Humility and pride : humbling of the ego : a tangle with red tide
A book excerpt from the Iconoclast Press online library.
It is all well and good and necessary to seek and become an individual, but it is an outright travesty to then define oneself within the limitations of such an existence. And by that I mean that the cultivation of individuality is an essential aspect of perfecting the whole, but it must never be confused with the whole, or the part will become a limiting factor and not an uplifting one.
Ah, the mighty ego, the arrogating hubris, the inimical pride; these tenacious lampreys ride along beside their victim, parasitically sucking out the energy of the host. The untethered ego will betray the spirit and imprison it in the context of the world, because the ego wants to be imprisoned there, for that is where it receives affirmation, which is the only thing the ego wants. Pride will run the spirit around and around as the donkey chases after the carrot, and the only way this will change is if you ask for the spankings which correct it.
I asked, and that meant I was in for it.
The ego is a wise and cunning sleuth, always creeping in and messing up a good thing, and so the overself, when called in to correct it, must take on the roll of the punishing parent and grief giver, if the wild child is to be reeled in.
One such spanking came to me in Alaska, when I had taken ten days or so off of work so as to ferry northward and meet up with a young Parisian tart whom I had been lucky enough to trade caresses in the wilderness with some weeks earlier in Sitka. We rendezvoused again a brief while later up in Haines, gathered together some food and supplies, and hiked half a day down the coast to the end of a peninsula, arriving at a wonderful bit of paradise called, interestingly enough, Seduction Point.
There we stayed for a number of days, cooing and whinnying, drinking red wine, and watching humpback whales feed and play in the bay. On or about the third day I, the great white hunter, thought it would be both delicious and impressive to my European mistress if I was to gather some sustenance from the land for our dinner, and so I went down into the inter-tidal zone and plundered a handful of baby blue mussels from the rocks, knowing full well the whole time that during the summer months there is a coast-wide red-tide alert, and that it’s best to stick to an austere diet of brie, patē, olives, and French loaf. But an oaf is an oaf and the great white hunter scoffed at the ridiculous warning, cooked up the bounty, and polished the entire plate off, while the unimpressed maiden chose, as it were, to decline the knight’s offering and stick to her vegetarian fare.
So it goes that sometime in the middle of the night I awoke and my hands, feet, and face were as numb as if a troupe of maleficent dentists had snuck down to our camp and injected me all over with heaping doses of Novocain. Only it wasn’t Novocain, it was PSP- paralytic shellfish poisoning. Not such a good thing to have happen to you when you’re a five hour hike from the nearest town, a hike which could only be done at low tide and I had no idea when that was, and so I lay there totally deflated and not so full of gusto and heroism anymore- just a wiry white-man who’d found a way to humiliate himself while falling to his doom.
Paralytic shellfish poisoning kills you by eventually paralyzing your whole body, including your lungs, and therefore suffocating you, and there were areas of the Alaskan panhandle which were renowned for the numbers of natives who had suffered this horrible fate. Place names like Poison Cove came to mind as I lay there wondering how much further the process of immobilization would go.
Well, as I said, the ego gets knocked down if we invite the flagellator- whom I had invited, sometime back, when I was full of oomph and piety- and I was shrunk down to my appropriate size that night with a little bit of distress and worry, but after my humbling was complete the flogging was called off and I didn’t die nor suffer too grievously, and most of the toxin left my body within forty-eight hours. I recall one finger remaining completely numb for a couple of weeks after that episode as a gentle reminder of my infantility.
Things of this nature occurred often and in many different ways to me whenever my puny ego started thinking it was in possession of its own universe and had full boasting privileges. These little spankings were there to subdue any swelling sense of power within me, always pointing back at me and saying- “Look here you little worm, quit pretending you’re so big, so competent, you can’t even control your own pitiful life.”
Oh, but how many times would I have to come to that same broken place within myself, so as to learn the same lesson, over and over again. Too many times. Or maybe only as many as I needed, until I got it right. But then, even when I eventually did get it right, and was finally through that test, another challenge suddenly reared up and stood right in front of me.
Thus I was confronted regularly with seeming contradictions; which is to say that a liberating experience, high-point, or staggering realization, which I assumed would carry me through the rest of life on a silvery cloud of bliss, was often soon followed by another descent, trial, and further struggle. But it seems to me that this is the way it goes in life. You pass one exam and you walk out the door and into another room, where another challenge lies waiting. Hercules had his twelve labors, each of which was distinct and unavoidable, and so it is with all of us. There is no single realization or experience which is the key to our fulfillment. The locks are many and the keys are many and to get through one door and to think you are free is to be blind to the new walls around you.
When one battle is over another naturally begins. And to be sure the assault does come. For just when I’d think I was in the clear, and the peace of fulfilment was oozing out of the ether from the purposeless great Self into the core of my absence, the ever enduring ego would return again, like athlete’s foot, halitosis, or dandelions, ever ready to spring up and blemish the fallow ground of my godsoul, and then the patient tutor within me would turn his numinous pedagoguery to red-alert, and again calmly beat the fight and fever out of me, for the crucifixion of the ego must take place over and over again, until the re-ascent to the godself is complete.
I was slowly getting the picture, however, and learning how to stay low, so low that there were times when I would finally rid myself of my possessor, and would sink down beneath all pride and ownership, and would fall right into the lap of the master of ceremonies.
(excerpted from In and Of: memoirs of a mystic journey, by Jack Haas)
Books by Jack Haas. Autobiography, Memoir, Spirituality, Mysticism, Comparative Religion, Poetry, Art, Photography.