With or Without Ego?

by Christopher Lovejoy on October 14, 2012

Hello there, I have an ego and so do you.

If you still carry even the slightest sense of who you are and if you can still test your reality with questions, then, by definition, you have an ego.

That’s not an accusation; it’s merely a declaration.

Because I have an ego, I can view and treat myself as worthy of consideration at the very least.

That is to say, I have a sense of dignity that is worthy of entitlement.

Unless you’re someone I know and love, I’m not going to let you blow air into my ear, because if you do, I’m going to react with surprise, even if this means backing away and gazing at you quizzically.

As a conscious thinking subject, I am also aware of the importance of what I say and do. Not everything I say and do is important. Nor does it need to be.

In light of these observations, the ego is an invaluable part of me and I’m willing to believe that it’s an invaluable part of you, too.

Personally, I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

But wait … what’s this I hear about big egos, demanding egos, insufferable egos?

Where did they come from? What might they be compensating for?

Have you ever taken the brunt of those who pushed an overly high opinion of themselves?

I have, and it ain’t pretty (and not because I was tempted to raise my sights, take aim, and fire off a few choice words).

What do you suppose that’s about?


Ego good, ego bad. Can you feel the ambivalence? Can you sense the ambiguity of egoic pride?

At this juncture of our evolution, ego is not a simple and easy matter of “let’s get rid of ego and be done with it, shall we?” If it were, we could just as well say “let’s get rid of baby and bath water both”.

How heinous would that be?

Before I share what follows, I must confess that I am neither an Ascended Master of Life in the Heavenly Light of Unconditional Love and Kosmic Truth nor a mere sage of earthly wisdom.

Not even close.

And to be honest, even with an ego, I’m not entirely sure I would want to be either (at least not yet).

If I write as if I sound like either, it’s only because I’m in the process of pushing the limits of my patience through an ever-expanding capacity to release resistance to all manner of perceived inadequacy, difficulty, and challenge.

I sometimes like to fool myself into thinking that I can accept anything that happens, to graciously allow everything that happens to me and for me and with me, to adapt as and when I see fit without any hint of reactivity or resistance, but I know that this is just not so. I haven’t lived long enough in this dense manifest realm to make any such claims and have them be heard and accepted without question.

With these admissions, I remain committed to finding my place in this world with respect to that duality known as selflessness and selfishness, which figures prominently in my effortless efforts to cultivate my capacities and abilities to explore and create, express and expand, evolve and ascend without limits.

I’ve heard it said that sages live the ultimate paradox: by tapping into the Tao to give of themselves with savoir faire (say that with a french accent) with nary a thought for themselves, they invariably, inevitably, inexorably attract and manifest everything they need, as well as everything they’re capable of handling in the moment of their receiving.

By putting themselves last, they end up ahead of that process known as life. By putting others ahead of themselves, they endure and remain durable in their effortless efforts to give and receive.

All of this sounds so very lofty, but what about us mere mortals, the ones who are still mindful of those imperfections that are indications of what perfection might look and sound and feel like?

Is pure selflessness or egolessness really the way to go, be, have, and do?

Is this really and truly who I am in my most awakened, enlightened, evolved state of being?

Tao Te Ching, Verse 7

This verse offers an uncommon view of wisdom on giving and taking, loving and lasting …

Heaven is eternal –
the earth endures.
Why do heaven and earth
last forever?

They do not live
for themselves only.
This is the secret
of their durability.

For this reason,
the sage puts himself last
and so ends up ahead.
As a witness to life, he endures.

Serve the needs of others,
and all your needs will be fulfilled.
Through selfless action,
fulfillment is attained.

Ref: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

I was compelled to do some light copyediting to smooth out the kinks in this verse. Even so …

I sense that there are problems with this verse and/or with this translation of it, either because I’m not wise enough to appreciate it as written or because the translation does in fact contain problems.

My Impressions of the Verse

My overall impression of this verse is that it is either poorly conceived, poorly expressed, or poorly translated. Having said this, I’m still willing to work with what’s here to find the gems.

Before I pick this verse apart, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that it was written at a time when talking and walking were the main ways to communicate and get around in the world.

Wherever possible, I give both author and translator the benefit of the doubt …

Heaven is eternal –
the earth endures.
Why do heaven and earth
last forever?

From a linear perspective of time, this question makes no sense. Scientifically, we know that the earth will not last forever. When the sun expands in its Red Giant phase, the earth will be burnt to a crisp. In time, the crisp will disintegrate and its molecules will be dispersed into a soup of tiny particles.

As for heaven being eternal, perhaps yes, perhaps no. If we view heaven as the highest ethereal realm where the most advanced souls co-mingle, and if we assume the linear perspective of time is active in this realm (if only very slightly, where the passage of time is so slow that it’s not even noticeable), the possibility exists that it too will be subject to an extremely long, drawn-out process of entropy.

