I was talking with a friend yesterday about ego, and I was re-reminded of the late Robert (Bob) Silbey — an extraordinary leader I had the privilege of knowing when I was a professor at MIT. My favorite comment on the uniqueness of Bob was captured beautifully by one of his close friends:
Bob was a truly singular person who had such deep abiding confidence without ego, if one can imagine such a combination that he was always there for others in personal transactions. He didn’t need the response to fill his soul, it was so secure and thus could be so generous.
Confidence is a funny thing. It’s necessary for you to do absolutely anything in life. Too little confidence, and you’re unable to act; too much confidence, and you’re unable to hear.
The point made about Bob as being “confident without ego,” and the reference to “ego” makes me think of the blob-like character in “Spirited Away” named “No-Face,” or “kaonashi” (kaw-oh-naw-shee). Kaonashi is an elegant, albeit disturbing, visual representation (s/he or “it” is the black, cloud-like character wearing a mask that you can see in this trailer) of greed and hunger — what one’s ego will modally flip to when it runs unchecked. Bob’s friend’s point about “[Bob] didn’t need the response to fill his soul” — is a beautiful one, because the point of true generosity is the sublimation of one’s desire for reciprocity. A simple idea, yet certainly difficult to put into practice. -JM