The Bachelor & The False Self
Confession time: I’ve been watching season two of the Australian Bachelor (#teamsam).
Unashamedly, I might add.
It’s not just some anti-feminist, exploitative opportunity to lock a bunch of beautiful women in a house, with all communication cut off from the outside world so by the time it’s their turn for a date with Bachelor Blake, they’re SO EXCITED TO BE LET OUT they gush and flirt their way to freedom..
It’s a fascinating anthropological experiment that will go down in history and be studied for generations to come.
One of the contestants, Laurina, is the show’s villain. She looks like Audrey Hepburn and is probably just on the show to advance her modelling career. Her self-absorption is fascinating, and the producers have capitalised on it by putting her through all kinds of hellish dates.
There was the one where they threw her out of a plane (or ‘skydiving’) and she was busy trying to fix her hair as they neared the bottom. There was the one where they sent her out in a cocktail dress with heels and her voiceover hoping for a ‘luxury dinner’ and she ends up going bowling followed a pie van on the street (or a ‘dirty street pie’ as she says and it immediately gets its own hashtag: #dirtystreetpie).
As the show progresses, I start to like her more and more. She’s not used to having to compete for what she wants and she’s not putting on airs or graces to impress the Bachelor. She doesn’t buy into the whole ‘fairy tale’ dream the producers are trying to sell. She openly criticises the other girls and their choice of clothes and why she’s superior. It’ a refreshing change from some of the doe-eyed girls talking breathlessly about their amazing connection with Blake.
In the last episode just before she’s booted, you get a glimpse into what makes her tick. It’s one final spiel to Blake, just before the rose ceremony about their ‘relationship’.
“I live in the absolute best spot in the whole of Melbourne and I’ve got like all the bars, clubs and restaurants and cafes within 15 minutes of where I am and I’m on the awesome end of the street which is right on the river and right next to the Botanic Gardens and I’ve got this big beautiful modern apartment…”
Suddenly, the penny drops: this is who she is. This is actually her idea of a romantic ploy. Her clinical list of the material things is how she defines herself. I start to feel sympathy for this woman. This is all she has to offer.
Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, wrote a book called ‘The Immortal Diamond: The Quest for the True Self’. He defines the False Self or ‘ego’ and the True Self or ‘soul’. The False Self is fed by outer labels that define us such as job, clothes, wealth, the car we drive. Our True Selves could be considered our souls; the ‘immortal diamond’. It isn’t shaken or moved by temporary or material circumstances.
He expands on this by stating that ‘dying to ourselves’ is really about getting rid of the False Self we so easily serve. We spend our time pimping our Facebook profiles, buying the right clothes, the right haircut so that we look the part, planning the next big purchase: car, house, Apple’s latest product.
What’s even more interesting is that this idea of the False Self is not limited to or a product of the ‘secular world’. A person’s False Self can look religious, their identity being built on being a ‘good Christian’ which can often result in becoming moralistic and legalistic.
“We have thus become a fragile and fragmented society, even though on so many other levels we are developed and civilised, each of us begging to be noticed and taken seriously by others, each hoping for our twenty minutes of fame. Ironically, we have not taken ourselves seriously or let God take us seriously if we still need to do this.” (Richard Rohr, ‘The Immortal Diamond’)
My whole understanding of prayer has undergone a complete overhaul in the last few months. I’ve been learning about contemplative prayer which is sitting, focusing on a verse or a word and meditating on it. It’s hard at first; my brain is writhing and seething, the voice of my internal monologue is loud. But after enough time, it starts to slow down and quietens.
“They point to an eventual and essential ‘renouncing’ of the False Self which will always be the essential death…many of us have learned in contemplative practice that it all starts with dying to our own addictive, compulsive, and negative ways of processing reality” (Richard Rohr: ‘The Immortal Diamond’)
It’s completely transformed my communication with God. Rather than presenting God with his Deity-To-Do List, I’m opening up and allowing Him to inform me of what is important. But it’s not just how I communicate with God, it changes how I process reality.
I’m no longer caught up on little things I used to get worked up about. I feel more grounded in who I am in God and am no longer the central, most important person in the world. I hope this is the start of getting rid of the False Self that demands to be taken seriously (and also kind of likes watching ‘The Bachelor’ because it makes it feel better about itself).
Richard Rohr captures the purpose of depriving the False Self and moving towards the ‘immortal diamond’ in a question:
“The spiritual question is this: does one’s life give any evidence of an encounter with God? Does this encounter bring about in you any of the things that Paul describes as the ‘fruits’ of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22)? Is the person or the group after this encounter different from its surroundings, or does it reflect the predictable cultural values and biases of its group?”
A good challenge, I think.
Cherie Lee leads many lives: by night she writes, by day she works with intellectually disabled people and some nights, she goes and fights injustice with her team of crime-fighting cats, who also have many lives.