Emma Stone
Sam (Emma Stone) in Birdman (2014).

In one scene in Birdman (2014) Sam (Emma Stone; pictured) berates her dad, a fading cinema superhero, for thinking he is above everyone else. We all want to be relevant in the world somehow, she says; we all want to be recognised. He should stop feeling so sorry for himself: he’s not that special nor is he uniquely different.

'You're doing a play based on a book that was written 60 years ago for a thousand rich, old white people whose only real concern is gonna be where they go to have their cake and coffee when it's over. Nobody gives a shit but you. And let's face it, Dad, it's not for the sake of art. It's because you just want to feel relevant again. Well, there's a whole world out there where people fight to be relevant every day. And you act like it doesn't even exist! Things are happening in a place that you wilfully ignore, a place that has already forgotten you. I mean who are you? You hate bloggers. You make fun of Twitter. You don't even have a Facebook page. You're the one who doesn't exist. You're doing this because you're scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don't matter. And you know what? You're right. You don't. It's not important. You're not important. Get used to it.'

But making a difference, like Sam’s dad seeks, doesn’t have to be seen as a bad thing. To the contrary, holding an aspiration and actuating it in your life is usually deemed praiseworthy.

However, there is ambiguity to be reckoned with when it comes to chasing personal success and fulfilling our egos, for it’s easy enough to be led into embracing and revelling in one’s self-importance narcissistically. This, in turn, will make the pursuit about the individual and not the individual’s positive influence on their environment. Yet, if we choose not to embrace our egos at all, we may be led into living hollow and legalised lives, where nothing is achieved.

Maybe this is a noble aim, though: to live humbly with total respect of our external surroundings.

Is it realistic?

Can we even choose to remove our senses of self and destroy ego and everything good and evil it leads to? For take the Dalai Lama and his noble pursuits: are we really meant to believe that he, in his role as a powerful public figure, holds no notion of self-importance in his head?