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Ego and It’s a Wonderful LIfe 7 May 2008

Posted by mecca in Culture, Psychology.

We wish to assert our existence…. We put on display our framed photographs, our parchment diplomas, our silver-plated cups; we monogram our linen, we carve our names on trees, we scrawl them on washroom walls. It’s all the same impulse. What do we hope from it? Applause, envy, respect? Or simply attention, of any kind we can get? At the very least we want a witness. We can’t stand the idea of our own voices falling silent finally, like a radio running down. — Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin.

There is reason to be fascinated by the ironies of living with a religious bearing. We are lodged in a world whose “stuff” we must mine, bend, or consume in order to survive, but we are charged to be wary of being worldly. We’re also dependent on our senses, yet salvation is uncompromisingly fixed to belief in the unseen. We are curious, rational, and attracted to discovery, philosophy, and debates, but are cautioned against absorption in pursuits that “change the subject” and ignore the urgency of living, that is, the brevity of life and what that really means beyond biology and the last morphine drops. We are also warned about matters of the ego and humility, of hubris and gratitude, but we naturally dislike and are sensitive to humiliation, slight, or haughtiness. We would like to be acknowledged for what we do—and often it’s an obligation—but we must be mindful of tainting good intentions with ostentation or desire for renown.

One of my favorite films is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” What I like best is the part when George Bailey is given the chance to see how life in Bedford Falls would have been had he not existed. Be honest, wouldn’t it be great to know how terrible things would be had it not been for each of us? We all would like to leave an impact, and almost invariably we’d like to think that the impact is “important” if not indispensable. As Atwood says, we’d like to “assert our existence.”



1. sumaiya - 7 May 2008

Hey Baraka…how’re you keeping? Im beginning to enjoy this blog over Rickshaw Diaries…

2. sumaiya - 7 May 2008

oopsie.. my bad.. :$

3. ABD - 8 May 2008

beautiful piece, just hovering around the terrible thought that, in all likelihood, if any of us were to see the world without us it would look no different.

which reminds me of this auden poem about the mythical fall of icarus. as with all poems, it’s best read slowly.

by WH Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Brueghel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the plowman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

4. Baraka - 8 May 2008

Salaam dear Ibrahim and thank you for another insightful and thought-provoking piece.

For most of us our impact on the world is mercifully limited to the hearts and minds of our loved ones, and then, hopefully, it is a positive one.

Strange how we spend so much time in the activities Atwood describes and yet our only chance of real impact and immortality lies with making an impression on the heart and mind of God.


5. Ibrahim A. - 8 May 2008

Thank you, Abd, for the poem and comment.

Baraka, your point in your brief comment exceeds my whole post. “… our only chance of real impact and immortality lies with making an impression on the heart and mind of God.” Really nice! So if you never existed, who would have said that?

6. ABD - 9 May 2008


i have an idea for another domain name for this blog: mutualadmirationsociety.org.

7. Baraka - 9 May 2008


8. Ibrahim A. - 9 May 2008

Hmmm. “MAS”. I think that’s taken.

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