Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Why Ego is bad

I met a person some time back to whom I had gone to advice regarding a career in a bank, he worked in a bank and was about to join the CSS service – the bureaucracy in Pakistan. In the conversation I had with him he mentioned I should take advice from my parents in the matter to which I told him that such an effort would be pointless because banking was an alien domain for my parents.

In the course of events I said that he wasn’t getting it and that we should move on. On his persistence I finally told him: “what the hell is the issue here…my parents won’t be able to help!”.

At this he said: “You don’t know what I can do to you, you should not talk that way to me.” In an intellectual explanation of his statement: his rationale, he said: “You don’t know how much ego I have, you can’t even imagine. It is much more than you can ever have”.

Now that statement caught me and I thought to myself: “how in the hell can ego be a good thing. It is the one thing I have always known is bad, strange guy indeed!”

A couple of years later I heard of a book, one that is so common that some of the people you know will have heard of it too. The name of the book is: “Fountainhead” and the motto of it is: “Man’s ego is the fountainhead of human progress”.

Now this was a bigger shocker. Not only was that guy thinking on these lines but a very large part of the reading human world since 1943 –when the book was published – has been reading it. In fact on further reflection I realized that I was thinking on these lines as well, when for example in school in the spirit of competition I wanted to come first and the reason was simply that it was Me we were talking about. How could I not come first?

Now there is a counter argument that many religions including Islam produce. This is of “understanding reality as it is” and doing this by doing things like praying and fasting and other exercises that help you negate yourself with the goal being of bringing yourself in control.

How polar these two ideas are and what I present below is the conclusion in favour of the latter:

Ego while having utility in that it helps motivate a person also in the process “burns” him and is actually not necessary at all and is as unnecessary as melodrama is in our everyday lives. We don’t need that melodrama and we don’t need the ego all that we need to do is to think things through and execute them.

A very powerful example given in the Quran is of God giving two big lessons to man kind at the creation of human kind:
Lesson 1: Adam was the supreme of all creation because of his “knowledge”
Lesson 2: The devil was made the most inferior of all creation because of his “ego”

Knowledge is not dependent on ego but you might be dependent on it if you do not use knowledge to free yourself.

Is he liyae "unparh" log har waqt phadae mein par-ae rehtae hein because un kae liyae har cheez anaa ka masla ban jatee hae.

And herein is the shair of Iqbal when he said: “khud he ko kar buland itna kae har taqdeer sae pehlae khuda tujh sae khud poochae kae teree raza kya hae”. The boland that he was talking about is through knowledge and control of the will not through ego and the fuelling of it.

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