One of our family vacations was to Granada. A sleepy, off-the-beaten-path Caribbean Island. Myself, my wife, our daughter, and our niece packed our bags for a 10-day stay. We rented an amazing bungalow in the hills above the capital city of St. Georges. We landed on a truly tropical island. Bananas, breadfruit, mangoes and every other fruit you could imagine grew abundantly. We had to only reach up and pick what we wanted. The other crop that was prolific was pot. Thirty-five years ago cannabis was not readily available in New Jersey or any other 50 states. One afternoon, I went to explore St. Georges. It was a bit of a long walk back to the bungalow, so I decided to take a taxi. The driver’s name was Elvis. With a not-so-subtle inquiry on my part, Elvis was quick to help me acquire some pot. Twenty dollars purchased more than I had ever seen. Realizing I could never smoke that much on a short vacation, my mind started to scheme about all the ways I could get some of this rich bounty back to New Jersey.
Needless to say, 35 years ago pot was illegal. Being caught with even a small amount in a foreign country carried some extreme and unpleasant penalties. With total disregard for the safety of two children and my wife, I devised a plan to conceal a small amount from the drug-sniffing dogs used by customs. That act of gross stupidity was one of the reasons that contributed to my then-wife wanting to end a twenty-year marriage.
I look back on that incident and am amazed at my total thoughtlessness. It was an act of arrogance and self-centered behavior. I thought I was impervious to getting caught. For some reason, I thought my actions were immune from any repercussions. I am amazed at the mechanisms of my ego that allow me to manipulate reality. In turn, convincing myself that I am right despite all the evidence to the contrary.
The ego is a powerful force. It helps define our personality. Who we are. What we are drawn to. How we form relationships. Form opinions. How we interact with the world at large. It helps formulate our strategy for creating our lives. Our egos constantly inform us about our sense of well-being. In large part, it is the authority of who we are. For better or worse our ego provides a built-in ever-ready feedback mechanism, ensuring we stick to the plan we have laid out for our lives. Our ego also helps locate us in time and space. Without an ego, we would lose our unique identity ending up with the same personality as everyone else. Our egos represent one of the ultimate paradoxes of life. Left unchecked chaos often pursues. With inspiration and self-reflection beauty and amazement arise. These opposite movements in life are driven by the tendencies acquired by our egos.
For me, there is a voice, an impulse to move towards the mystery that lives all things. To find moments of connection to the beauty and awe of life and to be open and available to the unfolding gift of who I am. Not always easy. Sometimes following that impulse feels impossible. Ultimately, I choose to not contribute to the chaos in the world. I chose to live with an open heart and an open mind.
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