Try a little identity experiment.  You’ll need a credit card, a pen and a piece of paper, and a cup of water.  Write your name down on a piece of paper.  Now, sprinkle some water on your name on the credit card and on your name that you have inked on the piece of paper.  Notice what happens.  While the ink of your name on a piece of paper begins to run and dissolve, your name on the plastic card remains intact.

Let a few minutes pass.  Wipe the credit card dry.  Now try to soak up and dry up the water from the piece of paper.  Your name on the credit card is completely unaffected.  Your name on the piece of paper is damaged: a little smudged, diffused, somewhat dissolved.

The morale of the story?  The Transient doesn’t last.  Your name on the credit card is embossed and, as such, is part of the inalienable structure of the card.  Your name on the piece of paper is written, added to the surface.

Ego is information about us.  It’s added.  First, we are.  Then we seek reflection in a variety of informational mirrors.  Finally, we internalize this information about us and confuse it with what is truly us, mistaking the words of self-description that we wrote down on the mirror of our am-ness with the mirror itself.  Ego, in short, is an in-house logbook of self-descriptions, a collection of favorite quotes about us, a résumé of our accomplishments, and so on.

Ego is an added self. As a result, it is vulnerable. A little character assassination does an easy wet job on our self-concept.  A drop of disapproval and the hard-crafted calligraphy of our identity begins to dissolve.  Somebody calls us this or that enough times, and we forget our original built-in identity of name-less-ness.


Adapted from “Lotus Effect” (Somov, 2010)

Creative Commons License photo credit: Jerry Bunkers