What the ego can’t be

What can become clear for all of us who are starved for time, is that the answer to the problem of time is not more time, not more efficiency, not even in itself longer biological life, not children, not artistic creations that we pretend will bring us immortality, not some sentimental relationship to imaginary gods or non-gods. The answer to the problem and the sorrow of time is one thing and one thing only: the experience of meaning. And this experience occurs only when the Self touches the self, when the soul touches the ego. When the two worlds meet.

When the self that is conditioned by society and has learned the language of society is touched by the Self that is beyond society and breathes and lives in wordless reality—that moment is the first step on the great ladder of meaning, the ladder of remembering that is shown to humankind through the wisdom teachings of the world.


What is needed is the contact between the self that speaks and the Self that is. What is necessary is to realize that it is possible for myself as I am, myself as ego — anxious, nervous, eager to help and to succeed and eager to do my duty to those I love, just that ego who is overwhelmed by life and is always looking for respect and appreciation and rest, that ego who takes his pleasures fitfully and guiltily, who sees time passing more and more rapidly and who feels that life is passing him by without anything ever really happening—just that ego can make contact with the Self. In such a contact, especially if it is repeated and becomes deeper and deeper, and lasts longer, and especially if we have the language and the ideas by which to interpret the experience correctly – such contact can show the ego that what it wants it cannot have by itself, from itself.

The contact between the ego and the Self can show the ego that it is possible to have love, safety, joy that does not fade, emotion that is based on truth; it is possible to have time, an immensity of time, it is possible to be free of fear and false satisfaction—but only through the Self. The Self is everything that the ego pretends to be, and the Self has the time that ego searches for in vain. When these two worlds meet, only then can the ego breathe freely and let go and accept that it is secondary and, yes, mortal. The ego sees that it does not have to live forever. It sees this because when I am exists, the ego has found what it wanted. It, I, have found what wisdom calls ‘the heart’s desire.’

– Jacob Needleman, Time and the Soul: Where Has All the Meaningful Time Gone–And Can We Get It Back?

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