There is, however, a fifth dimensional perspective in which this question makes perfect sense.

Here it is: quite simply, everything that has happened, everything that happens, and everything that will happen, happens now. In my reading of the accounts of those who have gone to The Other Side, I hear them tell us that a sense of timelessness prevails in relation to their experience of time on earth.

Perhaps this timelessness is absolute; perhaps our sense of time is but a mirage – a tool for growth.

From a higher perspective, everything happens now. Another process is at work, namely that we are constantly shifting perspectives (in spite of ourselves) from one event to another simultaneously.

Persistent problems? Shifting perspectives. Gradual changes? Shifting perspectives. Indications of aging? Shifting perspectives.

What we know and see and hear and feel and learn happens now and only now. The apparent passage of time is in reality a shifting of frames that occurs spontaneously and simultaneously.

Before and after are mere illusions of the mind in this dense manifest realm.

We laugh (egoically, compensating) at the creatures in flatland when we touch it with our 3D fingers just as the gods laugh at us (egoically, regulating, as we inhabit space and time) when they touch our 4D world with their 5D fingers.

They do not live
for themselves only.
This is the secret
of their durability.

Heaven and earth do not live for themselves only: on its face, this statement seems nonsensical. Living for yourself implies having a will to power. Does heaven or earth have a will to power?

Substitute God for heaven and Gaia for earth and suddenly it begins to make sense.

As personifications of heaven and earth, God and Gaia do not live only for themselves. Certainly, they have wills of their own, but they’re also capable of giving without expecting anything in return.

In the vast order of things, perhaps this is the secret of their durability, of their ability to endure.

For this reason,
the sage puts himself last
and so ends up ahead.
As a witness to life, he endures.

As above, so below.

Sages are ever aware of their dependence on the many blessings of earth and heaven, on blessings both natural and divine, which is why they appear so passive and receptive in their relations.

Sages are all too aware of their places at the top of the karmic wheel of life, on the ever circulating, calculating, revolving, evolving possibilities of Samsara in relation to the promise of Nirvana.

Sages know they have only two fundamental alternatives from which to choose …

  1. occupy the negative polarity and walk the path of taking in service to self; or
  2. occupy the positive polarity and walk the path of giving in service to others

The first alternative involves viewing and treating others as characteristically weak, pathetic, contemptible, disgusting, shameful, and utterly unworthy of consideration or continuation, and by contrast, viewing and treating yourself as clearly and obviously superior, with no care or concern for anyone other than yourself.

Unless, of course, having such care or concern benefits yourself.

The second alternative involves viewing and treating yourself as worthy of love as and when it manifests naturally and divinely as patience, nurturance, kindness, acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion. The Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have others do unto you – flows from this worthiness.

Unless, of course, such flow suddenly finds itself blocked, manifesting as reactivity or resistance.

I’ll leave it to you to contemplate which alternative the sage prefers – and why.

Here’s a hint: the problem with following and listening to an unconsciously compensating ego is that you’re always caught up in the trap of always striving and never arriving, which of course never allows you to feel whole or complete or fulfilled.

Serve the needs of others,
and all your needs will be fulfilled.
Through selfless action,
fulfillment is attained.

I have a problem with this translation: in my experience, needs are satisfied, desires are fulfilled. When I serve the needs of others, I can rest assured that my own needs will (eventually) be satisfied.

Through selfless action, satisfaction is attained. What goes around comes around.

In other words, your inspired service is your enlightened security.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

In providing my interpretation of the final stanza of this verse, I find myself hanging by a thread where the nature, meaning, and realization of personal fulfillment are concerned.

I’ve come to realize that this verse has nothing (directly) to do with personal fulfillment – except when I realize that it has everything (indirectly) to do with personal fulfillment.

Another paradox.

With respect to need and desire, satisfaction and fulfillment, it all starts here, with this catchphrase: find a need, fill a need. Your personal fulfillment starts here, but it certainly doesn’t end there.

Find a need, fill a need: sounds deceptively simple and easy, doesn’t it?

Many remarkable stories have been told of people who find a need and fill it with their ingenuity and creativity, mostly through their time and effort, making boatloads of cash in the process.

All of which bodes well for the fulfillment of their desires.

If it were that simple, though, I could leave off here and get back to living my life.

However …

Remember what I wrote about sages having a fundamental choice about living?

I think this bears repeating …

Sages know they have only two fundamental alternatives from which to choose …

  1. occupy the negative polarity and walk the path of taking in service to self; or
  2. occupy the positive polarity and walk the path of giving in service to others

Before I go any further, we should be aware that the oft-used adjectives ‘light’ and ‘dark’ have broad application for describing character and conduct, personality and behavior.

On the dark side of ego, people are described as narcissistic and needy, self-absorbed and self-involved, jealous and critical, impatient and manipulative, arrogant and aggressive.

