“That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion (ego), trying to keep up with you, and I don’t know if I can do it”
From R.E.M. Losing my Religion
By nature, it seems that ego drives us, makes us who we are, enabling us to achieve. But I also find that ego gets in the way, forces us to view others through our own rose colored glasses, expecting things to be a certain way, when we inherently know that they can’t or should not .
One might think that having lived in India, and now in Nepal, would lead me to look at things differently. On many days, this is the case, as I do have more patience and understanding for different ways of living and being. But in many moments I revert back to my, “don’t let me fool you by my laid back California upbringing”, type A personality.
It isn’t easy being a human being, as we tend to want things done “our way”, as if somehow we know the way. The reality however is very different, as witnessed by the very confused state of the world. This didn’t happen by chance. One can see investment in one’s ego in many people, especially world leaders as how they try to exert their power over citizens, or make it known that their country is now the “big guy on the block”. The rhetoric, the “my guns are bigger than yours”, the movement of weapons threatening others, is all something that is quite frightening and screams out, “we will show you”.
Growing up with my parents and two sisters in a Jewish household in America , there always seemed to be a need for acknowledgement, to be well educated and achieve in the classroom or at home, the need to have stuff, the need to have a professional job, or trying to keep up with others, more in a material sense than anything else. I do feel privileged to have grown up in the US and I would never trade this upbringing, but when I think about how much of the world’s resources Americans use, I wonder what this is truly about. When I witness how others also admire or want to live this lifestyle I feel that it is a path which only leads to the earth’s further destruction. But I don’t want to be selfish and deny others, because I’ve had this experience. On the other hand, I also feel that many might hate me or totally dismiss this lifestyle because they know “the way”.
My life has gone in the opposite direction, living on a volunteer’s allowance, in which I’m comfortable, but where I would be in dire poverty in the US. While I might marvel at gigantic homes and the amount of stuff within these homes, I wonder why this type of status is necessary, especially given the fact that I can peer out my window from my flat in Sanepa Chowk and see people living in one room “shacks” with no amenities.
Given this environment, the need as a human being to want more resources for ourselves and our families, selflessness, doesn’t seem to be part of our core fabric. Yes, maybe in some, the saints of the world, people such as Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., those living in monasteries/nunneries, those who dress and eat the same food and don’t have stuff.
I think a lot about my son, who is living as a postulant in a monastery in California as a devotee of Paramahansa Yogananda. Whenever I speak with him, which is maybe once every six weeks or I’m able to see him, once or twice a year, he always seems beyond happy. As if somehow, he has transcended ego and is leaning towards selflessness. He doesn’t spend time on the internet and at this point in his training, is somewhat restricted in his outside dealings primarily spending his time in service.
Although my life is devoted to interacting with the outside world, to networking, planting seeds and trying to make things happen, I also feel that service is key. However I question whether I can be selfless, not needing recognition, doing “good” things without letting others know while not thinking further about this, and living without expectations from others. Given the constant bombardment of wanting/needing to achieve, seeing what others are doing and the inequities in life, which really drives me, this isn’t easy. By keeping the image of my son in my mind and his chosen path, somehow I feel that I have a chance. I think that it all comes down to thinking less and less about this and letting the thoughts of recognition pass without dwelling on them
I wonder how different the world might be if we all could be a bit more selfless and really appreciative of others and their lives. But maybe this is totally opposite to the human condition. Possibly, if we all try to be a bit kinder, more empathetic and less ego driven, the world would presumably be a better place, not only for ourselves, our families and friends but for anyone born and fortunate enough to spend time here.