I read a few books by Eckhart Tolle a while back suggesting that humankind's greatest downfall is our ego. He is stunningly eloquent in his arguments, and when I finished reading "The Power of Now", and "A New Earth", I was convinced that man should be rid of this evil device once and for all.
In Frued's dated view, he defined the ego as a regulator between the Id and the superego, a place between our desires for immediate gratification and our need for higher purpose, that lay partially in the conscious, preconscious, and also partially in the subconscious. Confused? I was too when I learned about it in freshman Psych. The problem with Frued's definition is that it's very soft in nature. He works on more of a theoretical level of being, a mixture of philosophy and science that leaves you wondering(as a scientist) what proof he has comprised...
Tolle's idea of the ego is much different, and also more relavent for today's world. His ideas revolve around the idea that people become trapped in their own self-concepts, which are formed by life experiences. We can therefore never truly be happy, because we live our lives within strictly formed guidelines that have been erected even from our days as infants.
The ego, as Tolle explains, protects these self-concepts, allowing us to grasp what this world is, and how it should function., regardless how fleeting that hold actually is.
In order to reach enlightenment, one must be able to see beyond self-concepts,-this can accomplished by releasing the ego.(Tolle's explains a number of methods, many resembling meditations of Buddhist origin)
I really enjoyed reading Tolle, and still practice many of his lessons, as they have led me to a much more peaceful way of living. (look him up on youtube , listen to him speak, and you'll understand)
The thing I take issue with is this idea of the Ego. What he sees as utopia is a world in which no one practices self-concept, no one relies on their ego, and everyone lives in equality. In order for this to happen, we would all have to rid ourselves of self-concepts, therefore creating an ego-free world. The fact of the matter remains, everyone is currently living with an ego(save Tolle and a few select others), so we have two choices.
One is go Tolle's route, lived enlightened, be understood by few, feel peace and love every moment of life, or, deal with people as they are, and learn how to get along in the world that is.
Progressive thinkers like Tolle always inspire me to re-invent myself, and not care about what the world thinks, yet short of shacking up in a hut like Christopher McCandless from Into the Wild, I'm taking my chances with being a part of society, and keeping the enlightened side of me for more personal affairs.
I have experimented with expanding and shrinking my ego in public spaces, in other words increasing and descreasing my self-concept or the importance with which I value myself as opposed to others, and I have found that a balance is necessary to navagate social situations effectively. When an ego is allowed to fill a room, it is easily attacked through slander, social movements, etc., while having no ego nearly erases your existence from the present moment.
That balance is a great place to be, somewhere between world's biggest asshole and a nobody. A simple meditation and focus on the word "balance" will guide your mind to where it needs to go. Picture the word, and breathe deeply while staying attentive to people around you. You will soon find that any mindset will become true if you believe it. With this in mind, we can form the world around us using self-concepts and concepts of society as a tool to guide us all to peace rather than have them be a hinderence to our survival as a race.
All of this assumes people want the best not only for them, but also for others. A risk, yes. But one worth taking in my estimation.
I wish you all a very happy, healthy and joy-filled holiday season.
4 years ago