I’m trying to reconcile sine other blogs I’ve written into HD&HF. Previously I was writing a self-help blog that I liked but often felt too stuffy. Hopefully on HD&HF I can write more self-help posts without them taking over. You can see the original one here: http://wp.me/p4Aqyt-w.
This ego that lives within each and every single one of us truly is a son of a bitch. Its the thing that separates us from each other and the world. Its that naughty little voice that sits inside your had convincing itself that it exists, that it is different, and special.
I have particular strong issues with ego, especially in how it makes me treat others. It’s been the source of an odd intellectual superiority complex. While ego is an issue for everyone, mine had a well intended nurturing in my youth.
Growing up I was placed in “special” classes for “gifted” children. Repetitively it was hammered in our heads that our intelligence made us better than the “regular” children in the other classes. Everyday we would be removed from class, paraded in front of the other children, and taken away to our own special classroom, because we were too advanced to sit through the lessons that they did.
In the special classes we didn’t have to do normal lessons, we got to build super complex and creative mousetraps. We got to use the computers that none of the other kids had access to. We would do work play lessons where our answers were deemed “creative” or “non-creative”.
And let me tell you, that environment definitely made it seem like being smart made us better human beings. My ego couldn’t have asked for anything better. It latched onto this ideology with full gusto. It was an “observable” way that I was a very special human being.
The ego searches for ways to perch itself on a tower of lies. It insulates itself behind hubris and false self-assuredness. In the meantime, the world, truth, and acceptance all drift further away like a volcano pushing lava from its mouth.
For me, I tend to use knowledge and information as a perch of superiority. I maintain skepticism for everything I don’t know, while also basking in the righteousness of everything I do, using it as a club to beat people over the head with. It screams, “I am special, please notice how smart I am.”
I’ve alienate friends, loved ones, and even people I’ve just met because of this righteous attachment to knowing things. The irony is that I more than likely didn’t belong in the “special smart kid” classes. I struggled with the classes and information they taught. I was always in trouble, and was punished almost everyday. The teacher would usually sit me in the corner, making me play with clay, while all the other kids got to learn, and play the fun intellectual games (which I usually couldn’t keep up with anyway).
I remember one specific instance where my friends in the class were getting ready for intelligence games called “Odyssey of the Mind.” One of the qualifying games was the “creative” or “not creative” wordplay game. The question was “name all the different types of rooms you can.” I kept saying rooms of a house, and didn’t understand how I was supposed to answer. Eventually one friend leaned in and said, “say mushroom,” because they wanted me on their team, even if I wouldn’t be a very strong teammate.
My attachment to my intelligence, which my ego has used as a self-definition, is just a way of coping with insecurity and my own inferiority over my own intelligence.
There probably is no single way to overcome these issues within oneself. The ultimate answer, of course, is to meditate, separate yourself from attachment to your mind, and try to become more compassionate.
Knowledge and intelligence is a tremendous way of separating yourself from others. Personally, I’ve been trying to be open to any perspective that anyone may have, and not making snap decisions of skepticism or blind acceptance.
This does not mean becoming a receiver of all perspectives. In Buddhism the first noble truth is that life is suffering (and therefore empty), and desire is the cause of that (the second noble truth). Plus, being totally open to everything all the time is completely unsustainable.
But on a more practical level, when interacting with others try holding a position of learning rather than knowing. Be modest in your beliefs and opinions, and be willing to give credence that no matter how difficult another person’s beliefs may be to accept, you fully acknowledge that to them it is gospel, and therefore hold a strong personal attachment to it.
And if someone is that willing to grab onto a belief there has to be some sort of relatively truth behind it, and bears finding out why.