Monthly Archives: June 2016

Meditations on Power

This is probably just going to be a prolegomena (only without a larger work to follow it). I’m going to preface this by saying that my interest in this topic comes from the fact that I’ve been doing a lot of self-examination lately. I’ve found that at the bottom of many of my own sinful desires lies a desire for power. It manifests itself in different ways, but there’s always a nagging sense of questions that lead toward the direction of power. That last sentence probably doesn’t make much sense, but let’s get started by defining power.

I think it’s easier to first define what power isn’t. Power is not a synonym for control or strength or status. Obviously, the word can be used as synonyms for those things, because words have semantic ranges. For example, when you say someone is powerful after watching them lift a lot of weight, what you’re really meaning is that that person is very strong. That is not the type of power that I’m referring to. I’m also not referring to political power, which can be thought of as the level of ability someone has to exert their will within the political sphere (top of my head definition). That comes closer to what I’m talking about, but political position or prestige is always granted by another. You’re either voted into the position, or you inherit the position by your birth, or you lead a revolution in which the winning army lands you in the position. In other words, it may be designated power, but it’s not self-originating power. That seems to be the desire, at bottom. To have self-originating power.

As I was thinking through the various aspects or temptations for which power was the root, I began to try and use thought experiments to push things as far as they could go. Power seems to be intangible, and it defies accurate definition. You can quantify control, and you can quantify influence, but the desire for power seems to supersede those things. To me, it seems like even if you had all the control you could possibly want (think of what Solomon had/could do), you still wouldn’t have reached the “goal” of power.

Which leads me into thinking that power cannot be an end in itself, even while the pull toward it is as if it was. As many sinful things do, the allure of power teases satisfaction, but even when I pushed the thought experiments to their limits, the goal was not attained. No matter how many people under your control or what things you’re able to make them do; no matter how many things can be acquired at your command, the desire for “more” does not subside.

If it is true that it’s intangible, what sort of thing might it be? It does not seem to be a state of mind, since it is conceivable that you can have nothing which might construe the having of power, yet have a state of mind such that you believe yourself to be powerful. To borrow language from Aquinas, it would seem to be that power is (so far as we can obtain it) pure potentiality. It seems that we would know what to do with power, were we to be able to acquire it. This could be delusional, but it almost seems intuitive. Perhaps this is merely my personal opinion, due to the watching of a lot of anime as a kid leading me to believe (in an Eastern sense) that power was a sort of inner-strength, which could be used to produce beams of energy (I’m looking at you, DBZ). If all “power” that we can achieve in this life is derivative in some way, that means that either power is an illusion that we attach to things to make ourselves feel better, or it means that there must be a source of power (if you go back the causal chain far enough) that is unchanging. The only quality I’ve been able to attach to power is that it has to be self-originating

I don’t think it’s a stretch at all to say that if power is self-originating, then the being having that would be all-powerful. Omnipotence is one of the classic attributes of God. The Bible frequently grounds power in the being of God. In other words, my sinful desire is rooted in the desire to be God. It would seem that there is nothing new under the sun. This is why I need to constantly preach the gospel to myself, and work to mortify my flesh, every day.

Pray for me toward that end.

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The Parable of the Wandering Lost

All men leave their homes. Perhaps they left under bad terms, leaving in a rage or in fear or tears. Some leave under good terms, with the best intentions of exploring a bit or running errands, and then returning later that night. Interestingly enough, men (and women) have always gotten lost, which is an entirely normal thing to do. However, they always had the knowledge that they were lost. There was a certain something about their home that was familiar enough to them that they retained the knowledge of what was familiar and what was unfamiliar. This is no longer the case.

Men still leave their homes in the same regularity they did before, but the situation is now more dire. Not only are they lost, but now they no longer remember their address. They wander into a church and start attempting to do things that you can only do at your home, and they get kicked out. They wander into a mosque, expecting to find food prepared and a change of clothes (for they have soiled them outside), only to find things that don’t belong to them. Perhaps they find an important building with important people going in and out all day, and they assume that that is their home (for why shouldn’t it be?), but they cannot even get in the door before being stopped and shoo’d out. They can’t stay at the building with the books or the building with the needles, for these both have specific rules and purposes, which only allow certain things to be done. They start to panic, not knowing where their home is. They get angry as they start to lose all sense of the familiar, and start to react against anyone who seems to still know where their home is.

