Social Identity

Most animals have only biological needs. Eat, sex, fight for food and territory and so on. When these are met, the animal is satisfied.

Humans have, beyond biological needs, social needs. The needs of social identity.

Social identity – being self consciously part of a group, connected to previous and future generations – was the great transformation which propelled humans beyond other animals.

It also created a task for humans: to deal with the pangs and pains of social identities. Especially the essentially insatiable and intrinsically combative nature of social identity.

Hunger can be fulfilled. Need for acceptance cannot. You eat when you are hungry, and hunger subsides till later. You act so as to be accepted and fulfill a social identity, the need for that acceptance grows and becomes stronger. Fulfilling hunger makes food unnecessary for a while. Fulfilling need for acceptance makes acceptance necessary from then on. Hunger in itself is not addictive. Social anxiety turns hunger into an addiction, a tool not for the health of the body, but for the cravings of the social identities.

The ego is the social self, acting on the cravings of the social identities.

The curtailing of the ego is a necessity for human beings – a way to harness the benefits of having social identities without getting lost in the manic, infinite appetite of those social identities.

The curtailing of the ego is wisdom.

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Give up Hope

Give up hope. Hoping with the mind. A hope which has at its root you coming out looking good, which validates you. Give up hope. Hope that turns your desire into virtue, which covers over your ego with a vaneer of goodness.

Will what you want happen? Maybe. Maybe not. Is it what is needed for the betterment of the world? Highly doubtful. You want it. You crave it. You are sure you deserve it. You are conviced it is best not just for you, not really for you, but best for others, for everyone, for the world. And so what if also it makes you look good, gives you what you want? That is but a trifle, not what you are really seeking. You hope for the best for the world, not for yourself. 

So you tell yourself. 

It is an illusion. A mirage.

You can’t hope for the word while negating your personal ego hope. Your ego hope ballons into an appareance – what a convincing appearance – of hope for humanity. As if you want not for yourself but even contrary to yourself, for the world only. But it is the ego hope not disappearing but morphing into a cloak of world egoless, world hope.

The ego never disappears. Not in the hope of saints. Or democrats. Or republicans. Or theists or athests. Or do gooders or charities.

Most clashes are the clashes of hopes which aim and claim to not be egotistical.

But deep within, the ego stirs in the hope. Deep within, what is good for me and mine seems inseperable from what is good for society and the downtrodden and the world at large. It is the hope of the chattering mind, chattering how it has gotten beyond one’s petty ego and discovered what is objectively good for all. As if one were simply a vessel, an egoless vehicle, for the betterment of the world.

As long as you have hope, this is a fantasy. One who speaks of hope is ego ridden. One speaks of no hope is ego ridden.

Give up hope and just observe. See the ego doing everything, including your hopes and aspirations and good deeds and selfless aspirations.

When masses of people give up hope this way, the grip of the mass ego lessens, and change happens. It happens by and by. Without intention. Without hope.

Simply Being

Simple way to live a joyous, meaningful life: don’t forget that I am a speck in the universe. 

Keep it always in mind. When I forget it, bring it back to my awareness. As I develop this practice –  cultivate and nurture it – a lightness infuses my being. A radiance and letting go of my fears feels second nature, and nothing feels unnatural or unfair.

Three main ways I am prone to forget the truism of my insignificance:

– when I have bodily needs,

– when I intract with others and am in the web of emotions;

– when I am enthralled intellectually and am trying to figure something out.

At any moment in life, one or more of these applies to me. I am hungry, horny, have a headache. I am proud, jealous, nervous, happy. I am figuring out what to do for the weekend, reading a book, solving a puzzle, working to bring about social change.

In these contexts, in different ways, the truism of my cosmic insignificance recedes from my view. I seem essential to the world. What I do, or what happens to me or mine, seems crucial. The world can be this way or that way, good or bad, fair or unfair, and my fate seems to hang in the balance. Each moment feels like a lottery I am trying to survive and win.

How is it that in these contexts I so easily forget the cosmic truism? Why in these contexts do I seem so central to the world?

Because in these contexts the world as I experience it is my world, situated around my needs (physical, emotional and intellectual). The baby experiences the world as providing milk or not, and the baby’s hunger is the center of that world. Likewise, when I am angry, I experience the world (things outside of me) as appeasing me or not, and the issue of my appeasement is the center of that world.

This ego centric awareness of the world is true even in intellectual activity. When I am trying to creation political change, even with the motivation to help others, I experience the world as thwarting or aiding my aim. While the ego-centricness is explicit in physical needs, it is implicit in intellectual needs – but present all the same.

This is the basic illusion embedded in experience: the experience is of the world, which creates the sense of objectivity, but it is for the sake of the experiencer, which is the subjective reality.

