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The regeneration of ego

The survival instinct is cavalier. It wields its influence with conceit, holding its subject hopelessly captive to its whims.


The instinct of “fight” or “flight” overshadows any sense of reason.


And if you’ve ever been “hangry,” you know that instinct’s elixirs—appetite and adrenaline—hold a whole body hostage to a single thought.


Another instinct that echoes loudly in every organism is the urge to procreate. The objective of passing on our DNA is so strong, in fact, that creatures who normally produce sexually can even reproduce asexually if the opportunity to mate is scarce. Vipers and jellyfish, zebra sharks and honey bees—the phenomenon occurs across the animal kingdom.


Scientists call this parthenogenesis. I call this the spontaneous regeneration of ego.


“Man is different,” said someone in the back. “We don’t all want to have children. We don’t all want carbon copies of ourselves in the next generation.” Yes, perhaps we’ve taken a step past certain instincts in the direction of intelligence. We apply logic where instinct doesn’t take us where we want to go.


The instinct of ego, however, speaks louder than logic. It always finds a way.


If we don’t have kids, perhaps we champion our nations. We support our sports teams and exhort our beliefs. We see our ideas as sacred; these small pieces of our psyche must live on or we become hysterical. Our ideas must be validated, or instinct takes over and sends us fighting for that validation, thrashing with every argument we can possibly imagine, until someone sees how right we are.


Then, we can breathe again. Our idea lives, our ego endures.


Virgin birth


An idea is shared through the mating dance of opinions. In the cold absence of like minds, if no mates show interest, we parthenogenerate and raise our idea alone.


Where an idea can be cross-pollinated, however, it becomes stronger.


It’s a strange thing to see the mating dance of ideas, especially as an observer, uninterested or uninvited to the ritual before you. When the spawn is an idea you find offensive, it activates the whims of your own ideas, and instinct leaves your ego agitated and untamed.


Another, not an “other”


I arrived to a new country as an “other.” I was different, from a different world with a different language. There were others like me, but I came at a time where a much larger group was coming from yet another place.


At the immigrations office, there were always two lines: one for larger group, and a second for the “rest of us.”


I learned quickly that, while I was an “other,” I was treated as just “another.” Another person from the outside, but the acceptable outside. The popular outside. As for the larger group, they came in speaking the same language, and geographically they weren’t from so terribly far away. And yet, the welcome wagon sailed by and left them stranded. I was absorbed as “another,” and they were annexed as “the others.”


The dinner party


Summer was coming and social outings were picking up. One night, my boyfriend and I were invited to the home of a friend of a friend. We accepted the invitation, and the scene was set in a condominium where I knew only a few people—the hostess, among others, was new to me.


Everyone came prepared with small talk to carry us through the little soiree. My first impression of the hostess was that she was gregarious and friendly. She made special efforts to engage me, which I appreciated.


It was an abrupt change of topic when, searching for something to hook the interest of the rest of her guests, the hostess began to relate a dire tale about her maid, a woman she’d employed for some months. It was the type of complaining that someone howls as a war cry, a way to rile people up and validate an idea among friends eager to reinforce you.


The thing was—and this came out in the first breath of her diatribe—this employee was an “other.” An immigrant, a refugee, part of that growing population in the city.


The mating dance


It was clear that the hostess had been hungry for this validation. And when half her audience reciprocated, her attention turned to those of us who remained silent. Her weak reception agitated her instinct to dance more bawdily.


The hostess’s comments were absurd at best. She succumbed to belittling her employee, calling the grown woman “the girl.” The silence from my half of the room grew louder, and the dance more obscene.


The hostess made a point of mentioning several times how much she paid the employee.


She also complained that the woman ate “too many eggs.”


A potential mate replied, “oh yeah, they eat so many eggs!”


“And she has no idea how to cook what I want.”


“They don’t know how to use our spices at all!”


The mating dance was an orgy of pretense. I observed. I rejected the mating call—it repulsed me. I could feel the toxicity rise in the air around me, holding my partner’s hand, knowing he was suffocating from the same.


Logic and ego


If man is really better, if we can climb a rung above instinct with the strength of intelligence, it’s a quality that’s in no way inherent. It requires force of will. It demands self-awareness. And without applying curiosity and logic, we are nothing but the viscid regeneration of our own egos.


A validated idea may mean our psyche will exist past tomorrow, but if the idea is toxic, we’ll be left to suffer in its contamination until we are all extinct.


Discovering self-validation is like the ego's pubescence. Just as gripping, just as messy.

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