Confession Mondays: Ego is an illusion

July 12, 2010

Last night I dreamt that I was imprisoned in a dying world whose only news stories recounted tales of impending doom.  When I woke up I thought, wait a second; something sounds familiar!?  I was still angry with L for her doomsday post. I held her accountable for the way I reacted to it. Should I have? I’m not sure.

Quick background: A Facebook friend of mine posted an article from a not-so-reputable online magazine stating that the world would blow up in six months. I had just woken up, decided to click the link, read the article and I was henceforth depressed for hours, until D calmed me down by putting things into perspective. But I was truly pissed off that anyone would post such a miserable, gratuitous article, especially after it made them so depressed. Why do that? You’re in pain and suffering and so wish it upon others?

The egocentrism of the world is that people believe they can express themselves any way they want. They claim their “voice” and whatever else comes out of them is art. Part of the process of self discovery and sharing. And while that’s true for the young (“Wow! Look that at that big turd I just dropped in the toilet!”), adults should be able to decipher the difference between crap and true creation. The deeper, more penetrating aspect of art is not the art for art’s sake, but the influence it has on others and the consequences it causes.

Some forms of RAP music, horror films, gratuitous violence in movies, violent porn, glamorizing serial killers, etc. These things don’t just expose the ugly side of life so as to incite change or to educate for the purpose of better understanding. These things are self-serving, degenerate expressions of the human psyche whose creators do not take into consideration how their art may negatively affect others.

I’m all for “finding” your voice and creating all forms of art–good, bad, hard to look at etc. But I believe people need to respect the fact that Voice is a powerful tool capable of influence. One voice has the power to give joy or take it away. Finding your voice and expressing yourself for expression’s sake is one thing. Reigning in that voice, taking responsibility for it and knowing how to use it is a far greater talent.

So I told L yesterday two things:

Share joy not misery. The propagation of “doomsday” literature is rather pointless. I can understand when people post ugly, depressing news about stuff we have control over and can change. Scary news that serves as a wake up call to take action. But the stuff we don’t have control over? Why bother posting it? The only purpose it serves is to depress, scare and hurt others, especially those more easily influenced by their emotions.

She didn’t appreciate that. She responded with:

I am…sorry for being so frank – but within certain OBVIOUS limitations, (things which we agree not to share and discuss as a society, for the protection of others) I am striving to find my own voice and will be the one who controls what I say and what I don’t.

To which I replied:

We all have enormous power when it comes to influencing others by what we choose to post. It is a challenge to you and others…if you had a choice to make people laugh today or feel miserable, which would you choose? We are not just floating bodies, disconnected from each other, able to do and say as we please without it affecting others. Sure you can say anything you want! Freedom of speech. But we are all connected. Your actions affect us all.

Bottom line? If something depresses you, and there’s literally NO POINT in its message why pass that depressing news on and in turn be the creator of depression in others?

Am I completely off the mark here? The ego is an illusion. We are all connected. Why can’t people see that when a river dries up in Africa, a sunset dies in Florida?

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5 Responses to “Confession Mondays: Ego is an illusion”

  1. winnie Says:

    kind of makes you wonder why poeple write stories about depressing things I guess if you look at it this way. I’m pretty sure I read a story by yourself where a lady attacks another lady in a super-market… surely by the argument outlined above this was wrong, egotistical and gratuitoius to do so? Surely this is hypocrisy?

    Whilst I agree on a certain level, there a boundaries that when crossed mark a place from free expression into sordid degradation and serve no purpose. However I can’t help but feel that an article about the world ending in six months isn’t really within in this realm. why is it wrong that she posted it? why is it wrong that we hear things that depress us? You belieev we should only read and hear things that uplift us or otherwise? well that would rule out some of the greatest literature ever written, shame…

    I understand it got to you and that is of course valid, but I don’t understand how you therefore come to the conclusion that L acted in a manner that was wrong? The thing is your reaction is YOUR reaction. You can’t rid the world of things like this ( this is small fry lets face it) but you can work on yourself and stepping back when you feel yourself feel a certain way and work on controling it. I can’t help but feel this is what you should have been doing rather then censoring what other poeple post as a means to controling your emotions instead…..

