Friday, November 9, 2012

The Ego Boundary

"Suzuki rises from his chair and turns to the board. He picks up the chalk and draws a freehand oval, something like an eggshell in diagram. As though piercing one side of the eggshell with a straw, he draws two parallel lines that cut through from inside to outside.

...The eggshell is the boundary between us and everything else: the identity that constructs the viewpoint of "I-me-mine". The thin line that Suzuki draws on the board contains what we think of as "the world". Though it seems solid to us, the ego boundary is actually something like a mirror that reflects the way our own minds are constructed. Our consciousness imprints itself on everything we see, feel, think, and do, even before we notice. It's almost impossible to see what's "not us" due to the power of its biological force field. Perhaps it's a survival mechanism. Compared with the colossal and incomprehensible immensity that we float in, the egg-ego feels like a place apart - a comfortable little place where the separate existence of the chick can be nurtured.

Although the chick may feel alone within its shell, Suzuki is describing a bigger picture. He tells us that the chick's sense of separation is an illusion. I-me-mine has no reality beyond its purpose of keeping us alive. Instead, everything flows in and through the parallel lines.

...Suzuki's teaching on ego was ground zero in Cage's transformation. The emotions troubling him - where is their reality? They have no real basis. All they are doing is dividing Cage from himself. Walling him up in agonized thoughts. Making him lose sight of his own vast wisdom."

Page 171, 'Ego Noise', Section 2: 'Mountains are no longer Mountains', from ‘Where the Heart Beats - John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists’, by Kay Larson, 2012.

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