If the ego is where our minds dwell, most of us are living under house arrest. Many of us spend our days almost entirely focused on “me” not on “we.” This is a miserly, lonely captivity. Eventually it becomes so intolerable that we look for escape hatches of community. Mostly we find them in illusory communities built around sports-team fanaticism, religious fundamentalism, internet echo chambers and forms of nationalism. These fake communities allow us to feel a brief reprieve from the suffocating narrowness of our egos.
But these are only pseudo-communities because they are rooted in conformity. Membership is based on the idea upon the fact that everyone is the same, at least in the only way that matters (e.g., same allegiance, same beliefs, etc). These communities do not allow us to care about the “other,” because there is no “other” in those spaces. There is no “me and you,” just a big glob of “me.” Rather than an escape from our egos, these communities are just inflations of our egos! This explains why Trump campaign rallies blast popular music at deafening levels for hours. People are coming to feel an expanded sense of self.
In my experience, most people will choose fake community over honest solitude.
All of this is empowered by Capitalist-Christianity, which has convinced many of us that we are independent, selfish creatures who exist in a hostile world. Capitalist-Christianity teaches that our path to freedom is winning the competitive game of survival. Of course, this is a labyrinth with no exit. It is a cycle with three parts: (1) Fear, (2) Hoarding, (3) Hostility. We are taught to be afraid of others. Our fear of others makes us hoard what we can get. The more we hoard, the more we are afraid of losing what we have and the more hostile we are to others, and the more hostile we perceive others to be toward us. When we experience the world as hostile, we become more afraid. And we wonder why rich, famous and powerful people are so miserable!
Most mystics have had spiritual experiences that cause them to believe that the universe has a benevolent core. But it is unnecessary to adopt a belief in the goodness of all things in order to escape the trap of fear, hoarding and hostility. We only need to break free from the indoctrination that scarcity and wickedness is the fabric of reality. You can arrive at a place of freedom without attaching yourself to any doctrine. You only need to discover that scarcity is the result of competitive living, and abundance is the result of community living. In order to take the first steps toward freedom from the house-arrest of ego, we must have the courage to exit the house of the ego and approach the other with curiosity and greeting. So few of us, myself included, have ventured very far along that path. But perhaps if more of us do so, we break the cycle of fear and create a cycle of love and abundance instead.
Rev. John Helmiere is the convener of Valley & Mountain-Hillman City.
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