenomenologists, spiritual adepts, people on drugs, or what have you.  Some people achieve this state through prayer, some through meditation, some by taking sufficient quantities of LSD in the right set and setting, and still others by suspending themselves by hooks from the ceiling.  This is what it feels like not to have an ego.  They can no longer perceive their own ego - though, it is quite likely that they still have one.  This can be a wonderful, transcendental, joyful, loving, blissful experience, and I wouldn't take it away from anyone.  It's fantastic.  You should try it, if you are personally psychologically strong and healthy enough to take it, and in a healthy, supportive community.  It usually doesn't last very long.

(2) actual extinction of the ego, not merely at the phenomenal level, but at unconscious levels, as well.  This, too, does not usually last very long, but it can be quite dangerous.  When the ego comes back, it may come in a more injured, broken, malfunctioning, defensive, secretive, often quite vindictive way.  It may not ever recover full healthy functioning.  Even if this is not the case, there will likely be scars that last a lifetime.  And in the meantime, the person may have been the victim, or the perpetrator, or both, of irresponsible behavior.

(3) permanent, or long-lasting, total ego destruction.  This can happen for a variety of reasons, is extremely dangerous, and to my mind amounts to a kind of brain damage.  The person becomes incapable of forming a coherent sense of self.  Depending on the case, the person might suffer from all kinds of horrible effects.  Think about what it would actually mean not to have a concept of self: when people spoke to you about you, you would not understand what this means, and so there would be a tremendous linguistic deficit.  If they asked you to do something, you would not understand that you were the person being addressed, and so would become completely literally irresponsible - you would not respond.  You would have no concept of your body in space, and thus might lose all but the most automatic motor function and control.  Simple activities like eating and going to the bathroom might require supervision and help.  Perhaps in extreme cases, the person would not only forget a concept of their body in space but might even lose any sense of position in time, and thus be forever lost in the eternal now.  Any kind of planning or productive activity would be impossible, and this might amount to something like a vegetative state.

Note that I say, regarding option (1), that you should try it if you are personally strong and healthy enough to take it, and in a healthy, supportive community. In other words, I am advocating care and moderation here.  The occasional, momentary experience of apparent egolessness can be relatively harmless, so long as we don't become addicted to it and fall fully into the abyss.  Also, of course, it is essential that we are among people that we trust when this happens, since a person experiencing the ecstasy of egolessness is extremely vulnerable and susceptible.  Another way of putting this is - however paradoxical it may sound - you can indulge in the feeling of egolessness only if your ego is strong and healthy.

But, you may ask, how can I know in advance whether my ego will be able to take it?  Well, you're right - you can't, really.  So my advice would be to err on the side of caution, and if you are having any misgivings about what the effects of egolessness would be, don't try it.


Before we jump to the conclusion that we should annihilate our own egos, let's pause and think about why we have egos in the first place.   In fact, even before that, we should just take a moment to marvel in astonishment at egos, at what they are, and the very fact that we are capable of having them.

Egos are a great achievement.

Liquefactionists like to belittle the ego, as though it were something simple, base, and childish - something to be transcended as soon as possible.

The truth is that no one knows what an ego is (though of course many people claim to know).  It is in fact one of the profoundest mysteries we have yet discovered.

Though it seems fairly straightforward to say that our minds construct egos, it is not at all clear how our minds construct them, or out of what they are constructed.

Thus we are in the paradoxical situation that, on the one hand, we construct egos, while on the other hand, we do not know how to construct an ego.  We know not what we do.  Consider this: no one knows how to install an ego into a computer.  We don't know how to program any device to have an ego.  No piece of hardware or software has any kind of self-concept, and we don't even really know what it would mean for such a thing to have one.  Though an ego may, at first blush, appear to be something simple and obvious, when one actually confronts the problem of how to construct one, it immediately becomes fiendishly complex, if not utterly baffling.

The fact that living beings have developed the ability to have an ego should be a marvel no less than a nebula lightyears across.  In some ways, we understand how a nebula comes into existence better than we understand how an ego is formed.

Of all the planets around all the stars in all the galaxies in the universe, so far as we can tell, egos have only appeared on this one.  How and why?  And when?  What was the first organism to have an ego?  Did they originate in humans?  Or in the ape-like primate ancestors of humans?  Or in other mammals, or lizards, amphibians, fish?  Did Ikaria Wariootia have an ego?  What about a sponge?  Or a barnacle?  Or a fungus?  Or a plant?  Can single-celled organisms have egos?  What about viruses?  Or prions?  Or antibodies?  How about this: if a cell can have an ego, then does each of the cells in your body have its own ego, separate from your own?  The truth is, science has not yet progressed to a point where we have definitive answers to these questions.