All of which require massive doses of entitlement or superiority for the compensating ego.

On the light side of ego, people are described as warm and caring, kind and gentle, patient and supportive, accepting and forgiving, nurturing and healing, loving and compassionate.

All of which require massive doses of humility and adaptability for the regulating ego.

At this point, I’m ready to personify the worst of dark and the best of light, but before I do, I’d like to make things interesting: I will now personify the light side of dark and the dark side of light …

The light side of dark …

She’s the ultimate egoist. She’s honest to a fault, her integrity is rock solid, and she’s so sharp, she can cut through anything that sounds remotely fake, false, or foul. She’s responsible for herself and herself only, neither sacrificing her interests to the interests of others nor vice versa. For her, service and compassion are incidental byproducts of her staunch commitment to reality and reason – to the reality of her own needs and desires and to the reasons why she needs and desires anything at all.

The dark side of light …

She’s the ultimate altruist. At every turn, with every opportunity, she lives to please and to serve the needs of others. She has renounced all desires in the service of meeting the needs of others. Indeed, she is so focused on meeting the needs of others that one might be taken to wonder whether she has any remaining capacity to meet any of her own needs. If she appears to be a doormat for others or an easy target of persecution, it’s only because she’s flexibly committed to being of service to others.

What might the worst of dark begin to look and sound and feel like?

She’s a blaming, praising, deceiving, conniving, manipulating, competitive, seductive bitch. Ultimately, she cares only about herself, and when it pleases her, she will care for you and have concern for you, but only if such care and concern suits her purposes and agendas. She is superficially charming and gracious with men that she appears to like in spite of the fact that she despises the male sex. Sadly, she can no longer care that her interests have been reduced to food, fashion, money, and sex.

Now what might the best of light begin to look and sound and feel like?

She’s a paragon of virtue in the service of soul and spirit, unity and harmony, grace and ease. She follows her inner guidance as and when she sees fit with an uncanny ability to maintain a finely honed balance between serving the needs of others and finding her own needs satisfied. With needs satisfied, she welcomes opportunities to explore desires beyond mere needs and to fulfill them happily, with a sense of freedom that lets her know in no uncertain terms that she is worthy of life, love, and light.

Now, what if we removed judgment from these forms of expression?

Let’s keep the characterizations of light and dark, but let us remove the normative terms of worst, worse, better, and best.

If a woman chooses to contain or express the energy of an egoist, a bitch, a doormat, a target, or an angel, either as a lifestyle choice or as a momentary containment or release of energy, then who am I to interfere? If I don’t wish to participate in the flow of her energy, I can always find it within myself to sidestep it or remove myself from her presence altogether.

Being aware of her energy, I can be aware of her character; being aware of her character, I can be at choice about whether to participate in either her energy or the character of that energy over time.

Sages occupy the positive polarity and walk the path of giving in service to others, not because they’re better than the rest of us, but because they’re wiser; they’ve “been there, done that”; they already know what it’s like to occupy the negative polarity and walk the path of taking in service to themselves. Through experience from many, many past lives, they know what it’s like to be a bastard and a bitch …

Serve the needs of others,
and all your needs will be fulfilled.
Through selfless action,
fulfillment is attained.

The satisfaction of need, however, is not (and never can be) the fulfillment of desire: serve the needs of others, and all your needs will be satisfied. Through selfless action, satisfaction is attained.

We live in a world much changed from the one that Lao Tzu inhabited.

Unfortunately, the world in which we inhabit today is schizophrenic beyond belief, one in which the needs of the majority are not being met and one in which the desires of a minority are more than they can handle.

From a global perspective, this state of affairs is pathetic all the more for having sociopathic consequences.

The sweet little bon mots, “it’s all good” and “we are one”, are all well and good, but they don’t, and they can’t, and they never will, hide the fact that we have failed miserably as a species, in no small part because of an inability to extract ourselves from the collective goo of love and light so that we can exercise our egos responsibly and effectively to be unique and creative individuals in our own right.

One consolation is this: be the change you wish to see as a confident, caring person with a strong and balanced ego to be as you are where you are and to be the best you can be to share the love and the light with anyone and everyone with whom you come into contact.

For this changing and wishing and seeing and caring and being and sharing to be consistent, however, a certain core of character is required that carries a certain commitment to finding and accepting and expressing unity and harmony from within.

In future posts (and in my life, going forward), I’ll be keeping my eye on that commitment while maintaining that all-important distinction between an ego that compensates unconsciously and an ego that both regulates effectively and compensates wisely.

In the meantime, I invite your ego to invite this simple yet powerful declaration into the heart of your soul: the vibe of receiving is calm, cool, gracious, and relaxed.

Feel the vibe: take a moment and feel it now.

Next up: Living Naturally


This post is one of many in an ongoing series that began here.

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