As I walked around “Day on the Town” in Birmingham a couple Saturdays ago, a large, noisy, and fun annual sidewalk sale, the title of the 2006 Nora Ephron book, I Feel Bad About My Neck, kept coming to mind. This was in no small part due to the throngs of beautiful twenty-somethings with their annoyingly perky little figures and glossy, flowing manes. I had left the house earlier that morning thinking I looked not-too-shabby for a woman in her fifties, and I returned thinking: What were you thinking? I felt bad about my neck—but also my face, hair, boobs, glutes, and legs. Other than that, I was riding an epic wave of confidence.
Luckily, as I arrived home later, deflated in my self-estimation by the ravages of the three decades and four pregnancies I had on these gorgeous girls, I also returned to find an email awaiting from Jules Evans, a British philosopher I worship. His mailing that day riffed off of Socrates’ observation that, “To philosophize is to learn how to die.”
This particular post profiled a pair of Buddhist friends who do a lot of work in hospice. In discussing their mission, Evans noted that, “When we focus more on death, life comes into greater focus—its mystery, its poignancy, its brevity, and its purpose and value.” Then the kicker: “What things do I worry about that don’t really matter?” Immediately my neck came to mind.
A little further down in the post, Evans pondered the issue that distracts us from the real meaning of it all: “How often do I get lost in the ego-dream?” and then later still threw out the term “ego-dissolution.” It was as though a flashing sanity marquis suddenly illuminated my brain. Of course we’re miserable and riddled with self-loathing when we fixate on appearances. Lose the ego, find the way. Why is it so hard to keep this obvious idea front and center as we move through the day?
Once my consciousness had abruptly shifted, I immediately felt better about my neck. It still holds up my head and allows air and food to pass through it. “What does matter?” Evans asks. “My working hypothesis is that the purpose of life is to realize our divine nature, over multiple lives, by learning to love more, and cling to the ego less.” I’ll leave you with that laden idea to ponder, along with a reminder of Einstein’s formula:
Ego = 1/Knowledge
Let the ego go if you want to find wisdom, happiness, and peace—and, by the way, self-acceptance and self-love.