But let me say what my hunch is, backed up by at least some evidence.  Now, I distinguish VERY sharply between consciousness and the ego.  These seem to me to be distinct, and essentially unrelated phenomena.  It seems perfectly possible, and indeed actual, as I have already indicated, that there are egoless forms of consciousness.  It also might be the case that there could be beings that had an ego but not consciousness - I don't have any evidence of this, but it seems possible (perhaps some form of artificial intelligence?).

Furthermore, I doubt that individual cells in our bodies have independent egos.  Similarly, I think that individual ants in an ant colony probably do not usually have independent egos.  They may have evolved from earlier organisms that did have something like an ego, but natural selection led to the development of a kind of "hive mind," a "swarm intelligence".  So it seems plausible to me that the ego did not go "ping!" and suddenly appear in the universe fully formed.  It's more likely there were organisms that were essentially egoless, and then from these evolved organisms that had something rudimentary that at least resembled an ego in certain ways, and from these, eventually, evolved beings with fully formed egos, and it's quite possible for evolution to work the other way as well, as in the case of ants, from something with more of an ego to something with less of an ego.  This is not a linear development from "lower" forms of life to "higher" forms of life; there is no goal, and nothing is "superior" to anything else.  Evolution simply selects the forms that are better adapted to a specific niche within a particular environment, as circumstances change.  This may go one direction for a few million years, and a completely different direction for the next.

So, this kind of reflection allows us to reframe the question - under what circumstances does it become evolutionarily advantageous for organisms to develop egos?

And this immediately plunges us into another series of considerations.  The answer to this question might seem self-evident, because people imagine "nature red in tooth and claw" - a kill-or-be-killed war of all against all, in which only the most brutally selfish survive.  But this is simply a misunderstanding.  In reality, the most fit species are those that adapt themselves most sustainably to their environment, which often involves a great deal of social cooperation.  Scientists refer to this as "prosocial" behavior, which can vary from very slight sociality all the way up to the "eusocial" behavior of animals like ants and bees.

Not only are egos an extraordinary achievement, they're also really expensive.  It takes millions of years of evolution to develop one, and a great deal of energy to keep it going.  Brains in general use up an enormous amount of energy - far, far more than any other organ of the body.  And here the liquefactionists are partly right: it seems like using up the brain's processing power on ego-concerns is an enormous waste of energy - not to mention causing us stress, anxiety, and suffering.  So why do we do it?  You can certainly see the appeal of the liquefactionists here.  Wouldn't it be easier to slip into egolessness?  Wouldn't this blissful ease allow us to become more efficient and more productive, as well as happier?  So why are we stuck with these egos making us miserable all the time?  It's not a trivial question.

And I don't claim to completely have all the answers.  In fact, I savor this delicious mystery.

But there are many clues.  For decades, scientists have been studying animals' "theory of mind" - the capacity to attribute mental states to others.  Thousands of ingenious experiments have been carried out to test this.  One famous experiment, performed since the 1970s, is the mirror test, which has many variations.  One of them goes like this: an experimenter puts a little bit of lipstick, or some brightly colored mark, on the face of the animal.  Then the experimenter puts the animal in front of the mirror.  When the animal sees the lipstick, do they recognize that the stuff is on their own face, and try to wipe it off?  Or do they think of the animal in the reflection as someone else, unrelated to them?  Many birds fail the mirror test - they seem to regard the bird in the reflection as another bird, and may attack it.  But some apes, dolphins, and the Eurasian magpie pass the mirror test with flying colors, and elephants seem to be right on the border - experiments so far are inconclusive.  Dogs were thought until recently to fail the mirror test and thus some scientists too hastily concluded that they had no self-concept.  But more recent experiments, though preliminary, seem to indicate that dogs do indeed employ a self-concept, but one that is less narrowly focused on vision and which seems to operate at least partly through smell.

A remarkable, quite different group of experiments was performed recently: ravens, of the species corvus corax, were shown to behave differently if they were being watched by other ravens, (usually by hiding and protecting their store of food) and thus seem to have some awareness of the perceptions of other ravens.  (Click here to learn more.)

But the most remarkable experiments have been done with primates.  Just last September, Christopher Krupenye, a researcher studying with famed primatologist Frans de Waal and working together with Josep Call and others released a remarkable study that showed chimps and bonobos attributing false beliefs to each other - searching for food under boxes because they had witnessed other primates mistakenly looking in the wrong place, after they themselves had made a similar error.  In other words, they were testing apes' ability not only to figure out which box a piece of food was in, but strategically to figure out something about another ape, along the lines of "He thinks it's in this box."

