Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Childishness of the Male Ego

All of us are born with selfish needs and desires and for the young child, the inarticulate human in genesis, these are survival mechanisms. The ego is self-sustaining, and it keeps us alive.

However, the reality of human society, political balance and evolution requires an eventual compromise that we are not used to making. It requires that we puncture the fortress of our egos, to understand that we are not in fact separate selves. We are, in fact, actually aspects of a larger organism. We are part of the collective whole, and that the reality of the collective is what we must use as the rationale for shaping our society.

Unfortunately, we are only now emerging from a patriarchal milieu, in which social cohesion, safety, and even love, have been used as mechanisms of control. In fact, it is questionable whether we are actually emergent from it at all yet. The synergy of commerce, the apparent freedom that comes from the capitalist wheel, gives us the illusion of having evolved. But in reality, we have gained only comforts, in which we couch our selfishness and our egotistical fears.

As long as we are rattling around in the turmoil of our own self-concerns, we are easily controlled and manipulated, and we are held in this hellish cycle by the seductive delusion that we are somehow free and evolved.

But the fact is we are nothing more than adolescents at best. For most of us, and I would include myself here, we are children, emotionally primitive and helpless, begging for the love of the parent and the warmth of the mother to make all things right again. And when we don't find it, because we cannot, we turn to our pathologies, our narcissism and our emotional dramas to detract from the pain of longing.

There can only be a handful of human beings at best who are capable of rising above this emotionally crippled dynamic. I have met only one who I would call honest enough not to be enslaved by it.

But I think it is interesting that we use our respective gender roles as another way of masking and dealing with the pathology.

Some of these are familiar to us all. The male ego, the dominance, the competition, the violence and aggression. We are all up to speed on that I think, and as modern men, we are all sufficiently contrite about how we fall victim the narcissism that precedes them.

However, there are more subtle ways in which this childish pathology manifests. And it varies from human to human. And the subtleties of these variant pathologies can only really be viewed upon introspection, and can only be dealt with through a ruthless honesty with oneself.

Some of us might use our jobs, our positions as managers, professors, teachers and fathers. Some of us might define ourselves as lone-poets, isolating ourselves from the pack out of stubborn self-fortification. Some of us might even define ourselves as charitable and sensitive New Age men. But however we do it, we know these are false masks when once challenged, they give way to the same old aggressions and temper-tantrums that have defined masculinity for centuries.

Men have, for most of known history, embedded their pathologies in ideas, in philosophy and ideology. Anyone from Alexander to Hitler, from George W. Bush to Jean Jacques Rousseau, has used high minded notions of freedom and empowerment to mask emotional intransigence.

I was going to get personal here. I was going to outline some of the ways I do this in myself, but to so would not only be egotistical in its own right, and therefore unsightly, it would also be too damn enumerate to be worth while.

The point is that as men, our self-obsessions must give way to self-examinations. But we must be careful, when we seek to manifest higher energies, that these self-same higher energies are not themselves being used to satisfy the childishness of the ego.
This is serious stuff. Everything, even our most noble of dreams gets thrown into question. But I think it is the single most socially relevant activity we can engage in.

We live in an objectified and objectifying society. Feminism has taught us that much. This objectification comes from exactly what I am talking about. The childishness of the ego will always seek to rest in the safety of an easy definition, a simple idea of itself. It will always seek to objectify itself for its own convenience, because, at crucially developmental stages it is important to do so. What as a society we have no means of growing out of however, is this intransigent need to define ourselves and find exterior forms of self-identification.

My feeling is that as a society, and particularly as a culture of men, we are caught in that initial stage of adolescence. We are starting to see the true potential of our changing identities, but we are reluctant to give up the comforts and safety of childhood. We want independence, but we also want the dependence on the mother. We want to blaze our path but we still want to suckle on the fucking tit. And it is this conflict, which gives rise to the objectification of the self.

The desire to manifest new versions of ourselves, to grow and aspire, to be inspired and evolve, is not egotistical. It is the drive at the heart of the sacredness of life. It is also the integrity at the heart of your masculinity. But the need to define yourself as a consistent and knowable self, the need to be thought of highly by others as this or that kind of person, whether it is tough guy or nice guy or anything in between, is nothing more than ego.

If I can sum it up, anything that you do to hammer out some sort of stability and security in your life, is simply the ego. Because, by definition, such drives are the reaction to instability and insecurity, and only a child, or one who is pathologically hung up in a primitive developmental stage, would live their lives according to these basic kinds of motivation.

The challenge is a deep one. Because even sacred motivations can become egotistical ones. The line between authentic spirituality and dogmatic religiosity demonstrates this. If we are not careful, our most treasured inspirations can themselves become masks for a childish and pathological ego.

So how do we know the difference? How can we keep this crap in check? Well, I think this is exactly why tribal cultures had rites of passage, and why some of them can seem particularly brutal to the modern, sanitised eye. They were ways of forcing the young men of the tribe through the boundaries of the ego, and into the authentic resilience of spirit.

At the heart of your masculinity lies the ability to harness the energy of change and evolution. At the heart of your masculinity, lies the ability to suffer the slings and arrows, the opinions, attacks and onslaughts of a hostile environment. When faced with death, annihilation, or simply the reality of being forced to question your previously held values and ideas about yourself, the truth of who you are pours through, if only you are willing to grasp it.

The truth being that whatever you are, it is more than body, than the socialised role of your culture, or everything that you thought was true about your relationship to the world. At the heart of spirituality is the realisation that we are more than we thought we were. That the only truth about being a human being, is that we are a constantly evolving manifestation of the shifting energy of life itself, and any notion of the self that falls short of that is a delusion, a fixation of stubborn childishness.

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