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Monday, May 2, 2016

Getting Past the Ego Trip

It was a drive I have done many times.  It was early morning and I was on my way home.  It’s a longish drive, but since I know the roads pretty well, I do not have to be on high alert.  The traffic was light because it was so early.  I was moving along safely, but not paying too much attention to every detail.

At some point I came up behind a yellow Corvette.  That caught my attention.  For decades Corvettes have had a unique style.  They are low-slung sports cars.  I have ridden in one or two Corvettes, but I have never driven one.  They are power on wheels!  I never had too much of a longing for a Corvette, but admittedly I am cheap!  I don’t know what one costs, but I am sure it is more than I will pay for transportation.

Fairly quickly the Corvette slowed to a speed less than I was driving.  So I edged up closer and began moving to the outside lane to pass.  It was at that point I noticed the license plate on the Corvette.  I laughed.  I read “EGO TRP.”  Only one letter was missing, so it seemed easy enough to know what the guy in the Corvette wanted the world to know.  I laughed even more when I realized the missing letter was “I!”  That was too much!

Around the Corvette I went.  I doubt that I would have paid any more attention to what I had seen, but alas that Corvette and I did a dance down the highway for nearly three hours, it seemed.  He would pass and, later, I would again pass him.  There was no sense of contest.  There was no challenge.  It just seemed like “Ego TRP” and I were going to go through the morning together.  Obviously, I was paying more attention now and began to think about the whole ego process.

As I said, I think the guy was being honest.  I suppose anyone driving a Corvette has to have some kind of ego.  For a long time I have thought cars often express how we want to be perceived.  Rich people tend not to drive jalopies.  Young guys often want some kind of macho car---big engine, big everything.  It is almost as if the guy is saying, “I am the car!  I am big, macho, souped up…”

I know our ego shows up in many ways.  Sometimes it is clothes.  It can be our hair or our house.  It is not unusual for our stuff to express our ego---our sense of who we are.  I don’t want to be judgmental, because I am sure it is still true for me.  I still spend time fiddling with what little hair I have.  The clothes I wear are not irrelevant to how I portray myself.  My ego is certainly not dead!

So I am not judging the Corvette guy.  Actually, I am quite thankful to have spent a good amount of my day chasing him and being chased by him.  Every time I passed him, I thought to myself: “Good. Finally I have put ego trip in my rear view mirror!”  Metaphorically that is like maturing to the place where we know our perceptions and actions are no long driven by our ego needs and desires.  I am not there yet, but I would hope to continue growing closer to that reality.

I think the saints are simply those who have managed to put their ego trips in the rear view mirror of their lives.  And I am equally confident they would demur and say their egos are still too much trouble.  Humility is the best antidote to ego trips.  If you can’t put the ego in the rear view mirror, at least minimize it by your humility.  That was what I was being taught, as I cruised down the open highway.  Just when you think you have put your ego trip in the rear view mirror, it goes around you again or simply seems to show up again right in front of you.

I decided just to stick with the Corvette.  I have no clue what it meant to the guy driving it, but that did not matter.  To me Corvette means expensive and impressive worldly power.  Because I want to be on a spiritual journey, I am not interested in either one of these---money or worldly power.  But I also recognize that simply saying this means I have made it.  It probably does little more than indict me as a hypocrite.

I certainly have not taken a vow of poverty.  Quakers have a comparable approach.  We talk about simplicity, not poverty.  My goal is to live life simply.  Clearly that is sharply defined.  Simplicity can be relative.  What is simple to me might be extravagant to you.  I have one car.  Having two cars for myself is not simple.  But maybe true simplicity would be having no car.  Simplicity is a process for me.

At least for myself, simplicity means having a modest car.  I interpret that not to mean a junky car, but rather one that does not cost too much.  Again, I know that is relative. My point is not to zero in on some exact definition of simplicity for myself.  It is to examine those places in my life where I should have some kind of “license plate” saying, “EGO TRP.”  Where am I still on an ego trip?

My ego trips are pretty subtle and sometimes sophisticated.  I know my ego trips can fake out people who probably think I have put my ego trip in my rear view mirror.  I have just enough of the saint’s sense to know that is not true.  I am still on my spiritual journey, so I’ll pay attention, stay humble and hope to get through safely.

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