“I’m tired. Of myself.”

As Richard Beck wrote in “Kenosis,”

I’m tired. Of myself.
Not sad. Not depressed. Not suicidal. Not dark.
Just tired.
Tired of being an ego. Having an ego.
I’m tired of filtering everything through myself.

Granted, as one of melancholy temperament, it is far too easy for my brain, when it notices the symptoms Beck describes, to seek reasons for sadness, depression, darkness…and to find them.

I wake up in the morning, I sit at my work desk. My brain scans tasks, responsibilities, which I know I should work on. They obligate me but they don’t interest me. I feel as if my “true self” is elsewhere.

Ha! “True selGeology If.” That’s a good one.

Drawing spurious boundaries across the boundless horizon of awareness, and preferring “that over there” to the landscape through which I move at the present moment.

There. There is the illusion of “self.”

That it has boundaries, and that those boundaries can exclude the passages we don’t desire to experience.

Just do it.

2 comments On “I’m tired. Of myself.”

  • Hmm…I’ve got the melancholy temperament and am not suicidal, but unlike you have often been depressed, often wondered why “the good and the true” is so often not ever present even for those few of us who live in fairly safe, affluent, participatory democracies and have more than basics to live on.

    Sometimes, heartache, disappointment, and tragedy are the only threes. Adding to your quote from Stephen Jay Gould, could be his statement:
    “…hope is an ever-present temptress in a world of woe.” (also from Bully)

    And I do despair about how the dark shadow side of me–those behaviors that are wrong–still come back and hurt myself and others, even after I’ve sought to overcome them for years…

    But I think I’ve seldom been “tired of myself…tired of being an ego…having an ego.”

    M-W Dictionary: ego– “the self especially as contrasted with another self or the world”

    On the contrary, when I become disheartened with life, especially with the horrors of religion and politics, etc., it seems that the self of each of us,
    at least the positive Dr. Jekyll side of our personality
    –that “self” or “ego” is one of the few good aspects of tragic human existence.

    The ego-negating, opposition to “becoming,” that defines some religious movements seems strange to me.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that Christianity can’t be true because of the Augustinian-Calvinistic horror, but Jesus’ words of hope to each self still speak volumes to me when I despair.

    • Michael Austin Shell

      Thanks for this, Daniel. You voice important concerns.

      At 65, I look all the way back to my teens and recognize melancholia. I also recognize a number of difficult, undiagnosed periods of clinical depression over the decades.

      It is always so easy to find real world “reasons” for feeling depressed. Even after 15 years as a clinical counselor, I didn’t recognize the neurobiological dimension of my depression until 2008, after my mother’s advancing Alzheimer’s meant we had to move her first to my sister’s care and then to mine. I had probably been clinically depressed for almost a year before I identified the symptoms and found treatment.

      This is why I wrote: “It is far too easy for my brain, when it notices the symptoms Beck describes, to seek reasons for sadness, depression, darkness…and to find them.”

      Our brains are storytellers. They help us to survive by making “meaning” out of what happens. However, emotions are always also chemical. They can be responses to actual events, to misleading stories we tell ourselves, to chemical imbalances, or to a mixture of all of these. To stay spiritually centered, I have to be mindful of the brain’s storytelling: circumstances may be objective realities, but the stories I tell myself are at best interpretation and at worst self-deception.

      I appreciate this comment:

      “I’ve seldom been ‘tired of myself…tired of being an ego…having an ego….’ [When] I become disheartened with life, especially with the horrors of religion and politics, etc., it seems that the self of each of us, at least the positive Dr. Jekyll side of our personality—that ‘self’ or ‘ego’ is one of the few good aspects of tragic human existence. The ego-negating, opposition to ‘becoming,’ that defines some religious movements seems strange to me.”

      “Ego” or “self” is essential to human engagement with the world. The human brain’s capacity for conscious observation of experience and for imagining and choosing among possibilities gives us the potential to act independently of the consequences to ourselves. In other words, we are not driven only by survival instincts. We can act for (or against) others even when instinct demands otherwise. We can let moral judgment intrude.

      I think that speaking of “ego-negation” is a Western misrepresentation of Buddhism’s psychological and ethical teachings. Similarly, I think traditional Christianity’s tying of self-sacrifice “in this life” to the rewarding of the soul “in the life to come” misrepresents what Jesus intended when he addressed the role of self in community.

      I exist as a human animal. My brain constructs a necessary sense of self so that I can act independent of animal instinct. Yet when I draw a boundary around “myself” as opposed to others, I introduce a fiction. I tell myself a false story about a win-lose game. Buddha taught that the win-win lies in seeing that boundary of “ego” as a fiction, so that we can allow ego to suffer while still living compassionate lives. Jesus taught the same.

      And so it is.

      Blessèd Be,
      Michael

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