Everything is embarrassing. We scramble to fill the gaps of ourselves. We stuff our pockets, or minds, our bodies, our lives with words and phrases, definitions, and interests, all to fit. Or rather to stand apart. That’s between you and your God. Tim Kreider, the American cartoonist, said “We have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known.” What we think we have control over is how we are known. So, in order to prepare ourselves for consumption we design a self we consider worthy of digesting. Then we go out, into the not so natural world, and beg that our disguises are not revealed and that we are swallowed whole by the masses. 


Imagine you’re sitting in the library doing your work. Sounds of subtle moaning and grunting start inching into your realization. They get louder, more audible. Definitely, now you’re sure, these are the sounds of sex. You look to see if there’s something funny going on around you. Other heads are stationary at their work. No one else seems to be looking around like you. You sort of laugh to yourself feeling embarrassed at the indifference to such a bold intrusion on a decided upon quiet space. Is this really happening? Is this really happening, and no one seems to care? Or is there some other obvious explanation for these, at this point cartoonish, howls of pleasure that everyone is aware of except for you? Would it matter if there was a difference? Your experience is that you hear this awkward interruption. In probability, the lack of recognition from your peers is likely enhancing how uncomfortable you are. There is no security of like-minded acceptance of the same strange occurrence. No stranger to make eye contact with for a moment and give a little shared giggle and shrug. No simultaneous looking around only to return to your individual work without solving the case of the sounds or saying much to each other about it. What does it matter anyway?


Matter is what makes all of us, and everything we know. Physicists, in the past 50 or so years, have discovered that the deeper you go into matter, the particles become smaller and smaller, and deeper still, there is a field from which everything is born. Dr. John Hagelin, a renowned meditation educator has said “Every single thing that is a thing emerges from this field.” The Unified Field. Recent science and quantum physics prove this to be true. And so, modern thinking merges with and verifies ancient beliefs of enlightenment. So, if we think about our lives here on this campus, in this city, amongst our decided communities, we think of all our attachments and duties as fragments of matter. We see our life as an extension of our matters. But if you look deeper, feel deeper, past the layers of personality, status, and responsibility eventually you find the field where it’s all one thing. And you can see it! The most blatant unity of the simplest things. More daily and mundane than the intricacies of civilization, are the truths of everything around you, and you yourself. 


In reality, there is no such thing as a society any more than there is such a thing as identity. Yes, we all belong to one, and we all have some form of personal identification, whether it’s your driver licence or hair color. But the truths about ourselves or our current collective situations are not static. The qualities we attribute to being one way or another do not rest dormant until we assign a name to them. There are no truths about our identities waiting to be discovered. There simply is a time where we feel one way, and maybe a time where things start to feel another way. And the same can be said societally. Defining a name for a certain era or group of people does nothing but articulate a timely observation, that can and most likely will evolve at some point into something entirely different. It goes without saying, holding someone or something captive by the words of the past is a grossly demeaning standard. Our ideas of humanity, or society cannot exist objectively over a span greater than specific communities. There is common ground that serves as a foundation for our existence as women, or people of color, or queer people in this part of the world, or that one… There are shared qualities of these different experiences that both bond and inspire conflict between each other and opposing identities. One set of qualities cannot exist without a differentiating one. There is no wealth without poverty. No masculine without feminine. When you get to the institutionalisation of this muck its effects become much more plainly oppressive. Of course, there is a larger system at play. A state of recognized, or at times unseen, domination that hangs above us all. But that’s thinking too broadly for this specific concept. That’s seeing the world as it is today by its manufactured meanings. It’s nonhuman conception. And those big ideologies of capitalism, religion, consumerism, industrialisation… do not exist as prophecies of universal truth, but rather are inventions. And on smaller field, we invent the same qualities within ourselves as well. A belief that we need this thing to be this way; and a need to be that way to confirm our position as this kind of person. But every so often, indulge yourself in a moment of separation from all of that.


Suddenly you are not a student, or a man, a virgin, or a girlfriend. Suddenly you are a presence that has dropped off the plain of nonhuman matters and has slipped through the cracks of negative space between drama and activity. And it is here, engaging in the negative space, where you’re truly human. And you think to yourself “God, this is so beautiful… I’m so happy to be here, to see this, to feel this… I am going to hold on to this feeling forever.” But it passes. The crash of societal concerns comes caving in, and distraction from that so enlightening experience overcomes you. You forfeit your previous claim in order to partake in the collective experience of being a person, or a woman, a friend, or a professor. It doesn’t require anything all that special to get back to though. And the more you do, the more you start to live with it.


By surrendering your decided upon identities you enter into knowing a more sustainable truth. There is of course function and reason for having communities, and even personal resonance with certain identifiable qualities of yourself. Belonging to specific cultural or sexual societal constraints are not inherently negative. They allow for connection and reassurance of your position. But along with the sincerity of knowing you are not alone, there is also the opposing element of being different from others. And this opposition takes shape and even overlaps in an endless myriad of ways. All this is not to say that everyone should undergo an ego-death. That term itself is used far too often in western society. For it is not practical or possible for each member of our materialistic, capitalistic situation to experience a true and absolute ego-death. This belief that we all should also dismantles the significance of ego all together. Its meaning has been replaced with vanity, or selfishness. When in actuality, ego represents a great deal more than just the nasty superficial bits of yourself. It accounts for your interests and passions, your personal expression, and modes of communication. It is how you extend yourself into society, both interpersonally and yes, superficially. It is the vessel that delivers you from your innately human self into the material world. The road that translates yourself into a you that can be understood and received by others. 


There is a brilliance of awkwardness. When the bravado of knowing escapes you, you’re left as this raw, trembling wreck experiencing the inexplicable. I recommend it. Give up knowing. Give up your Self. Take a look around you and see how strange and indifferent things can be. Loud obscure noises that interrupt decided upon restrictions do not in any literal capacity rock the metaphysical boat of the universe. There is no natural wrongness in your look or your voice. Only a constructed condemning of certain ways of being. Past the complications of communicating and conforming there is a lovely understanding to be shared. A unity, a feeling, a grace. Natural mysteries coexist inconspicuously with our clumsy stomping. And while, like an ‘ego-death’ the effects of seeing and feeling said unity cannot be permanent, returning to that state, even if only sporadically, can result in a further understanding and gratitude for oneself and our world.