The cosmic truism is a reminder that this double play is intrinsic to all experience. That the appearance of objectivity in the experience covers over its subjective structure. Remembering this is the only way to come closer to a more truly objective awareness of the world.

That border where the subjective, being aware of its essential subjectivity, seems to merge selflessly with the objective – that is the frontier of human awareness. It is the space of tranquility and being with the simple isness of life.

The Great Equalizer

Normally my thoughts keep churning: “Why did they do that? What should I do? I am right, they are wrong. I am wrong, they are right. Life is hard. Boring. Hopeless. Wonderful. Unfair…”

As this happens, the world feels big, much bigger than me. Populated in the first instance by the hundreds of people I interact with, or feel directly impact my life: family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, atheletes, politicans, celebrities, scientists, artists, philosophers, etc. It is my village, filled with the dozens who live in that village with me, and bigger-than-my-village beings – the famous people – who live in the castle on the distant hill controlling what happens in my and other villages.

Sometimes I realize this is not the truth. It is my perception only, created by my limited awareness. The way parents seem larger than life to a child.

And then I see my struggles in my village are not the ultimate reality either. Beyond the distant mountain where the rich, famous, powerful people live, there is a vast world. In which what happens in my house and in my village, and even in the famous people’s houses, is but a passing occurrence, a drop in a much bigger ocean.

I have an admin job and live my middle, lower- middle class life. What I do affects a dozen close family and friends at most. If I don’t show up at work, I will be replaced in a week. The city, state, country, politics, entertainment, industries, science and arts move on unaware of, and irrespective of, me.

Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Bill Gates, Brad Pitt, Einstein, Picasso – they are in the pantheon of culture, seemingly controlling things I only see from a distance. My doctor makes 5 or 10 times what I make, and Brad Pitt makes 10 or 100 times what my doctor makes. And Bill Gates makes 100 times what Brad Pitt makes. This is the hierarchy of human life.

But beyond Earth, beyond human life, me and Brad Pitt and Bill Gates and Donald Trump are not that different. We are all specks. What difference there is between me and Bill Gates is infinitesimally small – to the point of no difference – from the perspective of space.

This is a truth. At root, I am a speck in the universe. So are my family and neighbors. So are the most rich or most intelligent or most powerful people on Earth. This truth is the great equalizer.

We all know this truth. It is not a surpise to anyone. Yet: we live as if it wasn’t the case, as if the hierarchies in human life, the relative advantages and disadvantages between humans, are the reality of life.

Wisdom is to live in continual awareness of this simple truth. To not be caught in the as if reality of social hierarchies intrinsic to the human perspective.

Hence a farmer in a village can be as wise as, or wiser than, a philosophy professor in a big city. Wisdom is not a matter of knowledge that some can acquire and some don’t. It is not itself another hierarchy in human life. It is instead to see the minuteness of human life and to live with that awareness constantly.

The wise person doesn’t acquire the God’s eye perspective. Nor does he stay mired within the ordinary human perspective. He hovers in between, continually aware of the vast gulf between the human and the God’s eye perspective.

Freed thus from the grip of human hierarchies, he acts without being caught in the mental cacophony of blame, doubt, guilt, possessiveness. He acts more in light of the deeper reality, without the as if fantasy. Like an adult in a land of children.

To an infant, the mother is the center of the world. To a child, his home is the center. To a teenager, his budding social circle beyond the home is the center. To an adult, human life is the center, which defines his role and aim in life. To the wise person, the universe is the center, with an awareness of one’s own, and humanity’s, cosmic insignificance.

Three Views of Life

There are three views of life.

The rationalist thinks human nature can be understood by thought. Who I am, who we are, how we ought to live, how we can best organize ourselves politically – the rationalist has a two step process for addressing these and any other issues. First step is to come to a conceptual understanding of what is the right thing to think. The second step is to then will ourselves to act in accord with that right understanding. The rationalist aims to cultivate rational awareness, grasping the world in thought.

The anti-rationalist thinks human nature cannot be grasped in thought, and that thought and reason are false Gods which only the naïve and the weak believe in. The true energy and reality of human life are our brute powers, more basic and more subterranean than thought: the will, passions, identities, instincts. The anti-rationalist sees reason as a prison to be freed from so that the power and majesty of brute instincts can be unleashed. And life is a battle of those powers. The anti-rationalist aims to cultivate an awareness of power.

The supra-rationalist agrees with the anti-rationalist that life cannot be grasped in thought. But he agrees with the rationalist that thought is needed to guide our basic instincts and passions. The supra-rationalist thinks just as thought is needed to guide instincts, so too an awareness beyond and above thought is needed to guide thought. Thought is not the end of human consciousness, but only a step. Further beyond thought lies greater realms of consciousness and deeper modes of being. This is a cosmic awareness beyond the strain and effort of thought.

Our current time is no different from past times: it is the struggle of thought to grow beyond instinct, and of awareness to grow beyond thought.