One: Good Morning. How are you?
The Other: I am. And you?
One: As cross as two sticks.
The Other: Who is cross? And how can there be two sticks? Is one not enough?
One: Who is cross? I am, of course.
The Other: Impossible. Of what are you speaking?
One: My ego.
The Other: Your what?
One: My ego.
The Other: Whatever is that?
One: The ego, e-g-o, the confounded thing that keeps us all imprisoned, the identification No. 1, the cause of all the trouble.
The Other: I know of no such thing. Does it exist, and if so - where? I have never seen anything of the kind. You are suffering from hallucinations. You shouldn't let yourself imagine things.
One: Hang it all, we all have an ego. It may be an illusion and all that, in fact we know that it is, but, living as we do, we are cross and offended and this and that, and what is it that feels all that sort of thing but our ego?
The Other: You are as firmly tied up in your dualistic verbiage as a kitten in a ball of wool.
One: Well, then, unwind me, like a good fellow.
The Other: That would be a laborious process; let's cut the wool. The ego is a concept, as you well know, as notion, at the very most a working hypothesis, a supposition, and algebraic symbol like pi, something posited in order to serve as a basis for the explanation of the inexplicable.
One: Quite unreal and all that. Yes, yes, well do we know it!
The Other: Well do you know it - and yet you go on behaving exactly as though you still believed it to be reality. You go on attributing your reactions to something you say you know to be imaginary. And you go on being indignant with other people for being subject to a thing you know to be imaginary. In short you know it to be only a notion, a concept, and yet you continue to think of it as real.
One: But if I am cross, and I am, what is it that is feeling like that if it is not my ego that is still there in spite of my knowledge that it is not?
The Other: Face fact, face facts! If it is not there - how can it be cross? Or offended? Or anything else imaginable?
One: But I am cross, furious.
The Other: Nonsense. You are not anything. That is only an act you are putting on. You are playing a part - and attributing your reactions to an imaginary ego. Crossness, or any other emotional reaction, is only coloring-matter you add to affectivity. You are blowing bubbles and giving them names and attributes. When they burst you will know them for what they are - just passing deflections of reality in your mind.
One: Although I know the ego is not a reality, I am still behaving as though it were. Still assuming it, still thinking of it, still attributing my reactions to it. yes, I am. But do not we all? What does it add up to?
The Other: The number you first thought of; zero. Intellectual understanding without assimilation is the frame without the picture.
One: How does one insert a picture?
The Other: I said the picture. The canvas is now covered by your highly-colored emotional imaginings. Perfection is attained, as St. Exupery pointed out, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to discard.
One: We should suppress our emotional reactions?
The Other: If you could, it would only produce the effect known as psychic traumatism.
One: So what?
The Other: We are now discussing the elementary confusion between mental vacancy and the void that is plenitude. Correct attention, supra-sensual affectivity, are uncolored by emotional reactions. That is the picture which is no picture, within the frame that is no longer a frame.
One: Can any ordinary chap do that?
The Other: Why not? There is nothing to do. It is there already, always, the only permanent and immutable aspect of what you are.
One: But how does one get at it?
The Other: You say that you are cross. As the Maharshi told you to do - ask yourself, who is cross? And what is "cross" anyhow? You will see at once that there is nothing anywhere that could be cross, and no such thing as crossness. Bubbles calling one another names! Prick them. Bang, (imaginary bang of imaginary bubbles), and they have vanished! What is left?
One: Correct attention, supra-sensual affectivity, pure as light, transparent as light, just - awareness!
The Other: At last you have understood! Let us start afresh: Good Morning. How are you?
One: I am. And you?
The Other: As cross as one stick!
-Why Lazarus Laughed