I knew a man who would defend fanatically everything he had ever identified with in any way, while all the rest he regarded as rubbish.  It mattered nothing that this identification was often purely accidental, or only imagined, or very superficial; once he put his ego into something, no external force could separate them.  If, for example, he had visited a place where no one else in the company had been, that became the only place in the world worth visiting; if he read a book, that alone promoted it to a classic; if he had shaken some politician’s hand, that politician became the saviour of the nation.  That is the nature of the ego  -  which means the false self: not my reality, but my idea (a fixed idea) of what I am, my self-image.  Being nothing in itself, it is forever creating images and fictions of itself, living outside itself because it belongs nowhere, wandering in rags, imagining grandeur, like a demented beggar. 

Who are you, Ego?  Who are you, poor lunatic? Why is every word you speak a lie?  Are you something?  Are you nothing?  Where did you arise?  And what great shame sent you out alone to beg along the roads?  I am the child of fear so deep that it fled even the knowledge of itself.  I am Golem, of Jewish folklore, the quasi-human creature constructed by human beings in imitation of the Creator’s work.  I was Adam, on whose forehead once stood the Hebrew word Emeth, ‘truth’; but the first letter I erased, I have become meth, ‘dead’, and I fall to dust.  Falling to dust I see nothing but dust; and even God is dust to me. 

How are you to find the truth again?  How are you to become Adam?  How will you stand in the truth?  Yours is a hard-hearted poverty, there is no compassion in it.  It is not truly poverty but cupidity: an unrelenting possessiveness.  You must become Adam with his soft flesh, yarek  -  the very word means ‘to be soft’.  Stand naked there, trembling, new-made, Adam, poor child of the dust of earth.  Tremble, but do not run to hide yourself, do not make fictions to cover your nakedness.  Your glory is Emeth, truth, shining vulnerably in your eyes; it is not possessed, but shining.  How could you possess the truth?  No more than you can possess the sun or the stars.  It is around you, within you, everywhere, shining.  Shining darkly, strangely, everlasting. 

Turn back from fictions to the place where fictions arise.  See them in their genesis; see how you created a false heaven and a false earth.  See how you divided the waters above from the waters below: mine and yours, ‘one of us’ and ‘not one of us’.  See the false lights of your firmament, a mock sun and tinsel stars: your guiding thoughts.  See the trail of death behind you, a poisoned world, its creatures dying.  See all that you have made.  And see Golem, the self-made man, Ego, with his tormented brain. Then turn away from all this, from your false heaven and earth, from your fictions, your impressive thoughts, your preferences, your selective principles; or rather turn them away: they have no existence.  Seeing their unreality you will be free of them. 

Enter deeply into that freedom; know it, not as an idea but as a place, yet limitless.  From that place, everything becomes substantial for the first time.  Know the feel of absolute silence, with no striving of the mind or will.  That is a real place in you, it is not another fiction.  When you look out from there you are Adam and not Golem, a child of God and not a jaded false god.  You see the world full of beings at once splendid and transient.  You want to open your heart to them, to meet them directly, to be one with them.  You cannot think of possessing them, you give yourself to them, you are one with them. 

That sad egocentric man, mentioned at the beginning, died.  He died as he had lived, considering also his death superior to other deaths.  For years he had controlled people by means of his sickness. From his deathbed, for months, he tyrannised his family, enslaving them to his wishes.  Till the end, the light in his eyes was cupidity.  Then one evening the light faded and he went the way of all flesh.  But between the death of his ego and the death of his body, in that moment  -  who knows?  -  Adam was born, and the new Adam, Christ: born and died in the same moment, in the same moment died and rose again. 
[From I Remember Your Name in the Night: Thinking about Death,
Donagh O'Shea (Dominican Publications, Dublin, 1997, 2017]

These are brief articles, one per month,
on a wide variety of topics concerning the living of the Christian life.