We are wrapping up discussion this week on the five perversions of the mind, with the most vicious, vilest and unquestionably the worst of them all. This is known as EGO. Its other siblings, which we had taken up in previous series, are LUST, ANGER, GREED and ATTACHMENT. This week, we will try to explore why EGO is adjudged as the king of all vices.
Ego could be deemed to have two meanings or functions. Primarily, it was given to the mind as a faculty that gives man the power of awareness of the self. In other words, self differentiation, the I-ness.
It is that faculty that executes the mandate of the intellect in the interest of self. In effect, the normal ego is all right and a necessity, irrespective of how badly ego had been painted by the moralist. We will try and expatiate on both the negative and positive aspects of ego as we continue.
The other function of this faculty is no doubt the abnormal ego, which is known by several titles such as vanity, haughtiness, pride, self-centeredness, et al. Abnormal or enlarged ego compares to a cancer in which the normal body epithelial cells become much enlarged. So it is with ego. As said earlier, the normal ego is perfect, but when it begins to swell up out of proportion, it then takes on the nature of a malignant disease.
Before we dwell further on this, it is incumbent one explains what is meant by the normal ego, before the readers start imagining whether one is going round the bend for postulating any goodness about ego. The truth is, everyone of us cannot thrive without a tinge of ego. As mentioned above, ego is that which promotes our self-interest. And we have a legion of what constitutes our self-interest, for the protection of which our ego must come handy.
Let me crave indulgence to cite activities that are common to us all to make the necessity of normal ego sensible to the readers. These are common things that we take for granted but without ego, we wouldn’t fare better than the animals that are devoid of rationality. To start with,I hope no one will argue that to cover our nakedness and leave our homes we need ego to counsel us that it is weird to step out without our clothes on.
This list is endless. Ensuring we have our bath, brushing our teeth, wearing neat and well ironed clothes are all influenced by our normal ego. If the ego is impaired as it happens with those we regard as insane, we wouldn’t bother about all these finesse that make us presentable to the outside world. If we have to list out all that we need ego to survive or fare well in this world, we will write a volume and we wouldn’t have written enough. Without being vulgar, ensuring we excrete in privacy is part of the normal ego, much more as farting is.
One mustn’t fail to acknowledge that ego is more discernible in the animal kingdom where it is the survival of the fittest. It is the same ego that makes rats and rodents in our home not easy target, as they run away for their lives when we try to kill them. In the animal world, hardly would we find lesser animals a ready prey for the stronger ones. Their ego protects them as much as possible.
One of the animals imbued with ego for survival is of course the lion. Lion will take on any animal for food. A mighty elephant that an individual lion cannot encounter, a group known in the games world as pride of lions would come together to combat and bring down any elephant, notwithstanding how imposing or intimidating such elephant is.
It is arguable if not too obvious to the critics that without the normal function of the ego faculty, man or animal cannot thrive in the world, as we remind ourselves, what we consider as simple effort of crossing a road is not possible without our ego. It is our normal ego that cautions us that a racing vehicle approaching our way is against our self-interest, we must wait for it to pass. Keeping up with the peers, the Jonesses and the society are all attributive to the normal ego. Even striving to be above Board against all temptations and one of which, is the refusal to dip hands into the filthy-lucre is to a large extent a normal function of our ego. This is known as self-pride.
This is the little we can say here on this matter of necessity of ego, with a view to deprecating the argument that anything about ego is negative.As with other perverts, it is our excessive application of ego that makes it something no one wants to touch with the longest pole. When ego becomes profuse, it turns out to be vanity, an enlargement of the: “I.”
At this stage, that faculty, which is quite necessary for the preservation of the individual in this life and for the proper placement of that person in relation to all others, becomes so broadened that the normal self becomes to the egocentric individual the centre of the universe. This is a very dangerous stage for any individual, who fails to acknowledge he has become self-centred and refuses to take immediate and cautious effort to correct himself.
Once our ego has turned to vanity at the level of malignant selfishness, its deadly poison infiltrates the entire being. It seldom ceases to operate until death. This happens, as vanity feeds upon its own refuse, waxing stronger upon materials furnished by the other four perversions. We could all observe how vanity is nourished by the death of the other members of the perverts. We have seen people becoming vain over a partial subjugation of the other passions.
Howbeit, on many occasions the aversion for the other vices or passions happens only when the body is no longer cooperating for us to indulge in those passions. Even at that, egoistic people would then boast about how they have become chaste when they are nearer their graves, or after affliction of disease has incapacitated them. They flaunt their new resolve, as if they are not victims of faith accompli.
Vanity itself has a lot of subsets and these have the greatest longevity. How often we hear old men and women talking garrulously, recounting their former exploits. No one can check them. Another aspect of the subset of vanity is Self-righteousness. Its method is to distort the viewpoint, to present everything out of proportion, making oneself the centre of the world.
This is more apparent to the people in power. Vanity makes them to set a crown upon their heads and turn round to imagine why all men do not rush to acknowledge them kings. If they have friends, schoolmates or associates before ascending to position of power, they now think level has changed and they are no longer on the same pedestal with the people they met on the way to the top, forgetting, they must meet them whenever they are crash landing, or descending as a rule, from whatever zenith, providence has temporarily situated them.