  2. Daniel Says:

    Hi, it’s (British) Daniel. I think you raise a lot of interesting topics in this post–I had a response to the way you use the idea that ego is an illusion.

    My thought about “ego is an illusion” is that, if ego is illusion, shouldn’t that also guide your reaction to the “world blowing up” article? If ego is an illusion, and therefore something we should try to move beyond (I know I’m speaking broadly here), then I think it also implies that our hopes for this world are part of that ego, our desire to be happy is part of that ego, and our ability to get depressed because those needs can’t be met is, equally, part of that ego. To my understanding of Buddhist-ish thinking, a demand for art or facebook self-expression to be something better than it currently is is probably ego-related, especially if it not being the way you want it to be hurts.

    I agree that people should study and consume more and better art, and much of what it currently consumed is not good (tabloid magazines, for instance), but I imagine that if we could all get freer of our egos, our self-hoods, our needs, then art would become freer than it currently is, freer to depict good and bad, the way, say, that King Lear depicts horror and heroism, worldly ambition and humble life-transcendence all in the same play.

    Happy to ramble more if needed.

    Daniel

    • sevenperfumes Says:

      Love it. And I agree with you, British Daniel! 😉 But perhaps I misspoke when I said that “ego is illusion.” In one sense, the Buddhist idea of egolessness summons a world in which we consciously do or create conscienciously, with others in mind. I stopped smoking based on the fact that the air that I exhale, is the same that you inhale, and vice versa. I wanted to be more consciencious of the impact I had on others. In a sense, this is part of egolessness–feeling and thinking and acting as part of a larger group. But as with all Buddhist philosophy, egolessness is a paradox and like you said, to become freer of our egos we need to not be conscious of it. And yet, I think that’s irresponsible. Then again, I am a very moralistic thinker. The whole before a part. Does this make sense?

  3. sevenperfumes Says:

    Winnie–

    Not that I’m up for defending my writing (Fertility) which, in my opinion is a work of feminist literature which draws attention to a female’s obsessively and possibly socially induced need for children (whether it be right or wrong, depressing, funny or whatever, I believe it has a purpose and that purpose is to evoke change and discussion.)

    That being said, I think you missed my point. I said that there IS a place for expressing depressing, sad or violent art IF (key word “if”)it evokes CHANGE. POsting about the end of the world-especially when it is inevitable and nothing can be done about–doesn’t evoke anything but misery in my opinion. There’s a difference too in the way something is shared. L wasn’t sharing that story to open discussion. The story depressed her and she wanted to share the depressing article for no other reason but to “find her voice” and let everyone know what depressed her. I think that was a selfish move on her part. Plain and simple. We certainly have the freedom to express ourselves any way we choose, but a higher sense of self and the knowledge that we can influence others means that we are more selective regarding what we share. We have a responsibility to others, don’t you think? In the end, I tend to always ask myself, “what good might come of this?” or “Will I hurt someone if I post this?” Sometimes I choose to attack, but mostly I do not because I believe in the greater good of humanity.

  4. winnie Says:

    only just came back to this, have been in the french mountains!!
    In a way it feels like your talking about censorship. Dangerous ground. We do indeed have reasponsability to others, but sometimes that is subjective. What was awful for you may be liberating for other poeple. Different folks different strokes…Your story in your opinion ( and mine!) may be a brilliant insight into women and fertility etc to someone else it may gratuitous torture. It’s perspective. Whilst we’re all entitled to feel something about anything are we really able to decide whats good for someone else, what works for them? The greater good of humanity in many respects is completely subjective. I know what you mean about change, but perhaps this did evoke change for her, perhaps it made her value things in a way she didnt before. Perhaps it reminded her to let the little stuff go, perhaps it remenied her and others that life is fragile and therefore to be valued and how easy it is to forget that. We can never truly know what others are thinking, we can debate with them but to all out condemn them in a holier then thou manner I think is a mistake.


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