I don't mean, in any way, to imply that there are "higher" forms of animals, which have egos, and "lower" forms of animals, which don't.  I certainly don't mean to imply that having an ego is a matter of having high intelligence, that complex intelligent animals will have them and lower-intelligence animals will not.  If anything, all I am saying is that it is likely that there are certain forms of social organization that make egos useful, and certain other forms that make ego-formation unnecessary, and natural selection may eventually adapt species to whatever circumstances they confront.

Let's compare this to something that is a bit easier to wrap our heads around it: markings.  Some social animals, like a dazzle of wild zebras (yes, that's what you call a herd of zebras: a dazzle) have markings that allow them to blend in together so that a predator will have difficulty making out any specific individual zebra, so that the dazzle just looks like a one giant mass of living flesh, too big to take on alone.  Other animals, like cats, have quite distinct patterns of colors on their fur, so that one can recognize a specific individual quite easily (though not always).

Neither of these is "higher" than the other; they are simply two different evolutionary strategies for survival, for two different species with two different circumstances.  A lot of social animals probably fall somewhere in the middle: they resemble each other to other species - predators, prey, or species in competition for the same resources.  But among themselves, they can make out subtle differences and identify each other individually.  Humans are a lot like this - think about two people you know who both have, say, brown eyes and dark brown hair, are approximately the same height, weight, skin color, facial hair, etc.... and yet you can tell them apart instantly, without even thinking about it - even if you cannot quite put the differences between their faces into words.  Notice that this usually involves the face; you would probably be hard pressed to identify each of your friends' elbows.  This is an aspect of the form of social organization that has so far worked fairly well for humans - one in which we can keep track of each other as individuals.  Through evolution, we have developed a certain set of skills, such as facial recognition, which is governed by the FFA, or fusiform facial area, in the inferior temporal cortex of the fusiform gyrus in our brains, and these skills allow us to interact according to certain patterns of behavior.  (Note: when I say this has "so far worked fairly well for humans" I only mean that we haven't yet gone extinct, the way 99% of species do.  Of course it's a horrible mess.)

In fact, humans excel at keeping track of each other.  Evolutionary psychologist and anthropologist Robin Dunbar of the University of Oxford believes that our capacity to gossip is one of the main evolutionary advantages that made human beings what we are.  He thinks we can keep track of a certain number (Dunbar's number) of people in our heads, keeping a little mental space for each of them.  Our ability not only to keep track of individuals but their perceptions of each other and their perceptions of each others' perceptions allows us to instantly make and understand sentences like "Tara thinks Bob is lying to Ashante about where he was that night, but I think Ashante knows about him and Carol" which actually contain a dizzying amount of information and demand an enormous amount of interpretive work and background assumptions.  Our ability to do this is in no small part responsible for our ability to build the kind of social organization that brought about civilization and all of human progress.

Frans De Waal has written in his book "Chimpanzee Politics" about "Machiavellian intelligence" - the ability to keep track of other chimps, what they're like, what they want, how they perceive social situations - as a necessary skill in working one's way up the social hierarchy of chimp society.  That makes it sound very nasty and brutal, and it can be, but it is also the basis for that super-power that we animals have gradually developed, through the course of evolution: namely, empathy.  We want to understand each other, to know how we tick.

So where does the ego come in?  When people (whether human or pre-human) start doing this reflectively, to themselves - when you learn to maintain a little spot in our heads for yourself, just like you do for each of the other individuals in your tribe - i.e., when we learn to keep track of ourselves.  Of course for animals with social organization similar to humans, this also means, to one degree or another, keeping track of how others perceive me, and how they perceive me perceiving them - and so on.

In other words, the ego is an act of self-empathy.  Just as someone might look at another person and attempt to perceive, through pattern-recognition, mirroring, imprinting, cultural cues, imagination and, let's face it, a little guesswork, what that other person is thinking and feeling and perceiving and experiencing - in much the same way, you are doing the very same thing to yourself.  Your brain is trying to figure out what is going on in your brain, and thus creating a model of itself.  In effect, you are trying to solve problems that could be phrased this way: "What would it feel like to be in the situation that I am in right now?" "What must I be feeling?" "Who am I, that I would be acting this way?"

