The Ego and Conscious Thinking,
By Trevor Taylor.
“Islands are special places. They are finite, complete. They are of the sea, and because of that, their land has added value.
An island can become part of you, though perhaps not you part of it.
An island allows you to stop and stare, to look anew at things with which you’re familiar, and to find the things with which you aren’t. It gives you chances to look more closely at yourself.”
….Armed with the introspection of this eloquent introduction to the Island of St Helena, one of the remotest in the world, by Author Ian Baker, a visitor would perhaps have the concept of ego dimly at the back of his mind in his venture into the island. My goodness, what a shock awaits him, as it did me. Just a few miles from the sleepy capital Jamestown, lies Longwood House. St Helena is of course British, but Longwood House is French Territory. The visitor would not suspect this, until wandering into the grounds, and being confronted by the French tricolor flying proudly in the North Atlantic breeze, guarded by Napoleonic cannons glaring angrily out to sea, guarding the ghost of perhaps the greatest Ego in the history of the planet. It is the last home in exile of Emperor Napoleon of France, and the place where he died, and with that, came the death of arguably the greatest ego known to mankind.
The visitor climbs the few steps to the cool verandah, and enters into the world of history that is Longwood House, and contemplates, forlorn amongst all the regalia of power and militancy, one of the last remaining campaign cots in which Napoleon slept in the battle-fields in his quest for glory for the people of France. And the visitor at the same time would be struck by the smallness of the cot, almost as if it belonged to a child. Then the visitor would notice the low ‘wear marks’ on the shutters, on the seaward windows, where Napoleon was known to peer out from his forced confinement, probably wondering if his army and ships would come to his rescue. Onwards, strolling around the beautiful gardens and fauna of Longwood House, he would notice how the paths were sunken, so that Napoleon could walk around his gardens without being seen. The Ego had become a ghost.
William Hazlitt, Political activist wrote that Napoleon’s triumphal march on Paris in 1815 was
.. the greatest instance ever known of the power created by one man over opinion .. it was one man armed with the rights of a people against those who had robbed them of all natural rights, and gave them leave to breathe by charter ..
And it was Napoleon, that at the height of his Ego, at the time, said “What is a throne? — a bit of wood gilded and covered in velvet. I am the state…
Yet Hazlitt goes on to say that Charles Darwin had a much greater vision than Napoleon in mind when he visited St Helena in 1836. With a conscious mind, he didn’t even bother to visit Napoleon’s Tomb in the hauntingly pretty Valley of the Tomb, nor Longwood House to pay his respects. In short he had no time for Napoleon and the Super-Ego.
Contrast this with the lonely prison cell that Nelson Mandela called home for 18 years.
On a bleak cold day in 1964, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, where he would spend 18 of his 27 years in confinement.. In that single small cell sleeping on a sparse mattress on the floor and denied basic visiting rights, with one short visit allowed a year, and with every deprivation thrown at him, his life was hard labor in a quarry.
With a complete humility and gifted with a balanced Ego born of conscious thinking, Mandela turned the most hardened warder to admiration, was a natural leader with his jailed activist colleagues and took ownership of his own prison. He arose from impossible deprivation and isolation, to one of the world’s great leaders, to take on the great battle against apartheid and hate, thus creating a new democratic South Africa, and with it, being himself honoured with the award of the Nobel Peace Prize. With humility and pride in his people and with the ideal balance of conscious thinking in the Ego, he achieved greatness in his own lifetime.
These extreme examples of the power of The Ego shown here serve to remind us that it is the Ego that finds its voice in conscious thinking and awareness, that is most valued by us all and the more we find and express these values, the more valued we ourselves become.
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Trevor Taylor LLB (Hons)
Devon, United Kingdom
Award winning Commonwealth Writer and Academic Magazine Editor.