The ego is defined by its attachments, with which it identifies at any giving period. The more attachments an ego has and the more stuff it needs around it (money, decorative objects, life goals, skillsets, ideas, people), the more work the ego has to put in to maintain itself and its identity. Most egos are attached to money, whether they have it or not, because it is seen as a means towards preserving what they have and getting more of what they want. Anything that ego perceives might help them in this goal of survival at all costs is what the ego considers to be lovable, desirable, and worthy of its time. Everything else is a dire threat to that ego, or if not a threat, completely useless and uninteresting. The ego is above all else, utilitarian in nature. It justifies all actions – no matter how brutal – with utilitarian arguments: It was best for me. It is just business. This is for the good of everyone.
Egos are “being attached to” this or that job, friend, lover, circumstance, goal, or location. However, instead of using the word “attach”, the ego usually says, “I love this job” or “I love living here and would never leave”. In the egoic world, love is attachment; attachment is love. “I can’t live without you” is considered a confession of love; but it is simply attachment. This is why, as you raise your consciousness, you start to realize that ego is not capable of loving at all – it is only capable of finding strategies for survival via attachments, no matter what it takes.
The ego also expresses attachment through negativity and will often complain or think diminished thoughts about its attachments. Ego can do this with criticism (because they are wrong), the appearance of giving advice to friends or family (because they know they are wrong), helping others (because they are so wrong, they are begging for help). Ego likes to be needed and it creates more need by helping others become more dependent on it, whether they are close to those others or not. This is why many egos will complain about aspects of their life all day long but do nothing to solve the problem for themselves. And the reason they do this is because they aren’t interesting in anyone else but their own survival.
For what the ego is more attached to than anything else is the sense of “I”; it is the “I” that is even more precarious than the things to which it is attached (which is why it likes to become attached). And because the “I” is the most difficult thing to maintain, the ego must work really hard to maintain it. The problem however for the ego is that it doesn’t have much control over the attachments as it thinks, just as a rock has no control over which fish stay next to it and which fish leave it to find other rocks. And for ego, those who leave it and those who don’t are a very personal matter. It must learn how to manipulate those fish, attract the ones it wants to stay, and find strategies for getting rid of the others that are unneeded. The ego-life becomes of web of constant effort, attempt, and ultimate failure to manipulate what it perceives as its world, to dominate, seduce, and consume, all for its own advantage. It is a powerful question to ask: who is running that kind of ego-life; because, the more attachments the ego has, the more it is actually becoming the one who is ultimately entangled in and consumed by the very attachments it thought it controlled. This is why those who choose the attachments of the world over Source and Self, will be born again and again into another life with the same propensity for attachment, until they finally can no longer suffer the pain any longer and surrender the ego to Self. For example, if an ego is hungry for fame and attention from those around it, and it has given its life over to the desires of others, it will become consumed by those others. There are people whose identities have been torn into pieces in this manner, scattered all over the world, like a dismembered beast. It is very difficult to find the “true soul” of the person who has committed to this kind of “life”.
Until the day or life comes when the consciousness willfully surrenders ego and abandons its attachment-loves, it will always seek to remedy the pain of a precarious “I” that is consciousness wrapped up inside the ego-identity, no matter how fragmented. Ego will use love or attachment language in order to cling to its environment, like a barnacle to a sunken ship. Every ego is able to list reasons why it loves: I love this town because it is close to the sea, and I love the ocean. I love this person because they are kind and generous and give me peace and serenity. I am in pain because I love him. These stories of why, are simply reasons that convince the consciousness that it is in fact choosing love rightly or reasonably, and that its swan song expresses who “I” is in a way that is both entertaining and pleasing. This is why the ego enjoys love songs, and movies about love. The nature of the stories differs from individual to individual and are developed in order to convince the consciousness that the egoic form or persona is following the most pleasing virtues, such as being kind, being loving, or being open, or true. Some egos delight in being bad, cruel, or vengeful. Many delight in all of them, as they watch them play out on some Netflix show. They have no idea how fragmented their consciousness has become because they can no longer see the Whole in the first place.
Parable of the Little Waves
Imagine that all egoic stories are like the tiny little waves in the ocean that are illuminated by the sun as clouds still jockey to keep it to themselves, sometimes winning, and sometimes losing to that open sea of hungry little waves. These love stories believe that they are the surface of the ocean itself, essential to its shimmering, and so essential to its heart. The stories appear to move the ocean not only forward and backwards, and in any direction, but seems to reach up to the heavens, almost in defiance of its very essence as water and heavy salt.
But all of this lasts only within the span of seconds. All the waves that were there a moment ago, have already fallen, and have been replaced with new ones. And now for the waves who are newly born, the clouds have already captured the entirety of sun, and the surface of the sea grows too dark for happy story telling. Those new tiny waves who emerge, never know themselves as the shimmering light, and tell new stories about the lies of previous generations, and the sorrow and longing that overcomes their short life.
Notice how the ocean is completely ignored, as if it were just a platform for the seemingly more important tiny waves. These tiny waves are like the egos who surface in body and mind in the energetic ocean in which we all truly are. They see each other, and they feel a strange sickness as they see the ones before them fall into nothingness; this gives a sense of repulsion, a bad taste for the little waves themselves – a distinct and unavoidable self-loathing projected onto the entire swarm of little waves. There is no true love between them as little waves, because they, each one, come to be, and fall into nothingness, before anything can even be shared between them. Some, however, manage to notice that something isn’t right in the world, and believe that connection is needed, that if only the little waves would come together to make a great ocean; for in that way, they could live forever as one, like a John Lennon song.
But dreams of unity are also just songs of the little waves.
If you consider this parable, you may be able to catch a glimpse of how limited the ego is on all levels. Ego is always at odds with something in the world; it always believes people or things are not quite what they should be. But ego, like the little wave, is attached to its stories of itself and the world, to the little bits of light it feels; to the pride and ignorance it carries; to its complete ignorance of the wide ocean, and its false ideas of free-will and autonomy.
And the ego doesn’t realize that the very fear that propels it to survive and generate stories and egotistical meaning, is the gateway to its eternal life, that ocean where its backwards and its forwards always end. The annihilation of ego is the return to itself, its utter submergence into the great nothingness, the infinite mystery where one can feel, taste, hear, and see the life that teems through and throughout – as ONE energetic Whole. That Whole is the Source, the horizon where ego cannot tread and falsely believes is nothingness. It is the true Nirvana where even ego itself is seen as function of the process of returning to home and life.
It is important to remember what it is that the ego – all the egos together – fear most of all; namely, that they are not meant to survive as they think they are, but only as they already are. All the effort towards survival is vanity; and all energy is ultimately wasted. The consciousness of one’s own vanity and futility is the steppingstone to greater awareness. Be very careful not to take the way downward into shame and self-laceration for how the ego misleads you. Everyone begins as the little wave – for that is the game of life we are in. We begin as the lie, and we find the light to the truth because of it.