Wednesday 30 January 2008

Riding the Tiger, Climbing the Ladder

Lots of Egos rubbing up against each other usually find ways to screw each other up. Churches, families and whole societies produce fruity horror stories about egomania and its products, from personal resentments to mad dictators. However, God gave us ego for a purpose. It feeds determination, creativity and resilience, even self-respect. Someone who really did not care about any of that would be less than themselves, and do very little creative for any community.

Wise as ever, Benedict sees the dangers and suggests real ways out. He doesn't simply say "Ego Bad" and squash people ("There is no I in Team"). One of the longest chapters in the rule (7) says how to grow humility. Benedict likens the struggle with Ego to Jacob's ladder — the place of work heaven and earth are joined. It begins by the simple awareness that we are never alone:
"Let each take account for ourself that we are noticed and observed at all times by God from heaven — our deeds in every time or place lie open to the divine seeing, and every time are reported by angels..."

From this interesting starting point, Benedict develops a twelve step recovery process (where have we heard of that before?) for recovering the person as they could be from the wreckage of our own egos run wild.

Note: Next time I get a silent retreat (Saint Wandrille in November?) go study RB7. Question: What creative contribution does Ego make to the building of community? How is it put to good work, and how allowed to run wild?

1 comment:

Sarah Brush said...

Interesting post. Being myself very keen on community and relatively recently married to an anarchist I've been thinking through ides of community quite a lot. There is a careful balance between "for the good of the community" and "for the good of the individual". No answers yet, still ponderings. I look froward to more of your reflections on it!

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