When examining ‘Ego’ in the context of humility, it might be easy to mistake it for that human trait that it is so often used to describe – arrogance. We all know what arrogance is. We’ve all encountered people behaving arrogantly, and, dare I say it, we’ve probably all behaved arrogantly ourselves at one point or another.
Arrogance is not usually considered a particularly attractive trait, and if the maxim ‘Ego, yet Humility’ is interpreted in this way, it might appear that we were encouraging arrogance.
I am approaching it here from the Alan Watts-esque understanding of ‘Ego’. The Ego as the concept of the individual self, separate and distinct from everyone else. Alan Watts believes that the Ego is something of an illusion, and this idea could be seen as a running theme of the Initiates Programme here. Our study material could probably be said to promote the idea of universal oneness. One of my favourite quotes illustrates this rather well, I feel:
“You are the universe, expressing itself as a human for a little while.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
But, in searching for understanding and clarity when examining this concept, it’s worth remembering that just because we may each be a manifestation the universe that doesn’t mean that we’re all the same. We’re each a unique manifestation of the universe. Perhaps the Ego in the sense that we are totally alone and separate from everyone and everything else might be a lie, but the Ego in the sense that we exist with innate difference to others may not be.
We all have different talents and gifts, interests, ideas and views. Whether you believe these differences to be a result of nature, nurture or a mixture of both, the fact is that we have them. It is not a crime to have strengths, nor to be aware of them. Simply knowing that you are good at something doesn’t make you arrogant or incapable of humility.
It ought to be quite hard to be arrogant about your strengths when you take the idea of oneness into account. Being good at something doesn’t make you superior to that person over there, it makes you the perfect complement to them and their strengths. Their areas of strength might be your areas of weakness…you balance each other out. We don’t have the mental or physical capacity to be good at everything or to think of everything. So perhaps you could say that it’s all shared out between us. You don’t have that particular strength or passion because you’re awesome – you have it because the universe is awesome, and you’re part of the universe. Our personal quirks go together like pieces of a puzzle to make up the whole spectrum of human experience.
(Although, that said, you might have worked very hard to develop your areas of personal strength, and, if so, definite kudos to you. I’m not trying to take that away.)
This gives you license to recognize and enjoy your personal areas of interest in life with humility. Your responsibility is not to beat yourself up for daring to recognize that you have special qualities or to try to blend in to the crowd in an attempt to force humility on yourself, but to view the things that make you unique not as things that set you apart but as things that make you a piece without which the puzzle would not be complete – just the same as everyone else.
We are all wonderful, special, unique manifestations of the universe.