Over this last week or so, I’ve been reading Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth. I bought it at the Lifeline Bookfest last week-end. It’s kind of funny because I wasn’t looking for it at all. I was browsing through the paperback fiction tables, being incredibly picky because I have an incredible backlog of books from previous Bookfests that I still need to get through …and then suddenly I saw this book.
Possibly the only reason I know about this book at all is because a friend from work told me about it, and he highly recommended it. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to buy it or not: it’s in good condition, but a $5 price-tag is kind of a bit much by Bookfest standards; and although it was recommended by someone I know and respect, I wasn’t sure if I’d get much out of reading it – spiritual / self-help books aren’t really my thing…
Well, since I was being so picky and reluctant to buy anything else, I figured I’d just carry it around with me while I browsed the rest of the fiction selection, and see if I couldn’t make a more definite decision in that time. I also read a few pages amongst the browsing, and, in the end, I decided it was worth a shot.
Side note: it is only now, while writing this, that I think there might’ve been some sort of joke in its being placed in the fiction section… Almost as bad as that time I saw Twilight in the “classics and literature” section…
Anyway, A New Earth has given me a lot to think about (which is kind of ironic because I think that it’s trying to discourage too much thinking). Some of it kind of sounds like spiritual mumbo-jumbo or psychobabble, but a lot of it does make sense, and, if nothing else, it is an interesting read. Sometimes it even seems to be confirming things that I kind of already knew or suspected. I’m not very far into it at the moment, but I feel compelled to write about it anyway.
In the first part of the book, Tolle explains about the concept of the “ego” and how the ego creates an identity for itself. I’m kind of trying to read this book quickly in the lead up to my holiday (I already know which book I’m taking, and it’s not this – no offence to A New Earth), but my understanding is that the ego is the unconscious or unaware mind – it is the mind that is unaware of true “Being” or “I Am” or whatever you want to call it. Supposedly, a big part of “ego” is the creation and solidification of identity. There’s a lot about perception (of oneself and of others) and how it’s all an illusion.
Reading this made me think of past reflections that I’ve had about my own identity. I’ve previously noticed, some time ago, a need within myself to carve out a unique identity. Apparently this is what the ego craves: it wants to be special and distinguished, and it sees everyone else as “other” or separate and unconnected to it.
These reflections probably came about because of a comparison to others. And then I asked myself: Why is it so important to have a defined identity? Why does it need to be unique?
And then there’s all this stuff about how this ego-made identity affects our interactions and relationships with other people. The ego also creates identities for others, so we’re kind of all just caught up in this huge illusion. It’s really all too much to summarise in a single blog post, but let me just add one last thing:
What I found really fascinating is when Tolle explained about how the ego doesn’t always latch on to positive self-images, emotions, thoughts, etc. It kind of reminded me of the line in the song Iris (by The Goo Goo Dolls) – you bleed just to know you’re alive. And then I wondered if it’s because of my ego that I’m particularly drawn to songs like Iris that are full of angst and sad emotion…