God was in this place… Egotism

3 07 2008

The second chapter of Kushner’s “God was in this place & I, i did not know” focuses on the teaching of Menachem Mendl of Kotzk – that of the ego. In short, Jacob was saying, “God was here because I was able to subdue my ego.”

The Kotzker taught that, “The true worship of God… is not in finding the truth, but rather in… total abandonment of self.” [37]

Kushner explains, “Kotzk deliberately misreads the verse in Deuteronomy [Dt. 5:5] in which Moses recalls his experience at Sinai and says, ‘I stood between God and you.’ Says Menachem Mendl, that it is your I, ‘your ego that stands between you and God. Normally not even an iron barrier can separate Israel from God, but self-love, egotism will drive them apart.
In other words, there is only room enough in this world for one ego, yours or God’s. You pick.” [39-40]

In an imagined conversation between the Kotzker and Jacob, the Kotzker whispers, “The beginning of true piety is not so easy. You must subdue your ego and call yourself a liar. It could make you lonely and a little crazy. A crazy man about God. You understand me?”
Jacob replies, “Yes, I think so. God was here all along, and the reason I didn’t know it is because I was too busy paying attention to myself.” [48]

Ego
“Ego is not thinking you’re a talented or good person. That is only self-confidence, or, in extreme cases, ordinary conceit. Ego is arrogance. It is thinking that you are better than someone else. It is making yourself big in the presence, and at the expense, of someone else. A hermit cannot be arrogant. An ego needs someone else, another person, one you believe to be inferior to you, in front of whom you can preen, raise your chin, and stretch your beautiful neck.” [46]

Humility
“There is more to humility, however, than merely how you view yourself or your ego. Humility is a function of how you view others. Your attention is directed outward. Arrogance is making yourself great in the presence and at the expense of another; humility is realizing that, whatever your greatness, power, knowledge, grace, or even kindness, you are never greater than another.
…each person is unique and, therefore, precious. …Humility is not being in the presence of people who are better than we are, but simply being in the presence of people, any people, for they are all as unique as we are.
Humility commences with the realization that no one is inferior or superior to anyone else.” [50-51]

Acts of Selflessness and Loving Kindness
“[Acts of selflessness] do not say, ‘You are more important,’ but ‘You are every bit as important as I am.’ … Acts of loving kindness are more… Certainly they cause love in another; perhaps even more importantly, they awaken love in us.” [52]

(We must “do acts of loving kindness” not only for the sake of the other person, but also because it does something to our own soul… it reminds us of what it means to be human).

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One response

20 07 2008
CJ

Hey bro, I just finished the 2nd chapter of Kushner’s God was in this place and I did not know it. So I’m not that far behind you. I had never really seen such clearly laid out thoughts on humility and egotism. If you want a great film to go along with the discussion brought out in this chapter you should check out Revolver.
I look forward to jumping into chapter 3 in the next day or so.

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