The ego is a part of us that loves power. It is a part that loves to be seen, recognised, praised and adored.”
(Yasmin Mogahed: Reclaim your heart).
I fall prey to this syndrome more often than I’d like. When I put up a picture or a post on social media, I wait for compliments acknowledgement and recognition. I ask myself is this currency of self-worth real or utterly false and transient? The answer is obvious, but the question it raises is more profound. What is the real currency for a meaningful existence. From childhood we’re taught to be pleased with praise and acknowledgement from our parents, our teachers, our peers. Winning and achieving and receiving recognition therefore is ingrained in us and continues to filter our experiences. Hence, we end up constantly pursuing appreciation, acknowledgement and respect from people as a means of self-validation. Following our fears and desires in a feeble attempt to feel worthy cannot lead to anything but emptiness. Many have tried pursuing material wealth, power and status but still return to an emptiness or an insatiable desire for more, never quite reaching the point of ‘enough’. Others find a worthy cause to pursue and become despondent when they fail to change the world. A better currency, but still not real currency, for its value is diminished at the end of the game. All these pursuits lead to an emptiness and fails to quell the inner yearning. Perhaps a yearning for love, respect, fulfilment, the meaning of life, life purpose, whatever you want to call it. The yearning springs not from the heart or the head or the ego. The yearning springs from the soul. The yearning to return to its true nature and true love. The world and its false and temporary attractions distracts the soul from its true pursuit. The pursuit of the divine. So that even when we seek to do good in this world without true divine purpose, those pursuits fail to fulfil us as human beings. How then do we conquer the ego and submit to our true divine nature?
Self-gratification, whether it be the pursuit of baser desires to boost the ego or a less base desire to make a difference in the world, if that desire is based on the need to make oneself feel better, then it will ultimately lead to disappointment, despondency and emptiness. It may also induce some to look for more temporary relief from the emptiness. This sometimes takes the form of drugs, stimulants or other distractions subtler in nature, but which are intended to make one feel marginally better about the world. This includes, shopping, food addiction, gym addiction, not that keeping healthy is not good, but an excess thereof as with all excesses, may be a surrogate for the loneliness or emptiness that false pursuits will bring. These distractions so to speak are attachments. Attachments to the world and its dazzling but transient charms. What is it that the soul seeks then? The answer lies not in worldly attractions, but rather divine ones. To me, the divine attraction has always been earning the love of my Creator. I have been spending the better part of my life thus far, trying to discover what that is. Many questions have surfaced for me. We live on the earth. why does its attractions not fulfil or satisfy? Why should we not have the nice things the world has to offer? Why can’t I do something meaningful to end poverty and pathos?
I realised that these were the wrong questions. I had to go to a more fundamental question – why have I been put on this earth? Not only am I here, but I am here with billions of other people who share the space and who have similar needs to me. There is no doubt that I am a Gnostic and that all my thoughts are centred around that one certainty for me. Everything for me therefore must relate back to the Centre, the Source, the beginning, the end, The Creator. We have a common thread in all religious teachings (irrespective of the source) that there is a code of conduct. I am not referring to the various rituals of prayer or dress. I am referring to the profound code of how to interact with each other. The common ethos is one of kindness, compassion and assistance. This relates to codes on greeting, giving charity, assisting, and forgiveness. These are all modes of service. Service to human beings. Perhaps one of the core purposes for our existence here, is to be of service to human beings. That service, without a higher purpose however is insufficient. The service must be as part of the ultimate service to the Creator. For our souls are unto the source, the Creator. Its natural gravitation pulls the human in that direction and the attractions of the world pull us in the opposite. The key than must be in balancing one’s existence. How do we detach ourselves sufficiently from false distractions and move our souls towards return to its divine origin in a way that still allows us to live and participate and enjoy the fruits of the world?