“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you
want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
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Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing and expecting different results. Confronted by the failure of human manipulation to create a sustainable society, when do we realize that we’ve been misusing our power and actually do something different?
There’s a particular feeling familiar to all of us. We men felt it during our first experiences driving a car when we stepped hard on the gas and accelerated fast. Adrenaline started pumping as the sensation of power flooded through our bodies.
That kind of power can become addictive because the feeling of it is so seductive. “Go for it!” is the battle cry, enacted in films and stories where brave but foolhardy decisions are usually rewarded. Traditionally, our heroes have been those who did go for it, who challenged and beat the odds, who persevered against adversity. And then they ride off into the sunset with no consideration given to the unintended consequences of their actions.
It doesn’t work like that in real life. Unintended consequences have been piling up in terms of environmental degradation, climate change that human activity has accelerated, and senseless murders of school children, just to name a few. Our deeply institutionalized model for wielding power has become a wrecking ball for human society and the planet.
Dr. David Hawkins calls this way of using power “force.” He writes in Power vs Force that, “Power serves others, whereas force is self-serving.” He adds, “The only way to enhance one’s power in the world is by increasing one’s integrity, understanding, and capacity for compassion.” 1
Force, as Hawkins defines it, involves misusing power for personal gain. Conversely, true power is contributive. Force originates with oneself, focusing one’s will to achieve personal agendas; power resides in Source and we, because of our personal connection with source, can express that power as a blessing in the world in any moment we so choose.
The adrenalin high that accompanies using force to manipulate personal agendas is seductive. But there’s another experience profoundly more enjoyable: adoration for the Divine.
Recall moments when you have touched this phenomenon throughout your life. There are so many examples, here are just a few: Witnessing the birth of your first child, falling in love, asking someone to marry you and hearing “Yes!”, the first time you heard Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto Number Two in C minor, sitting with a spiritual master and having a life changing epiphany, the list is endless.
Question: do we recall such moments and assume they must continue to be rare and spontaneous, wonderful surprises in the midst of boring day to day lives, or could we entertain the possibility of deliberately creating more such experiences? Adoration for the Divine, which is what is really happening in all these instances – at least, this is the essence of it – can be invited. Our choices make a difference.
Examples: “Should I watch a horror movie or meditate? Should I go bowling or listen to that Rachmaninov?”
By the way, Rachmaninov gives us a powerful clue about deepening this experience. He wrote, “I feel like a ghost wandering in a world grown alien. I cannot cast out the old way of writing and I cannot acquire the new. I have made an intense effort to feel the musical manner of today, but it will not come to me.” 2
What remarkable humility. So, there it is, the difference maker. Human egos are arrogant; humans entranced by the Divine are awestruck. This clarifies our choice. Put crudely, how will we get our kicks? What will we rely on for the peak experiences that make the rest of existence bearable? And, recalling Einstein’s comment about insanity, are we willing to change to get different results?
The adventure of rapture, expanding our awareness of the Divine, being ever more fully human because we learn and grow … this is the path that beckons us away from a force-mad world.
So, what will it be, adrenalin or adoration?
1. Power vs Force, by David Hawkins
2. Cited from Sergei Bertensson and Jay Leyda Sergei Rachmaninoff: A Lifetime in Music (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002) p. 351.