Achievement: 4) Power

The word "power" on its own sounds inherently powerful, doesn't it? But we can consider low power as well as high power. The word itself doesn't dictate which part of the spectrum we are dealing with, but even so, something about it suggests the high side as the default association, that it is essentially binary, that you either have power or you don't. And if you don't, then there's no need to use the word other than when speaking in awe or derision or jealousy of those who do, is there?

But there is a spectrum, and we all have more or less power in various areas of our lives at various times. We should first give it some kind of definition, to make sure we're on the same page. In line with the overarching theme of this series of articles, this is power in the context of day-to-day life. There is a strict definition of power in the context of physics, which is the amount of energy transferred per unit time, but that means nothing here, and that physical quantity could be given any other name without messing up the laws of the universe. For humans, or indeed for any creature, or any organisation or country for that matter, power is essentially the level to which your will can be enacted. It is not the same as strength, which is more about the level to which a skill or force has been obtained. You can be strong but not powerful or powerful but not strong, in certain contexts.

Everything described in this series up to now, from potential, to knowledge, to wisdom, and on through to will, everything is nothing without power, without the ability to enact your will. It doesn't matter how much you want something, or how much you know, or how much you understand. If you can't act on any of that, if you have no power, then none of it will have any effect, for yourself or for any other cause. And there is a counterpart situation too, namely being in a position of high power but not wanting or knowing or understanding how to use it.

Power has a number of levers, and, if we have any will at all, we are drawn to seek those levers out, or to at least desire them. Money. The biggie. Ask a bunch of people what they desire most and money will be a top answer for sure. But it's not really money that anyone is after, is it? Nobody simply wants money, to sit there in an account, or maybe in a big pile to splash around in. If anyone simply wanted money, then when they got it, they wouldn't spend it. Why swap what you have and what you want for anything else? No, we don't want money. We want what we can do with money, which is exactly that ability to swap it for other things. Money is just a neutral and quite boring pool of stuff that we can exchange for more interesting stuff. Typically, most people are more interested in more interesting stuff than money, from food to jet planes, and are simply happy to get money as a starting point, gladly receiving it from whoever and however. Money is therefore a strong lever, as it enables you to enact your will wherever you go. You will always find someone who will take your money, and give you what you want.

Well, not always. Although money gives you power in many situations, some things really can't be obtained for money, and your power is low to non-existent. Take respect, for example. Well, you can't just take it, but try to buy it instead. You may crave respect from others, you may know and understand what that would do for you, and you may have all the money in the world and feel all powerful. But there is not a single person you could buy genuine respect from. You could certainly find plenty of people who would offer to take your money in exchange for their respect, but if anything that very act would reduce that which you sought to buy. It's impossible. Either they respect you, or they don't. Ain't no money gonna do nuthin' about that, pal. Spend away.

Furthermore, money only means something in systems designed for it, which, these days, are virtually everywhere and in virtually any situation for many of us, but that ability rapidly drops off as we move towards and beyond the edges of those systems. Stay in a city and you're fine to get whatever you want whenever you want. Go for an adventure in the wilderness, and good luck with that credit card. But more importantly and more realistically, the edges of those systems aren't simply about infrastructure, and have a very human element to them as well at times. Annoy the heck out of someone that has something you crave, then, depending on their own situation, you ain't gonna be getting anything from them at all. They may just give it away to someone they like instead. Money doesn't have any value there, and again you have no power.

There is no universal currency to power, all levers are largely independent. Just as money can give you power in certain situations, so too can respect, but, as discussed, money and respect are not themselves interchangeable. Nor is there a legitimate intermediary by which they can be exchanged. If two companies are both offering the same job to the same candidate for the same money, and if there are no other differentiating factors, then the candidate will choose the one they have the most appreciation for. The reputation of a person or a group is a form of power. It will open doors, it will sway debates, and it will seal deals.

Other major factors of power are more prosaic. Age, appearance, and location are good examples. As people, too little age usually means too little power to enact your will. We're going to the shops today, and then we're going to grandma's. I don't care if you don't want them, eat your carrots. It's time to get up. It's time to go to bed. Speak up. Quieten down ... Those with more age have more power, and we all encounter that one. Loud noises and crying are the only power tricks we discover in our bag at such times, which have distinctly varied effect. Thankfully, many of us don't often attempt to deploy those tools in later years. Sometimes, maybe, but again with distinctly varied effect.

While some levers of power such as age cannot be controlled, others can. Both appearance and location can be malleable, to an extent, but do require some other form of power to enact such transitions. Furthermore, there is no one-size-fits-all policy with the power that either of these will grant you. Having one appearance may be perfect for one situation, but absolutely imperfect for another. Being a conscious chameleon is the best way forward.

Location is a tricky one. Although it is technically malleable, it is perhaps the number one power lever with the greatest attachment to luck. Initial conditions are everything, often bestowing us with a life-long inertia when it comes to all things location related. Just by being born in a certain location, you immediately have a certain range of other locations that are more or less easy to access. That range is dramatically different from one birth location to the next. If you find yourself in a starting location with good access to others, physically or otherwise, then chances are that you are already in a location that gives you a pretty good amount of power, and so you don't have much of a need to actually use that power to access those other locations. But if you find yourself in a location for which that access is low, then that location does not help to enable you, it does not give you much or any power, and it ironically inhibits you from getting out of it. It doesn't take much to think of the range of countries and various socioeconomic situations out there to understand this point. You are either enabled or you are not, before your age can even update itself enough for you to realise.

Not only is power affected by luck, but power is also affected by power itself. It feeds back into and drives itself one way or the other, in extreme cases to the point of distortion. The less you have, the less you are likely to get. The more you have, the more you are likely to get. It contrasts and polarises. With the aspect of luck thrown in, we end up with a truly varied spectrum of those with better or worse desires, intentions, ideas, understanding, and power with which to act. Who knows how many bright lights have come and gone, floating by too far away in the darkness despite their struggle against the current? Who knows how many tiny sparks have simply fizzled for an instant, only to catch the tinder around them and lead to a blaze?

The power we find ourselves with at any one time resonates with our will and everything attached to it, the needs, the wants, the knowledge, the wisdom, and the potential. It drives and completes the nexus. This is how and why anything and everything happens in our world. And why it does not. In identifying the aspects of our lives that fall into these channels, we may better aim for something more, both for ourselves and for others. The idea of equilibrium, of pure and harmonious balance, is an impossible ideal. But it gives a goal for the shifting spectra of which we are all part. A horizon to run towards. And we simply must run.


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