Recently, I have decided to give my ego a vacation. I have tried to act on this as well, but I’ve been only somewhat successful. The basic idea is that I forget about my personal vanities and the whims of my heart, and just give a rest to all that “be what I want to be” stuff.
I know, it sounds strange – especially in this day and age – for one to strive to reject following his own heart’s desires. But my conclusion of late has been that no lasting goodness has ever really come to me by following my heart.
Most of my life I have insisted that “because I want to” was a good enough reason for me to undertake virtually any course of action. What’s more, I refused to have my decisions scrutinized or questioned by anyone.
So I have lived a life giving primacy to the dictates of my ego, and at 37 and a half, I am finally considering “re-assigning” my ego, not affording it broad influence over my days and nights any longer.
How will I know what to do? I’ll listen better to Torah and the sages. And I’ll improvise: before I act, I’ll pause and try to understand what seems to be happening and what’s really happening, and I’ll choose the ethical path.
Sounds easy, but already I know how difficult it is. Almost every moment of the day calls free will into the scene. Will I eat that ice cream or do some work? Will I indulge in daydreams or occupy my mind with something of value? These are choices that have to be made over and over, constantly throughout daily life.
Hopefully, writing this down and then posting it is part of the choice I am making to strive for ethical improvement. Sometimes there’s a close resemblance between the right thing to do and personal vanity. I suppose time and my labor will together reveal the true nature of this post.
Postscript, September 22, 2007: See my post, "Out of the Whirlwind." Ego stayed aboard and exacted some revenge on me.