Yesterday Walker left a comment on a recent post that included an insult:
Your valiant attempts to encourage Brian to examine his own comments is wasted, he is blinded by his own enormous ego.
Well, let's say attempted insult.
Because I responded by telling Walker that we must be ego-brothers. After all, what would make someone say that another person has an enormous ego except...ego?
So we must be talking degrees of enormity here.
Now, with another male organ it's a compliment to be told, "You've got a big one!" But with the ego, smaller usually is considered better-- especially by religions.
Buddhism and other Eastern faiths urge us toward ego-loss. Christianity preaches humility, turning the other cheek, and bowing down before God. Which leads me to wonder:
Why would it be an insult to tell a guy who runs a Church of the Churchless blog that he has an enormous ego? My motivation for wanting a tiny ego certainly wouldn't be religious.
And it goes without saying that anyone who has a blog isn't lacking inventory in the Ego Department. (You've got to believe that the world is dying to know that your cat just had kittens, four black and one calico!)
Here's a bigger problem with Walker's comment. I've got no idea how big my ego is. In fact, I don't even know if it exists. Where the hell is it?
Tell me, then maybe I could measure it. "Ego" is an abstraction, not all that other-worldly than "God." Nobody has ever seen an ego. Just like God.
Of course, something can exist and not be visible. Quarks, for example. However, their effects can be seen.
So tell me what "Ego" is supposed to do, how it has an effect in the world, and then maybe I could figure out a way to measure how large mine is compared to the average.
It might turn out, though, that ego ends up being both (1) an illusive concept, and (2) more positive than everyday speech and ego-hating religions make it out to be.
Meaning, actions associated with "ego" could be so intertwined with the ability to get things done in the world that "You've got a big ego!" could be viewed as almost synonymous with You're effective.
But I don't know for sure. That shows I'm pretty humble, doesn't it? Countering this indication of humility, however, is my desire to show off my knowledge of Sartre's "Being and Nothingness."
It's 811 pages long! I bet my philosophical book is more enormous than yours!
Here's a passage from the translator's introduction I came across this morning that seems to support my position on ego -- which is why I'm quoting it, naturally. ("Being-in-itself" basically is unconscious existence, while "Being-for-itself" is what conscious creatures like you and I are.)
The divergency becomes more still more apparent if we compare Sartre's view with that of certain Eastern philosophies which identify desire with suffering and advocate the total annihilation of desire as a means of salvation. Here there are two important disagreements.
In the first place, with Sartre, to destroy all desire would be to destroy the For-itself -- not in the nothingness of Nirvana but absolutely. A satisfied For-itself would no longer be a For-itself. The For-itself is desire; that is, it is the nihilating project toward a Being which it can never have or be but which as an end gives the For-itself its meaning.
In the second place, desire is not placed on the same level by Sartre and, for example, Buddhism. In the latter, desire is the quality of the lesser personalized Self which must be destroyed if one is to realize one's greater non-personal potentialities.
But with Sartre, desire in its most fundamental sense belongs not to the psyche but to the non-personal consciousness. Only the derived specific desires are determined and evaluated in terms of the Ego, which, we may recall, is itself an object of consciousness.
Here again we find that the goal of Buddhism is part of Sartre's human data. Guilt for Buddhism lies in the specific desires of the personal self; guilt for Sartre is cherishing the illusion of possessing an absolute Self.
On a lighter note...
I love how Twitter feeds, a.k.a. Tweets, sometimes combine randomly to produce existential meaning when I turn on my iPhone and check what Twitterers I follow have been Tweeting about.
Here's a photo of what I saw this morning. (click to enlarge) Per usual, I find Bob Tzu's Tweets the most profound, in their non-profundity.
The main message I got from my iPhone, though, is how I wasn't able to use my iPhone's camera to take a photo of itself. That irritated me, because it's tougher to get images from my Sony camera into my laptop.
Why couldn't I point my iPhone at itself and capture an image of it? Hmmmm. When I figure that out I'll be ready to measure my ego, I guess.