Your ego thinks it’s an individual. Your true self knows you are a point of view. Your ego sees itself as separate from everything. Raised in the shadow of Aristotle, you see everything as subject and object. So much so that even though you can intellectually understand that other people have the same emotions you do, you still persist in thinking that your experiences are unique failings of yours or the world around an individual you, and that it is impossible for anyone else to understand you or your situation.
Your spirit however takes everything far less personally. Why would a point of view care one way or the other? You are fundamentally simply a way of seeing things. Descartes’ I think therefore I am axiom in action. But way before Descartes, Aristotle had already accidentally screwed up your chances of being peaceful when he unwittingly helped create your ego when he separated you from the rest of the world with that whole subject and object concept. (The “water” we swim in.) Once you have separation then value judgments inevitably ensue. This of course leads to most of the bad things that humans do to each other and the rest of the planet.
But it’s not like the place that exists before those definitions and value judgments vanished. It’s still there. The Kingdom of Heaven is nigh, so to speak. Eckhart Tolle wrote a book about living there called The Power of Now. It’s entirely attainable. You’ve already been there. Every infant lives there. And anyone can go back at any moment, and most people go back and forth with whatever regularity matches their awareness. Conscious people are mostly now-ish and egos are focused on futures or on histories.
Yes, you have this physical body. But not much of it is even yours. Cell wise you’re outnumbered by the creatures that live on and in you by an incredible 10 to 1. That’s 10 of them to 1 of you. 60% of your bodyweight is the creatures that allow you do everything from digest your food to clean your eyes when you sleep.
So “you” (unbeknownst to you) was never as much you as you thought. You’re more like the driver of a planet of cooperating creatures. Let too many of them die and your whole spaceship goes. Just ask someone with Crohn’s Disease if the creatures that comprise your gut are important to your healthy survival.They know what it’s like to suffer that imbalance. This is why you’re supposed to be careful with antibiotics. They don’t just kill the bug, they kill part of you too. It’s like micro-chemo.
Okay, so you’re mostly a bag filled with cooperating cells and you can think. You can take I think therefore I am more than one way. For instance, it can mean: Because I am able to pose this question I know that I am some sort of entity which can do this. Or it can mean: I am the way I think I am. In the latter case, that is another way of saying God created man his own image. God makes man free. So man (and obviously women) are free to create any image of themselves to portray. Even insecure or angry or unhappy ones.
Your thinking emerges from the living of your life. Your experiences, culture, society, fellow citizens, friends, relatives and family will all shape your beliefs. Grow up in a family of photographers and you’ll all cherish your brand new state-of-the-art cameras. And yet you might die of thirst in the tropics. Meanwhile a native who lives in the tropics might easily and happily destroy the cameras by smashing them repeatedly into coconut shell to get the liquid out. So was it a camera or was it a rock? It was both because after-now ego realities are always separate.
The value of anything is context dependent and value dependent and you construct both with your thinking. An example would be if I walked you to the Canada US border and then I blindfolded you, walked you in circles and then took the blindfold off–without any of the markings you had been taught, you would have no idea which country you would be in because a border and a country are ideas, not things. You can’t feel Canada or the US. You can only feel your thoughts about them.
So you can easily see how two people can have a war over seeing one place under two different names. When people were Yugoslavians they got along. Then a few people suggested that now they had different names (like you can’t have more than one) and suddenly average citizens were killing people they had been friends with. What changed from seeing someone as a friend to someone worthy of immediate death at your hand? Perspective. Point of view. Who you thought you were. But the separateness is always in the thoughts and not in the people.
Respect all the creatures that make up you. And respect all the other creatures that make up the rest of the world and your society. No one can be wrong when all there is in the end is perspective, because perspective can always change. People very often end up believing very different things at death than they did when they were young.
Spend the rest of the day trying to catch yourself enacting your point of view. It’s a very healthy exercise and it will keep you away from ego. But don’t get upset if you do find yourself in ego. Just recognizing that your separation is your creation is all you have to do. The rest is your nature.
Have an absolutely wonderful day.
Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.