Vanity has wrecked a lot of havoc on the people who have wielded and still wielding power. It makes them strut like a peacock with only cabbage leaves for tail feathers. Because of their positions, they believe they must be worshipped. Remembering their birthdays is a must by others, although they never bother about birthdays of those who are not in positions of power. They no longer see their imperfections and if at all, they see their own shortcomings in others, while imagining themselves to be perfect.
Having tasted power they would do everything to perpetuate their holds. If their positions have a tenure, they will stop at nothing to elongate it and when they find this impossible, they will indulge in all sorts of manoeuvring to install a stooge. Edo State is currently a theatre of egotism on the loose. What for? To enable an individual to continue to exert power by remote control, long after he has left position of authorities. This is known as Godfatherism in the politics of the black race.
Anybody who tries to counsel a victim of naccisicm is aiming at self-destruction. This is because narcissists defy the world. They demand unqualified support for their declared dictum. Worse of all, they would seek instant destruction of all who oppose them under the warped assumption that: I am right, he who opposes me is wrong, to sustain the right, I must destroy my opponent.
This assumption has soaked the page of history with innocent blood. The list in this part of the world is endless. We have had Alfred Rewane, Bola Ige, Kudirat Abiola, Funso Williams, Dipo Dina, who were known to have opposed or tried to challenge narcissists in power. To the group that had used power recklessly, the late Fela Anikulapo coined the term “Vagabonds in Power”. When late General Abacha held sway, hardly could anyone have imagined his death would be so sudden and “seamless”.
It is discomforting bringing MKO Abiola into this discourse so as not to give in to the feelings that if he had not yearned for the rulership of this nation, he would have lived longer. Nevertheless, it has remained a subject of debate among students of psychology that when people have money, it is enlarged ego that makes them seek position of power. Mahatma Ghandi has however proved beyond doubt that one can still be useful to his community and nations without aspiring for rulership.
Meanwhile, vanity has been known to be the brainchild of strifes and wars among families, friends, communities and nations. Blind egotism and its bastard child-Bigotry are today sowing the seeds of dissatisfaction and threatening war across the world and in this Country in particular. Never had the security of lives and properties been so endangered, as we are experiencing currently in the Lugard’s mumbo jumbo named Nigeria. Only God knows what the harvest shall be.
Without gainsaying it, a man of vanity will resent bitterly all efforts to correct or enlighten him. How can a haughty man admit that he is wrong or needs enlightenment not to talk of correction. A vainglorious individual will go to war at the drop of a hat to defend its self-asserted rights. He thinks not of other people’s rights, he is extremely touchy and sensitive. It blows its own horn and struts across the stage of life, trumpeting so loudly, he cannot hear anyone else. Such is the nature of a conceited individual.
In rounding up on the five mental disorders that we have been discussing and ending with EGO this week, we will not require much argument to convince each other that everything the Lord created is good and for a purpose. Our application or misapplication of them induces both the good and the ugly. By the same token, each of the perverts comes with its corrective antidote. This is by the grace of the omniscient God, Who had always known that we humans would run them out of control.
Therefore, just as the five passions may be regarded as the five agents of destruction, there are five virtues that may equally be looked upon as five angels to the perversions. These angelic virtues hover around us and always ready to extend their aid, provided we seek for help or comfort from them.
They vices and virtues are:
We are to contemplate long and deeply over these virtues and thereafter weave them into the fibre of our characters and of our lives. Thus, we are to replace our tendency for Lust with Chastity. Most importantly, we are to see every beauty as mere flesh over skeleton and nothing else.
Anger is to be replaced with forgiveness, as we remind ourselves of the injunction in the Lord’s prayer that says: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.” This simply means if we don’t forgive others, our supplication to the Lord is in vain.
Greed is borne of the illusion of the purpose of human life. The Lord knows best why our neighbour is richer or why we are wealthier than others. No one can say his lot is the best or the worst in the world. Everything we encounter is part of our experience in the evolutionary scale of the soul. What is not in contest is that both the wealth or poverty of man, shall be dropped behind when departing this world.
Attachment arises out of confused thinking. All our acquisitions are pebbles at the altar of spirituality. Let go the world, let in the Lord is the eternal advice of the Saints. We are to remember that Christ asked us to lay our treasures in heavens, where thieves cannot break through nor moth corrupt, for where lies our treasures there our hearts will be.
Lastly, Ego is meant to protect and not to alienate us from others and neither from God. We are to respect people for who they are as we are all a projection of one Father: God. When a man or woman appears before us, it is God Himself that is appearing before us in the form of a man or woman. Whatever good or bad we do to fellow beings will reverberate to the Court of the Lord, where we must account for every deed of ours.
A reflection on all these and acting on them positively will enable us to pass through life unscathed. This is of essence as we remind us of the inviolable law of karma which is simply the law of cause and effect that we will be embarking upon from next week. May I therefore at this juncture, seek permission on this issue of the five perversions of the mind to say: Quod Erad Demonstradum!