Lost in the Words

One of the biggest challenges of living in ego is that our vision is often blocked by our use of words. A project I’m working on right now is about trying to expose to people the many ways in which our cultures tend to routinely trade words in a strange and dishonest ways that are only acceptable when viewed through the lens of ego.

Some big, easy-to-understand examples of these lies are things like equating ‘winning’ with being ‘successful.’ But in reality ‘winning’ is simply the crossing of a line at a moment in time. But crossing it does nothing to guarantee any certain future.

There is almost no connection between the words ‘winning’ or ‘success,’ and positive feelings, if we study the matter closely. Gandhi and JFK were shot for winning the support of their people. Most lottery winners regret winning to a large degree. We can win a promotion and hate the job it gives us. We can succeed at dating someone, but then despise being in a relationship with them.

A telling example of how we miss out on happiness through our misuse of words, is the recent Canadian election. We have a parliamentary system with several parties (and a first past-the-post system for those that care about the details). Each politician obviously wants to ‘win,’ and the percentage of people who identify under each political banner also want to ‘win.’

Despite that, before the election, the polling was surprisingly uniform. Like many other democracies, the vast majority of people were upset with all politicians, including many from their own parties. They seemed far more focused on winning elections than on wise governance, and citizens of all stripes were clamouring for politicians who fought and disagreed less, and who thought about practicalities more.

But, thanks to the notion of ‘winning’ that egos routinely use, each politician and group went into the election hoping to win more seats in government than they previously had. Yet, in the end, they all ended up in the same place they were—which was that no one had power and they were forced to share it yet again.

Since ‘no party won,’ each party perceived the election as a ‘loss.’ They did not achieve their hoped-for, or expected, results. Each egotistically wanted either the victory of more seats, or the victory of having won outright. And so almost everyone was disappointed in the results, but only because of ego. If we could see clearly, the majority of us would have been happy.

Remember, before the election, everyone wanted the same thing: politicians that bickered less in petty ways, and who focused more on finding ways to cooperate on things they agreed on. Yet, in our minds, we told ourselves with our thinking that we wanted ‘our’ party to ‘win.’ Can you see the obvious contradiction there? Why would dominance foster cooperation?

What we really wanted was a government that cooperated more, and we elected a minority government that has absolutely no choice except to cooperate. Our egos may feel the impulse toward some kind of flag-waving version of victory. But if we stand back, and ask ourselves questions about what is really happening, we’ll find that in many cases we are often disappointed by having our own wishes come true, only because we expected them to be delivered to us in a different form.

peace. s