Live At The Gilmore

Should I Murder My Ego?

Well, should I? Should you? The Mystery of Human Connection: Pt. III


Mystery of Human Connection Pt. III: Should I Murder My Ego?

Many of you are saying “Hey, Gilmore, where is Part II? Didn’t you skip one?” Geez. I dunno—half-finished on a laptop in Somerville, maybe? Duh.

Should I murder my ego? This question came to me and not for the first time, but for the first time in a while, standing in line to order French fries on a damp, freezing winter evening between Christmas and New Year’s. It had no charge, mystical yearning, longing for change, or summation of life experience. More along the lines of did I pay the heating bill? Should I take the T or the bus home? Should I murder my ego? Well, I thought, I suppose it’s better to murder your ego than someone else’s.

Presupposing this ego-murdering is in any way possible, it does beget many questions. First, will you be trying to get away with it? Would you plot and scheme behind your ego’s back so that no one, least of all your ego, would ever suspect it was you? You could have some conspiracy with other parts of yourself until the fateful day you hear your ego’s back-stabbed and sorrowful cry “Et tu, Brute?” And then: technique. Poison it slowly with meditation? Shove it off the top of a building in a giant epiphany? Could you claim self-defense? Or contract it out? Perhaps there are ego hitmen. Or consider a Kevorkian-style assisted suicide or mercy killing. Could it be called a revenge killing? Imagine the possibilities for denouement before the fatal moment.

All of this clearly needs to get sorted out by me, me, me, me, ME, and ME ALONE. But you know, I am just as interested in WHY the thought had come up in that particular moment than any attempt at answering it. I shall parse, then.

That nuit, I was in a part of town I wasn’t usually, at a time of day I don’t tend to be out and about, running errands at places I rarely frequent, and, because of the time of year, many people weren’t doing what they usually would be at that hour. The supremacy of a winter night with its low-hanging fog-like darkness over all attempts to illuminate it held fast so the blaring light in the restaurant seemed almost valiant by contrast. There could be no mysterious corners or shadows even under counters under this fluorescent insistence.

Several large lone male college athlete types sat at different tables methodically mowing through multiple burgers and fries. One thinks of such Hercules roaming in packs, but I’ve seen a fair number of young bro types paddling around alone in those terrible Adidas slides, seeming kind of…oh, it’s poignant…isolated without actually knowing they are. Anyway, they seemed solitary, but pleasantly occupied, eating with concentration, and at the same time, as it were a job, like cows and horses do—both business and pleasure*. An elderly couple sat, yawning, replete, alternating patting each other’s hands, assuring each other they’d get up soon, and chuckling at their inertia. Clustered at other tables were junior high-ers teasing each other, and it seemed OK, I didn’t get the sense anyone was imminently going to get beat up or go home and want to die.

The young people who worked at the place, undoubtedly not getting paid a living wage, made one of the most pleasing tableaux possible in a holiday season–or at any season for that matter: kids working fast food without a manager around. They zipped about making up voices for the hamburger condiments, having outbursts of dance steps, flirting a little, planning post-work adventures. The tableaux paused at my appearance, as if awaiting censure, which made me a bit sad—take your scraps of joy where you can find them, shouts the Ancient Marineress—but then started up again. A girl (and she was a girl) who seemed not yet beaten down yet by life or the brutality of customer service, guided me to the ketchup with chitchat.

I sat in a red bucket seat, a red that I liked, cheerful without being overcompensating and overloud to make up for the impersonality of the place. Snow and winter-focused non-denominationalizing holiday songs played. I picked up my receipt and stared at it, as if it was the answer generated by my ego-murdering question. But no. Still, I was pleased after a day of problems that needed a frightening amount of $$$ thrown at them, my snack wasn’t much. Also, I just liked the feel of it. That receipt had a nice feel. Didn’t curl up, just a flat rectangle. For the first time I felt a wisp of that disembodied collective holiday cheer which I can find elusive. Then it vanished, but that was OK. I discerned with the keen eye of the enthusiast, that my fries were crispy, even without touching them, and began to wolf them down.

I highly recommend you replicate these laboriously inventoried circumstances should you ever want to address the question of ego murder.

So. I pulled out a pen, and off my hamburger of a brain and I went, having our thought party we sometimes do.




So: Q.E.D. Phew. Glad I got that settled. Ah, just kiddin’.

