Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 introduces the Star-Lord’s father: Ego, The Living Planet. He’s a Celestial in the Marvel universe, a being endowed with immense power. Of course with a name like Ego, his story is a metaphor for rampant self-obsession. (Ego is not Star-Lord’s dad in the comics, and doesn’t have much of a connection to The Guardians of the Galaxy, but his choice in this movie seems pretty brilliant.)
Ego found himself thrust into the world utterly alone. He found he had the ability to construct himself into a shape-shifting planet, but he still felt he lacked purpose. While he was just a brain bobbling along in the universe, humans have parents, teachers, friends and other care-giving to help us along, but the truth is no matter how much love, understanding, and acceptance we may get from others, we are completely alone in our experiences.
We are each entire universes to ourselves, and we feel compelled to share our richness, our complexity with something outside ourselves. We hunger for creation, self-expression, conversation, and recognition.
Some of us, though, don’t truly get that other people are just as complex and alone as we are. That lack of understanding can lead to charming, cunning, and ruthless behavior that’s often labeled as narcissism. Ego’s search for meaning and purpose is just self-validating annihilation of everything that isn’t him. He created a child to help himself feel “less alone” in his quest to become everything. The child, while a fully distinct being with his own psychology and experiences, is not only an extension of Ego, but also a witness and companion to his all-consuming presence. What good is being everything if you don’t have an awestruck audience?
Once Ego feels comfortable enough to reveal his honest thoughts and intentions, he pontifications that the purpose of life is to continue and spread. This is true, but it leads to hollow conclusions. Humans feel compelled to survive and many of us dream and fantasize about living forever, whether through scientific means or via an “afterlife.” When we reproduce, it’s a way to regenerate bits of our “self” in a physical form, but because reproduction is the creation of a new human, it isn’t in any way a means for the individual, which their whole would of psychological impressions and experiences that formed this special snowflake of a self, to continue on. Many times parents do see their children as an extension of themselves, a illusory psychological tonic for a fear of death.
Life wants to continue. All life forms behave in this way despite their sentience or lack thereof.
Ego represents narcissism as a cancer to the rest of life not only in the fact that he actually gave Quill’s mother cancer, but also because he is only a relatively small piece of an extremely diverse and large universe seeking to replicate itself until it annihilates the rest of everything.
Cancer is an indication of death-bringing life compulsion. Cancer cells are life unhinged – they are literally parts of our body doing what it’s supposed to do – continue, to the point where it destroys the rest of the body. The delicate balance required for healthy life is simply overwhelmed. Once the body dies, the cancer cells too – their blind quest for immortality destroyed by their own exuberance.
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