Normally, in the circles I travel in, I’m defending ego because a lot of new age teaching is that ego is our enemy and we must do everything we can to vanquish ego. Ego is a necessary part of being a human being on this planet, but like everything else, can get out of balance. Today, as I’m on one of my afterlife boards, I see an ugly display of how too much ego causes completely unnecessary conflicts.
Someone came to the board. As far as I know it was their first time there. They responded to a question about whether or not we do mundane tasks in the afterlife. Do we still have to do dishes? Laundy? Do we ever escape this drudgery? This person, in their response, made reference to the movie Astral City. Astral City is a movie based on the book by Chico Xavier, a Brazilian channeler who channeled nearly 500 books in his lifetime. The movie was a huge success in Brazil, where Chico has a cult-like following. I happened to really have enjoyed the movie, despite some disturbing elements.
There is a member of our group who detests the movie and Chico. One of the disturbing elements of the movie is the teaching that people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol or even who abuse food end up classified as “suicides” and suicides go to a place of torment. The movie opens with a scene where the main character is in torment because he has not taken care of his body and his sudden death is ruled a suicide. My friend in the group, who I know very well, pounces on it anytime this movie is mentioned. He lambasts the movie, Chico and the Chico-following anytime he gets the opportunity. His contention is the teaching of the movie could lead to despair. Anyone who has abused their body might give up hope and commit suicide since they know they’ve already trashed their life and there is no redemption possible. The character in the movie doesn’t actually take his own life. Ironically, his argument is similar to the problem pointed out in the movie The Discovery, but for the opposite reason. In The Discovery, people are committing suicide to “get there”. Once they have proof there is an afterlife, they assume it’s better, so they want to hit the fast forward button (boy can I relate to that).
So, back to my story. The person who recommended Astral City had said it brought them great comfort. They, like me, saw the fact that life continues after “death”. While there is a purgatory for some, it’s temporary, redemptive, and we can leave when we wish. Families are reunited. There is opportunity for productive work. There is growth to even higher realms. For all of these reasons, I liked the movie so much I bought it.
But, here’s where the problem comes in. The person who recommended the movie was so attached to their recommendation that they took the criticism from the other person personally. Their ego was bruised. So, they attacked that person. I tried to intervene with some humor. I said “You brought up Astral City in front of Sam (let’s call the person Sam)? Boy, I’ll bet you never do that again.” Then, I tried to explain to the person that Sam really is a nice guy (and Sam really is). But, he has a passionate hatred for these false teachings, New Age teachings that say we become egoless, balls of light just floating around for eternity or fundamentalist Catholic teachings that we have to go through purgatory if we screw up. To Sam, I tried to get him to get this person a little grace because they had “lost” (I used their word) a child. Clearly they were hurting and hurt people hurt people.
Neither Sam or the new person was going to back off. Sam ended up blocking the new person. The new person fired off a closing salvo on me and left the group. I said “Uh-oh, Betty left the group” (let’s call her Betty). Sam said “Good.”
As an outside observer this saddened me. Sam and Betty, in my opinion, were both too caught up in their egos to just soften their words. As I watched the exchange, I wondered how each of them would react to this when they have their life reviews. To be fair to Sam, he did say he was criticizing the movie, not her. But, she couldn’t hear it. He jumped all over me once for mentioning the movie, but I was able to sort his criticism of the movie out from a personal criticism of me.
Our church is really big on a book called The Four Agreements. It comes up all the time. In fact, it came up on Sunday. One of the agreements is “Don’t take it personally.” Frankly, I don’t even know what the other three are. If that one isn’t number one, it should be.