I do have to wonder if I’m understanding the question right considering the fact that the terminology strikes me as essentially borrowed and appropriated. One must, I feel, when you are talking about in ego in this sort of context, bring up the B-word, which is to say Buddhism, which gets thrown around somewhat willy de nilly.

This Buddhism that’s floating about in the U.S.A.…one might call it…Nachos Buddhism? Now I love nachos, and they can be fortifying, but I just don’t think they are the heart of much of Mexico’s many cuisines, if you see what I mean. I’m aware “Nachos Buddhism” is a l’il glib and could do a disservice to practitioners working with honesty and dedication and who’ve become better parents, friends, artists, and partners as a result of an undertaking that everyone agrees to be difficult. There may be a better analogy. Let’s just say: westernized be westernized. I was a garage sort of Buddhist myself, learning from books, DIY zazen, documentaries, and, of course, the streets. And nachos, probably.

Could we attribute the prevalence of Nachos Buddhism to the yoga-fication of the U.S. (aware that yoga practice falls under other religious umbrellas as well—Hinduism, etc.)? The 60’s? The yawning maw in cosmological understanding in Judeo-Christian Western thought? Oh, who cares. But now that I say that, there’s the regional factor to consider. A colleague, one of the hardest working, most practical, and, for that matter, least egotistical persons I’ve seen in action, was industriously putting away dishes, and somehow the topic of a local center and Buddhism had come up, and she said in her mild, offhand way, no judgement, no investment, just an observation: “They do tend to be very uptight around here.” I laughed. And laughed. Boston Buddhists don’t tend to skew easy-going. Which you could say about much of Boston/Cambridge-anything, with its oft relentlessly aspirational atmosphere. Ooo, and picky.

May I say, as an aside, if I hear or see the word mindfulness one more time, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll…be aware of how in that moment I’m experiencing the sensations of my eyes rolling in my head. Of course mindfulness is useful, of course there is an almost tragic dirth of it, and of course I too need more mindfulness in my life. But to present it as some miracle P-A-N-A-C-E-A smells like snake oil.  Especially when employers who expect their employees to do the work of several and could pay more or have better health care benefits offer mindfulness classes. Bah. Yeah, that’s the problem.

In any case, in populist Nachos Buddhism, “ego” as a problem generally seems less cited or called out than subtweeted (more in terms of self-acceptance, or “distractions”). In some contexts, where you’re trying to be calm (and probably any situation where candles are lit), ‘ego’ and its attendant issues seems a bit—stark. Confrontational, even. And in the form of relaxation-think, the idea of ego-murder is even less likely to exist. Boy howdy, I would love to hear that guided meditation.

I do think it’s a question with some utility.  It’s worth paddling through once a twice or year, maybe. Or every day. Or never. See: this is how much I avoid prescription-think. Fair enough. If a rubric is not helpful, hey, it’s not helpful.

I’m sort of dying to hear other people’s opinions and experiences. I’d love a “Should I Murder My Ego?” conference. Imagine, panels of randomly chosen persons (non-“experts”) sitting on a stage behind long tables leaning into microphones to talk about it. I’d find that HYPNOTIC.

Anyway. With all this in mind, again, it’s hard not to wonder if I’m asking what I think I’m asking. I keep coming back to how it may be more useful to examine why the question came up at all. And I think I can why—even exactly why.

I was enough out of my usual circumstances to have a moment of distance, but nothing like, superweird was going on. All was ordinary and recognizable. Everyone understood what was happening, I think. And everyone was just sorta—sitting there. I don’t think anyone was trying to be present, per se, either they were, or they weren’t. There were whiffs of joy and despair passing through the room. For good or for ill, the nature of fast food is transitory as all get out. In my experience, I can’t speak for anyone else’s, that time didn’t feel like a block of time trying to be anything other than what it was. Nothing to prove or find or realize or know or improve upon or become or revolt against or aspire to or do. I like french fries and I was eating them.

Let’s not forget, all was illuminated—literally.

And there I was.

And then the feeling passed.

Everything is so elusive, in the end. Sometimes I wonder how much others feel that or feel that as often as I do.

Should I murder my ego? I choose French fries. And you, reader.

*this is not a snide on college athletes as it something I’ve seen many humans do in many contexts, not excluding Thanksgiving dinners.

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