“Who does that person think they are?!?” they say, “strutting about like owns something that doesn’t belong to him.” They soon start finding that more and more people have lost their address in their wanderings. The best among them are those whom leave with absolutely nothing from home (not even clothes). It becomes a sort of hierarchy within the wanderers where the less you bring from your former place (home is a dirty word now), the more intelligent or cunning you are. You have a head-start on those who leave with giant bags or stacks of books or carriages full of clothes. The less you leave with, the more you can get on with the real world. A world of infinite possibilities, if only it could be realized that familiarity is a bad thing. The old tethers merely tie you down, and in reality, the only thing one can strive for is the uninhibited future. Then there’s the problem of them still being here.

All men should have the ability to enter into any building he chooses and take up residence there for as long as he chooses. Anybody with any sort of baggage (for that is what it really is) that he claims to be his by some sort of “right”. Doesn’t he understand that anything you keep when you first leave your house only inhibits you from moving forward with the rest of society? The familiarity that comes with your former place leaves you in shackles to the past, and we all know that the only thing the past did was give us endless rules and regulations which may have been somehow useful (nobody knows how) then, but are completely backwards and restrictive now, even if they perhaps have some sort of sentimental eloquence.

Eventually there are a sizable amount of people wandering naked through the town when it occurs that there may be enough of them to start a freedom movement. This is not some sort of coup or rebellion. Those belong to the past and were terribly evil and bloody. Those were done in a time when there were rules which chained people to buildings which were given familiarity only by the corrupted and powerful leaders. No, this must be a movement for the good of the people. Those poor chaps in their business suits, running around acting like they have places to be, and things to be doing, all for the sake of their beloved “home”. It would be for the betterment of them, really, to have those things taken from them. We have tried reasoning with them, but their shackles are too strong. It is as if they put blindfolds on, and earmuffs too! Sometimes you see them arguing with us rational people in the streets about how we’ve somehow lost something, or that our actions are going to have negative effects on “society”. They do actually believe what they say, but it’s hurting them, as they keep putting more and more chains on themselves.

It was brought up by one of us that perhaps if they will not relinquish their backwards and, quite frankly, immoral behavior, that they might find it agreeable if they be confined to their beloved “houses”. However, it is soon discovered that these barbarians (for that is what they are) have started to actually have children (as if that wasn’t bad enough!) and then to stick chains on them as soon as they are able to walk and talk. We have managed to convince a number of the important looking people to get rid of their fancy suits and the most important people to get rid of their robes, so that we can start providing freeing education to those for whom their sickness so overwhelms them that they continue in their ways. Very soon, I believe we will have the means to bring about actual freedom for all mankind. No longer will people be able forced to subscribe to someone else’s ways, from some people group long dead! The children will no longer be put into the bondage that those savages have inflicted upon them! Already there are fewer and fewer people wearing clothes, and going back to live in singular buildings. There are even people being born who (what a blessing!) are actually never raised to have things or be in one location! We have started slowly eliminating buildings from the land, which eliminates much of that old tactic of oppression known as “working jobs”. It shan’t be long now! Rejoice!

News! News! The last building has been torn down! The last remnants of those who hold to the old ways have gone away and it is not likely that they shall return here! We can finally live in peace and start building the future in our own perfect image! Without all the buildings in the way, we can actually see into the future! We have the ability to see problems before they arise, because we are not shackled by the past, and alter our present so that we can always look like the future! The past is nothing compared to us!

Enter The Madman: A man appears, wearing at least 6 layers of clothing, pulling a massive pallet of books, and waving around a 30 megawatt flashlight in the middle of the day. “What have you done?!? Look around you! You have destroyed the society! Thinking yourselves to be moving forwards, you have slid back into the mud! You haven’t even bothered to notice the dead bodies that are piling up around you, or the wounds opening on your bodies! Who is there to help cure any diseases you acquire? Who is there to stop violence among you? What standards have you erected? You have torn down, but what have you put in its place?!?”

[Laughter from the crowd] Sir, I don’t know where you come from or who you think you are, but you are clearly delusional. Nothing of the sort happens here. We have ended it all, but removing the restraints that people like you have been forcing onto others for centuries!

“I have seen where you laid the bodies out to rot! I saw the flames from the buildings you burned and have smelled the blood of the people you killed! What have you put in place of the old structures?!? Who will protect you? Who decides which way is the correct way to go? Already you have begun wandering too far apart from each other and get slowly torn apart by beasts and men alike! There are others that no longer see the giant buildings of your city, and take that as a sign to move in and take over. They do not abide by your rules, and they do not respect your values. You cannot make peace with them nor will they suffer to listen to you. You can neither defend yourselves with words or with weapons, and there are those coming from afar who will conquer you with both! You will be annihilated, because you destroyed your own safety! ” [Here the madman fell silent, as did those around him.]

The madman smashes his flashlight on the ground, and it falls to pieces. “I see that I have come too early. My time has not yet come.”