To illustrate this, think of Stuart Valins's famous psychological experiment from 1966, in which he showed young men images of women from Playboy magazine, while they wore headphones, after sticking a microphone-connected stethoscope to their chests and telling them that they would hear their heart beating through these headphones.  When shown certain photographs, the heartrate would speed up, and afterwards he and his colleague would interview the subject of the experiment, who quite often would tell them that they felt especially sexually attracted to the images of the women they saw when their heartrate was highest.  But this experiment involved a trick, namely that the sound of the heartbeat they heard through the headphones was not their own, and the heart in the recording would speed up at a randomized photograph.  Even after the trick was revealed, the subjects of the experiment would often insist that their feelings of desire were real.  This most intimate ownmost experience, the experience of desire, it turns out, is something that we rationalize and construct in retrospect.

I am a story I tell to myself about myself to explain myself to me - and I don't exist apart from this story.  If the narrative broke down, I would be reduced to a bundle of incoherent and incompatible drives and habits, a terrifying multiplicity lacking any kind of cohesion.

Now of course, I am speaking somewhat metaphorically. When I say that the brain is asking questions about itself, or telling a story to itself about itself, I don't mean to imply that the ego is composed of nothing but language - or at least the kind of language that we humans use, involving pronouns and verb tenses.  I think the ego is a construction, but I am adamantly opposed to the notion that the ego is merely a linguistic construction.  The fact that some people think that the ego is made out of language is a symptom of a larger problem in contemporary philosophy, the linguistic turn.  I think it's likely that the ego, the self-concept, began to form in animals long before the development of these modern languages that humans speak.  (For evidence, simply take a look at a cat.  No one with eyes can deny that a cat has an ego.)  I merely mean that the ego is a form of self-representation, not that it's nothing but a word.

Which brings us back to the question: why?  Well, I've already hinted at what I think may be the answer: the ego is an adaptation to a certain form of social organization, which makes the ego both possible and necessary.  I don't think it's necessary to assume that the ego has only one, profound, singular purpose - if there are a handful of side-effects to having an ego that make it in any way easier for a species to survive, then that is enough for nature to select for it.  In fact I think that egos probably can be helpful in several different ways.  For one, it can help in establishing and reasoning about fairness, and working on the free rider problem.  If people constantly default to altruism, they may become doormats who are mistreated by others - perhaps even just unconsciously and inadvertently.  For another, perhaps even more important, an ego can work as a locus of responsibility.  When there is a problem to be worked on, a healthy ego enables a person to stand up, raise their hand, and say, "I will!" Since an ego is a self-concept, to assume that lacking an ego would make you a better person is to assume that not conceptualizing something is better than conceptualizing it - i.e., that thought is forbidden.  And yes, it's true that we may become so fixated in our thoughts that they become obstacles to us and we may need an occassional "reboot".  But it's not clear how complete thoughtlessness is helpful to anyone.

"Egoism" has a very strong negative connotation in our society, and I'd like to rehabilitate it, so that people can look at it more dispassionately and neutrally.  I'd like to do the same for words like "selfishness" and "greed".  But don't confuse the argument I am making here for (for instance) Ayn Rand's nonsense.  Ayn Rand was a propagandist for capitalism.  I am a ruthless critic of capitalism.  To me, praising the ego is perfectly compatible with radical left wing politics.  In fact, nothing is more antagonistic towards the growth of a healthy ego than capitalism. I will write more, in the future, about these political and economic considerations.

For now, I'll say this much: the problem with capitalism is not greed.  People should be greedier.  If the working classes were greedier, they would work together to overthrow those who oppress them and keep them deprived.  But they have been trained to selflessly allow themselves to be oppressed.

Furthermore, my critique of capitalism is not a moral critique.  It's not that capitalism is evil.  Capitalism has done a great deal of good.  But capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction.  If it is allowed to develop, it will eventually destroy itself.  In any case, it cannot last.

*     *     *

You may feel anger when you consider the ego.  The emotion I feel is gratitude.  I am grateful to all of the egos I know personally, that I get to know them.  I am grateful to all of the egos in the world, that they exist, and thus at least potentially that I could know them - I'm grateful that there's something to know, someone to know.  It's quite possible that there could be no one out there.  But there is someone.  Many people, in fact. I'm grateful that a society exists, which makes it possible for me to have an ego.  In a certain sense, I am even grateful to myself for having formed my ego.

When I argue against the negative connotation that the ego has, I am not saying that the ego should be the be-all and end-all of everything.  I'm just saying that it could be the beginning of something.  I make no claim that the ego, fictive as it is, is the most perfect and invincible foundation upon which we can build higher and deeper meanings for human life, but it's literally better than nothing.


What to read next:

The Ego is Not Selfish Enough


How to Have a Healthy Ego

and also:

Be Pretentious!


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