Sunday, August 23, 2009
Something that has always been of interest is the ideas of some of the figureheads of spiritual philosophies (later adapted into religious figures long after their deaths as a means to exploit people's fears and to control them) as the rejection of the self. Not to be confused with individualism, selfhood finds itself as a concept in limbo between politics and religion/spirituality, not alone in this category I'm sure. To overly simplify thoughts behind this, I offer the following: politics (specifically American) = the American Dream, freedom, valuing the individual, you can be anything that you put your mind to, be all you can be and join the army (which seems oxymoronic), etc. ; religion (specifically Buddhism) = rejection of earthly desires, compassion towards others, voluntary suffering, etc. The choice of these two potential extremes is a deliberate one to emphasize a point and recognize that there are subtleties to both of these categories that is left out due to various reasons.
As is the case with most things, thoughts on this particular division between selfhood and non-self aspirations comes back to the middle ground. Finding a location between both of these extremes to effectualize the benefits from both mentalities without harnessing the negative potentialities that these extremes so readily offer. These extremes' negativities may include but are not limited too: selfhood = greed, violation of others in some way, etc.; non-self = neglect of personal physical and emotional necessities, infliction of self harm, etc. These extremes' positivities may include but are not limited to: selfhood = proper physical emotional maintenance, self confidence and acceptance of one's own proclivities, etc.; non-self = generosity, compassion, etc.
With this general background of thought regarding this string of ideas, the following may not be submitted: Where can we go with a conversation about the separation of the ego and the self? Since there is no such thing as altruism, are efforts put towards the erasure of any form of ego inherently fated to fail? Being captive in a body that is subjected to social scrutiny which contributes to the shaping of self scrutiny, the ego, so inseparably connected to the body and mind, can never be relinquished. What is wrong with an appropriate level of selfhood or ego? The social construction of reality and the self body image are so tightly linked to modern existence that the recognition of such can be used as a way to find the most helpful and healthy way to handle navigating through this world that he have constructed that we are maladapted to exist in.
As was mentioned in a comment of the first post on this blog called, "appreciation through acceptance", Tyler described the way in which people may journey through life as being the main characters in their own story. I rather like this description considering that we have adapted a narrative kind of expectation for most things, that is the occurrence of thing in a linear fashion. But more so because you can not separate out a character from the story, all context is lost. You can not separate out an ego from the carriage (body) which houses it, all context is lost. The spirit, soul, essence, life-force, whatever label one might be inclined to stick on it if comfort is brought within the use of such a label may be directed towards easier pastures: heaven, good karma, enlightenment, etc, if some so wishes to believe in such things. The way to direct efforts towards such righteous rewards is to take the middle ground, respect for oneself and one's surrounds and to act accordingly.
The spiritual philosophers were not selfless:
Buddha in his quest to attain enlightenment was trying to escape his own suffering. To focus on the suffering of the world (boiled down as sickness, old age and death) the first Avalokiteshvara (in Mahayana Buddhism, the name given to an enlightened being who has not died yet, still walking on the Earth, the first whose birth name was Siddhartha Gautama) while directing his meditative attention towards others used this as a way to ultimately alleviate his own suffering. Even just the thoughts of compassion may have fueled his small ego by making him happy or proud that he has decided to spend his time by being compassionate towards others. Then the voluntary suffering was some sort of self inflicted ritual of passage from sentience into non-sentience, if that is possible? Not allowing one's own hands to come into contact with money is one thing that can be seen as a noble symbolic act, that I personally agree with, do not practice but agree that it is noble. Begging for food, setting some sort of extreme example of selflessness by going door to door with your begging bowl, dependent on the generosity of others, spectacle-izing oneself seems ironically like feeding an ego somehow.
Jesus said, "Take this an eat of it. It is my body....Take of this an drink of it. It is my blood....". And the easy example of nonself in regards to Jesus is the cruxifiction but the negativities are inherent in the act. My sensibilities require me to note that more likely it was written that this was said or done about 300 years or so after the Last Supper occurred by a clever author formulating the most thoughtful rendition of a moment in time to most persuade people to adopt a train of thought to best control them.
I'm sure that the list goes on for both figures. My knowledge of Muhammad is limited (barely there really though I hope that to change) so if anyone has any thoughts on him in relation to this topic of self/nonself they are more than welcomed to comment.
Refer to the line chart found in the accompanied illustration of this post. This is an unusual line chart that only contains a horizontal axis which is finite and is "x" long. At the halfway point of "x" is the middle ground which acts in the above mentioned manner. The left of "1/2 x" = selfhood, the right = non-self. The further one travels in either direction the more extreme the disposition becomes. A visual to go with this middle ground way of thinking.