Posted by Gary Z. McGee on June 29, 2014
We live in an excessively unhealthy culture. We are constantly surrounded by victims. This is because we are all victims of an egocentric society, and hence victims of our own ego-attachment to such perspectives. I’ve written about transforming wounds into wisdom and victims into warriors. This article will analyze tactics for transforming Ego into Soul; to go from a state of instability to a state of impeccability.
1. Expand all boundaries
“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” –Bruce Lee
Utopia is a goal, never an end. When I walk two steps, the goal moves two steps further into the horizon. What is the goal for? It’s a reminder to keep moving, to keep going. Don’t stop, because the goal is constantly moving further and further away. Indeed, the journey truly is the thing. Keep stretching your comfort zone until it becomes the world then keep stretching it until it becomes the universe, and then keep going. Never stop. Like Sarah Lewis wrote in The Rise, “Masters are not masters because they take a subject to its conceptual end. They are masters because they realize that there isn’t one. On utterly smooth ground, the path from aim to attainment is in the permanent future.”
2. Subsume nature
“Tradition is the illusion of permanence.” –Woody Allen
Exhaust the primitive. Nothing remains the same. The only permanence is the impermanence of nature. When we subsume nature we realize that we are nature. We realize that we are constantly changing along with nature. The only healthy response to an every-changing system is to be open to change. We do so by exhausting the primitive both within and outside us so as to shatter any and all illusions of tradition or permanence.
I always hear this argument against the nature-based perspective: that the primitive is nowhere near as efficacious for the control of nature as our domesticated civilization. To which I retort: But of course, nature-based living may not be able to control the world, but at least it isn’t in any danger of destroying it. Our civilization controls the world up to a point at which it seems to be destroying it. And so we have become the antithesis of man as human animal (ego), whereas nature-based man is the apotheosis (soul).
Instead of only using our vainglorious narcissistic faces as mirrors for each other, we need to once again learn how to use the entire cosmos as a reflection. Like Jung fabulously articulated, “What is needed is to call a halt to the fatal dissociation that exists between our higher and lower being; we must unite the conscious aspect with the primitive.”
3. Verify the irrational
“Let go of certainty. The opposite isn’t uncertainty. It’s openness, curiosity and a willingness to embrace paradox, rather than choose up sides. The ultimate challenge is to accept ourselves exactly as we are, but never stop trying to learn and grow.” –Tony Schwartz
Nothing entrenches the ego in itself more than certainty. Always leave room for doubt, especially in such areas as religion, nationalism, sexuality and racism. The soul flies when the ego dies. It is from the blood and guts of the ego that the soul gets its fuel for flight. Like the blood and guts of the caterpillar must be annihilated in order to transform into the butterfly, so too must our egos be annihilated. We do this by consistently verifying the irrational. We do this by constantly interrogating our worldviews. We do this by daily questioning and re-questioning our perspectives in relation to others. Like Philip Guston wrote, “To know and then how not to know is the greatest puzzle of all… so much preparation for a few moments of desperate play. To learn how to unlearn.”
Remember: God interrogating itself to the limit is you; you interrogating yourself to the limit is God. Like Gerry Spence said, “I’d rather have a mind open by wonder than one closed by belief.”
4. Obtain a sublime reputation
“The day you stop racing, is the day you win the race.” –Bob Marley
When it comes to advice about life, my attitude is very simple: seek it out, absorb it, synthesize it, but when you are in the throes of living, forget it, and just live it. There is transcendence in letting go of transcendence. The daily rat race of chasing money for the sake of money has us all going through the motions of chasing each other’s tails through an indecipherable maze of one-upmanship. Let. It. Go! Live your life. Don’t let life live you.
If there is somebody telling you it can’t be done, inspire them by showing them how it can be done. Uplift the downtrodden. Move the unmoved. Exalt the un-exalted. Don’t just inspire, inspire awe through daily acts of courage and love. The status quo is the Ego’s prison. But the bars are an illusion. It’s up to you to realize that fact and free yourself, and then act as an example for others through your sublime reputation. Then again…
5. Create one demon at least
“The demon that you can swallow gives you its power, and the greater life’s pain, the greater life’s reply.” –Friedrich Nietzsche
Create at least one monster. Life is full of shoulds and shouldnots. It’s also full of should-a, would-a, could-a. One way to decalcify the ego, and thus magnify the soul, is by creating our own art: the kind of art that rejuvenates the spirit and is cathartic for the ego. Art is less about what you have not done and more about what you have done. The demon to be created and then consumed is the transformation of what we have not done into something we have done. This usually takes the form of art. Like Bertolt Brecht said, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”
This seems contradictory to #4 but this is only because art is contradictory. Objectively, art is alive in a way forbidden natural objects and, subjectively, in a way subsuming the subjects who create them. We humans are a fallible species. More so we are an excruciatingly complex and insecure species. Art is the cathartic process of our self-actualized inadequacies. Through our own creative expression we, in one fell swoop, free our demons and give them wings. Like Scott Adams wrote, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
So create at least one monster. Scare people with it. Shake them out of their too-comfortable comfort zones. Have the courage of the artist. Her courage is the ability to swallow the status quo and create new forms of perceiving. Like Bansky brilliantly tagged: “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
6. Inhabit everyone
“Just as one candle lights another and can light thousands of other candles, so one heart illuminates another and can illuminate thousands of other hearts.” –Leo Tolstoy
Sojourn with all things. Try your best to “walk a mile in their shoes” or “stand on the shoulders of giants.” If you can consistently do this, then your wisdom will become a force to be reckoned with. The reason is because of the interconnectedness of all things, cosmically, and our need for empathy, socially. We need each other. Our insecurity alone reveals that absolute fact. Empathy shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s vulnerability. Being vulnerable is constantly being in a state to receive new information without fear that it will change us; because it will change us. And that’s okay.
Like Alexander Velazquez pointed out: “Buddha mapped enlightenment as the nautical ley lines to inner peace. Jesus walked on waves of self-sacrifice and plotted love as a way to helm the soul to salvation. Nietzsche rode against currents of religious piety—and in the face of that behemoth, sailed the breakers of nihilism to eternal joy. King sailed through channels of racial inequality and anchored western culture to paths of desegregation. Malcom challenged legions of racist warships and conquered waters of racial identity and power. Sartre showed us clouds of self-creation and tactical action as the guide to horizons of happiness. Gödel built compasses of mathematical rebellion to defy currents and streams, enabling circumnavigation through new straits. Wittgenstein stripped ships of their excess cargo of intangible and irrelevant philosophy in pursuit of truth. And Jung, by covering the entire ocean of the spirit, drew our first maps of the person. It is in studying carefully these great maps and utilizing their initiatives that we can invent new means and passages to distant frontiers.”