Monday, March 4, 9985

Give Up the Ghost

To say that you are a Caucasian, or a man, or a Republican, or a Venezuelan, or a Buddhist, or a lawyer, makes about as much sense as a banana calling itself a yellow, or an ice cube calling itself a cold. The labels we use to describe things are adjectives, not nouns. You cannot be an adjective; you can only be a noun.

So, what noun are you? A conscious entity. That’s it. No body. No possessions. No reputation. No group affiliation. It’s a difficult concept to grasp if you have spent your life looking at everything as mere physical objects.

Let’s say you were to lose a leg, or an arm, or an eye, or your money, or your house. Or let’s say you were to change jobs or political parties. Would that change you? Would you be a different entity?

When you define who you are by your attributes, you might become afraid to lose them. For example, someone who has always been a Democrat or a Republican might be deathly afraid to give up that party affiliation. This is what makes them defend their long-held viewpoints, even if those viewpoints don’t seem as correct as they used to. It’s not about truth – it’s about self-preservation. That is, preservation of what they perceive as themselves, which is of course their false selves, only they can’t see that.

A lot of thought, activity, worry, and defense go into the false self, so even if we are “winning”, there is still a constant level of discomfort and stress that we endure. We call this the cost of doing business: internal currency (physical and mental energy) in exchange for external commodities (wealth, approval, housing, food, possessions, social acceptance).

As long as we perceive that the benefits of upholding the false self outweigh the costs, the false self will endure. Only when the amount of suffering (worry, stress, fear, regret, frustration) outweighs the benefits will we become sick and tired enough to drop it.