The selfish ego’s inability to attain joy is due to the tendency of superimposing one’s own ‘life form’ on another
A whole lot of psychological misery and pain is caused by one single fact and that is the strong sense of “selfish” ego. This is tantamount to being against God, against reality itself. Human beings need to realize that they singlehandedly do not and cannot exhaust God’s creative power. If we look around we see innumerable manifestations of God, the limitless creation of the Almighty. God is intensively infinite (as Iqbal would say); he creates and has been creating of which we only have meagre understanding and knowledge. But yet this one single creature on earth (the selfish ego) due to its mental abstractions thinks that it has got it all. Although man does potentially have all (pointing to a deeper truth of being a “microcosm” in the “macrocosm”) but his selfishness does not allow him to see that when man rises above his selfish ego, only then he realizes the essential truth of God and of being.
Now let’s come back to our main issue at hand and that is: how jealousy constricts the self to death. Say, for example, a person can sing well but cannot play football. He loses his peace of mind and becomes bitter and jealous when he sees someone else play good football. He is good at one thing but cannot stand seeing someone else excel in some other thing. He wants everything for himself. He ludicrously assumes that God should stop his creative (power) manifestation at his particular self only. When we look around we see God’s beauty pouring out its magic indiscriminately. It is God who is rolling out his magic through different people and events. If we hate the “other” we are in essence hating God (that is why it leads to misery). If we resist the “other” we are resisting God.
Someone is beautiful, someone may be smart, someone is wealthy, someone is good at maths, someone is good at poetry, someone is good at painting, someone with humour and so on. We should just look around and “enjoy” this diverse creation of God; enjoy God’s feast that he has invited us to by allowing us to witness “being”. But no! Man (due to his selfish arrogant separate self identity) decides to suffer unnecessarily by resisting/ fighting/ becoming jealous of the other (which is nothing but God’s gift to people) thus in essence becoming jealous of God and he (selfish ego) does not even realize this.
Even modern science has shown man that he is fundamentally connected to not just humans but the whole nature around him. Man polluted water and disturbed the ecosystem, assuming that man is a disjointed “master” over a nature “out there” to be exploited (based on shallow Cartesian dualism) but gradually witnessed the devastating consequences of such a mentality in the form of environmental crises. Man pollutes water (assuming its well being is its own and nothing to do with him) and lo and behold finds himself diseased and unhealthy.
Will “selfish ego” eat up the whole reality by itself? It is just one note among innumerable notes of God’s cosmic music. Just this petty selfish want of ownership destroys all joy and peace for this creature. He sees a beautiful painting but rather than enjoying it he starts putting himself to misery by asking “oh man! Why am I not the painter receiving all this praise?”, not realizing that both he and that painter have the same common source/ creator and thus no need of this foolish mental abstraction. Praising that painter means praising God. Denying praise and appreciation to people means denying praise and gratitude to God as one Prophetic tradition teaches. He (selfish ego) constantly puts himself (his narrow selfish identity) at the centre of everything (something that only suits God) and this brings misery for him because he is never genuinely “touched” by life. The fortress of selfishness around him never lets him enjoy/ touch life like an innocent spectator who is most enthralled and comes out of the theatre/ stadium having enjoyed the show to the fullest. But selfish ego rather than enjoying (letting things touch him seamlessly) starts mental abstractions, constructions and assumptions, and traps himself in his bitterness. He sees someone excel in something or do good, and rather than cheering for him, he starts his mental psychological game of abstraction of thinking “why I am not the one receiving this praise and attention” and thus continues to suffer.
Similarly many people who venture into different fields and become interested in diverse things in life want everyone else to follow their “interests” the same way. This is essentially limiting God and life’s possibility which will not stop simply by man’s whimsical thinking. The gush of God’s limitless manifestation will not stop by constructing petty selfish bunds and halts. Resisting flow of God’s power simply means inviting misery. Say for example someone is into cricket/sports, and all of a sudden now they want everyone else to talk about it and think about it the same way. Someone into science wants everyone else to leave poetry and other things for the sake of it. Someone into academics wants everyone else to start reading just books, become a scholar and forget everything else. Someone who is into politics wants everyone else to follow it with the exact amount of zeal and that, too, by following the same political ideology. This is a form of violence that is trying to limit life’s possibilities. Different people are touched by life in different ways. This gives us opportunity to witness diversity of life and a chance to learn from each other. We should let people explore reality/ life through different channels. But no! The selfish ego cannot take it. Around him, everyone should look like him, and speak like him, and agree with all his biases.
Most of the times the selfish ego’s inability to attain joy is due to this tendency of superimposing one’s own “life form” on another. There is no harm in “sharing” one’s life with another but it has to be in the spirit of sharing rather than superimposing.