In John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost, Satan lives by the philosophy “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”
Satan represents our false self, which thinks itself “too good” to serve others. It wants to create and rule its own domain. It can’t create matter, but it can create ideas such as that it is its body and possessions, and that it is “better” than others. It also creates past, future, shoulds, shouldn’ts, beliefs, judgments, and all manner of imagined calamities that haunt us, preventing experience of reality.
In order to rule anything, one must be separate from it, as there is a ruler and the ruled. This creates a feeling of separation and loneliness. The false self thus lives in a lonely, unhappy place of selfishness, want, scarcity, and fear. That is, it reigns in Hell. Why do we choose this? Because it gives us a (false) sense of power and righteousness, and we choose this over happiness.
When we drop the false self, we see that we are not “too good” to serve, and in fact the concept of “too good” doesn’t even exist. We no longer feel the need to be selfish. There is no longer a sense of urgency about “getting” things. We don’t feel the need to pursue power or rule anyone or anything. We are willing to accept reality as it is rather than fabricate one, and this enables us to fully experience it. We feel more connected with others, which makes us want to serve them, and since we are at peace, we serve in Heaven.
We all manipulate matter in order to take care of bodily needs: we make and/or buy shelter, food, medicine, and transportation. The false self, because it cannot accept reality, uses these things not just for their utilitarian value, but also as a distraction from reality. For example, it is not enough to have a car – it must be a certain style or color. This is why people who live via the false self are miserable no matter how comfortable they are materially: they desire to make things be a certain way in a world that is constantly changing, so they fear losing what they have. This makes them suspicious of others, quick to anger, and unfulfilled. External comforts cannot ease inner turmoil.
The true self has no sense of ownership, so it has nothing to lose. It can be neither taken away from nor added to. It just is. Nothing can be done to it, so it has nothing to fear. Our bodies and possessions can be damaged or stolen, but the less we live via the false self, the less distressful losing them is.