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Dear Shakespeare: Ego trips

My dear Billy, Of all the trips that you can take on land, by sea or in the air, the one you should never embark upon is the ego trip, because such a trip starts with the ego and ends with the ego. The distance covered is between you and yourself. An ego trip takes you by the hand and leads you across paths and passages, wandering through meandering byways and tortuous sideways in your own company. All that you meet through the journey is but yourself in a number of imagined positions and dreamed circumstances. The whole world is peopled uniquely by yourself. Or it takes you in a jet across clouds and heights. You keep soaring to the skies in a frenzy to reach the limit – always in your own company. If you happen to meet any other traveller on the way, it may be your own reflection in a mirror or your shadow. On an ego trip, you are like a giant treading a world which is too narrow and too small for you,    where the rest of humanity are like vermin subsisting on your favours, they are parasites who owe their existence to your benevolence and charity. The word “ego”, my dear Billy, is what the ancient Romans had for the equivalent of the English “I”, the French “Je” or the Creole “Mwa”. Thus when we talk of somebody’s ego, we refer to his inner self, his own image of himself, to what he thinks of himself. And this ego business is a very dangerous thing indeed. It has brought disaster to many a famous person’s career and is known to have been at the root of people’s ruin and destruction, because the ego has always to be satisfied. And some people can go to any length in order to satisfy their ego. In a bid to keep their ego boosted and inflated, some do commit downright follies and sheer extravagance. Others won’t stop at anything to show that they are above all their fellow human beings. People have often gone into a fit of extreme wrath and rage simply because their ego has been punctured and deflated. They cannot bear to see their views challenged or their actions criticised or their pretentions brought to their right measure. They cannot take it when they find people with better ideas, brighter imagination and more creativeness than themselves. And, as you rightly pointed out, my dear Billy, such men are “never at heart’s ease when they behold a better than themselves”, and are therefore “very dangerous.” That should in no way be construed to mean that people must not love themselves or should refrain from liking their own company. On the contrary, one should love oneself enough to be able to love others in the same measure. Remember God’s great commandment “Love thy neighbour as thyself?” But egotism is a different matter. Egotism is self-conceit, self-glorification. It leads people to believe that they can be certain of nothing but their own existence and the operations of their own minds and that they can never be wrong. And this leads to egomania and egocentricity. In the words of Ambrose Bierce, “they become animals soon lost in rapturous  contemplation of what they think  they are as to overlook what they indubitably ought to be.”
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