The ego adds things up. What did I gain? What did you give me?
The soul subtracts. What did I lose? What did you take away from me?
Given that we start off life… and finish it… at zero… who’s doing the math in our lives? If it’s the ego, we imagine that infinite accumulation is our destiny, losing is avoidable, and that anyone who takes away from us is hurting us. But if the soul is doing the bookkeeping, the opposite is true. The soul accepts losing as inevitable, and that losing our positions, our certitudes, even our possessions… is actually helping us.
Perhaps the ego, with its preferences and comfort zones, endless things to maintain and worry about, must lessen… in order for the soul to grow.
I first met this idea of a zero sum total — on a spiritual level — in literature. In Herman Hesse’s book Journey to the East, the narrator H.H. realizes that he must disappear… in order for the chosen leader, Leo, to appear. Something similar happens in the Harry Potter book Order of the Phoenix, where the prophecy says about Harry and Valdemort, “And either must die at the hand of the other… for neither can live while the other survives.”
Maybe we’re supposed to find people that take things away from us, someone who offers us — in direct exchange for our Something — Nothing at all. All things inevitably come and go… so an occasional subtractor just helps shift things faster… to make room for something greater to come into our lives.
What if the ultimate sacrifice we’re each being called to is, like H.H., Harry Potter, and Jesus Christ Himself… to let the human part of us die… in order that the divine part of us may live?