Vanity, the Ego, and Our Nature

This is a response to an extremely interesting blog by chiefmcfrank, which I would recommend you follow:


I’m going to have to prioritize David Foster Wallace as required reading. Your blog is thought-provoking, profound, and positively dangerous in its ultimate path to infinite regression. I love it!

I like to think I have sincere answers to many things, but this topic is one I continuously struggle with. There was a story I read in a philosophy book too long ago to remember very much about, but the basics are: A man from a wealthy family and good education, became a doctor, and decided at a very young age to help the poor without charging them. I believe he continued doing this for over 30 years or something. One day he thought about what he was doing and decided that he was fooling himself, and in reality he was looking for acknowledgement. He decided to go to another country, where people didn’t know him, self indulge with drinking and prostitution, where he died as an unknown in his small apartment. (can someone remind me which book this story comes from?)

This story and your blog, not only give me a headache, but are the quintessential paradox faced by good people who examine themselves genuinely. If explored too much can bring self-hate, depression, and guilt, as well as justified low self-esteem. It is why philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche, Niccolo Machiavelli, and Henry Sidgwick, have decided to jump ship, and rid themselves of this unjustified guilt, by bringing to the table the painful truth of who we are, accept it and embrace it. To me it’s just an easy route to well-being, for those looking for a shortcut, and to survive in an unfortunate dog eat dog world, where people think their well-being is the purpose of their life, and nothing is beyond that or life itself.

We are animals in our nature that, if good and unselfish is what we strive to be, we struggle between who we are and who we want to be. In most cases not achieving who we want to be. To conquer this is to let go of the Ego. I’ve heard some enlightened people managed to do this after a lifetime of practice. Mystics like Eckhart Tolle are one of the very few lucky ones, who’s traumatic depression, may have rewired his brain, but he is able to take himself outside of his thoughts and observe himself thinking, and understand certain human elements. He is probably correct in saying it’s not something you can think about, but only practice, by eliminating thought or containing it.

I have tried to covey this struggle in one of my blogs “Chronicle Of a Guilty Conscience“, so I’m not in denial, but certainly no where near being cured.

3 responses to “Vanity, the Ego, and Our Nature

  1. I’m working on a follow-up, because vanity/self-consciousness seems to be this exploding fractal realm of subconscious paradoxes.
    Basically, I think who we are and who we want to be are too closely related to be fully separated, if only for the reason that who we are is necessarily influenced by context – including the context of other humans.
    However – thank you for mentioning the ego – our egos commandeer who we want to be because of an inflated fear of isolation. It turns the useful feedback of other perspectives into warnings and decrees about who to be. We must let go of the ego, as you say, but only in the sense of losing the fear of being an outlier. I think it’s still important to respect the views others have of you, because those views offer a peer-review of how you are projecting yourself and how that projection manifests as a social influence.

    P.S. Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad to hear my posts are of value to someone!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: More Thoughts on Vanity, and the Genuineness of Character | chiefmcfrank·

  3. Thanks Chief and for DFS stuff. I like the whole mindfulness thing because it encourages noticing the stuff that is going on in the self but more importantly noticing it without judging it as good or bad and also heaping onto it loving spoonfuls of self-compassion.

    Liked by 1 person

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