Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Modest Proposal

A friend and I have been talking over the last few days about personal power. Specifically, the discussion was about that maddening feeling we get when faced with people who seem perfectly able to claim all lordly rights to exist in the world, when many of us are meek and subservient to the point near invisibility.

There’s a perfectly good case to be made that the meek of the earth can and should reclaim what is rightfully theirs—to stand up in the face of the egotistical energy hogs who seem to regard it as their place in the world to be served by others.

As a recovering doormat myself, I most certainly am part of this club. Surely this is responsible, after all, to stand up for oneself, to take no crap, to insist on being treated with equal respect. Psychologists, spiritual advisors, and intelligent people of all kinds tell us that this is the way to be.

Gradually, though, something has been whispering to me that this stance, defensible though it is, isn’t exactly the path to happiness.

Sure, there is a kind of relative happiness that occurs when you’ve earned the respect of family and peers, when you feel parity with others. I have known this happiness, have earned it through hard work. But this sometimes strikes me as a kind of hollow, runner up award.

I’m just slightly embarrassed to say this, but the fact of the matter is that at times of real, genuine, transcendental happiness…

I don’t feel powerful at all. I feel powerless.

I can feel the derision arising out there, but let me elaborate.

When I’m genuinely happy, I don’t feel that I’m in possession of personal power at all. Instead, I feel that I’m just a willing servant to some kind of natural energy, playing out in a natural plot. This energy really has no interest in the personal needs or wants of myself or anyone else, for that matter. It’s friendly to me only to the degree that I live in accord with it. It’s my delusion to imagine that such power can belong to me, to you, or to any individual at all. It is a delusion that makes me unhappy. I’m happy when I move myself into alignment with the cosmic plan; I’m always unhappy if I’m pleading with it to bend to my wishes.

I’m all too aware that this is utterly illogical, and that it places me at odds with modern humanism, which believes only in the god of Self.

But I just can’t ignore my own experience. There is enormous freedom in smallness, because being free of self can do nothing else but make you one with the universe. You can’t get any bigger than that, nor any freer.

Let the games begin.

1 comment:

Jerri said...

We'll have to talk again after I've had some time to think this through.