Tag Archives: power

To Survive, Change Your Rules

Expanding Rules of the Knowledge Game would give problem-solvers greater leverage over a wide range of social-political malfunctions, from budget deficits to crime (legalized theft included).

A wider field of accepted information options would give a broad new range of diagnostic tools for pinpointing origins of unjust discrimination, inequitable wealth distribution, work-place violence, addictions and mental-emotional depression. It would give a new face to healing PTSD and preventing suicide.

What these personal, social and political ills have in common is a fatal knowledge deficit.

But before defining Rules of the Knowledge Game (epistemology), I’ll share two examples from personal experience. They’re comical, but they demonstrate the basic mistakes people make on limited information.

The first occurred when I was 6 and my brother David was 5. We were living in Tuscon, Arizona at the time. A blond-haired playmate age 3 who lived down the street adored David. Jason pleaded with his mom for a hair cut just like David’s. He expected the change to transform him into the likeness of his idol. But he came home from the barber streaming tears of childish disappointment.

The brush cut didn’t change his hair color from blond to David’s dark brown, nor did it transfer any of the desirable qualities associated with his hero to Jason.

The second happened when I was in my mid-20s. Rooming with a yoga student in Madison, Wisconsin, I was increasingly troubled as more and more of my stuff – kitchen utensils and even clothing – went missing. When I asked Mukit (her initiate name) if she knew anything about this, she explained why she felt free to take whatever she wanted.

“We are all One,” she said. By her logic, it followed that my stuff was hers too.

These are just small examples of the twin mistakes that continue to repeat when our reality maps aren’t complete and accurate. Writ large, they generate crimes and tragedies in every area of life, on every scale of magnitude.

What is lacking is the two-directional, in- and out-breathing reality map which accounts for all dimensions of personal experience and puts them in prioritized perspective.

Today’s prevailing Rules of the Knowledge Game exclude vitally important components of the human condition. Here, “Rules of the Knowledge Game” refers not to philosophical inquires into truth, but rather punitively enforced social-political taboos which prescribe what can be known, by whom, and how.

These rules stipulate what kinds of knowledge are allowed as well as others that are prohibited. Knowledge is sometimes made off-limits to second-class citizens (low income people, for example). Subtle ways of obtaining information (intuition, conscience) are written off as non-existent or invalid.

Here’s the tacit logic behind limiting the field: “Knowledge is power. IF I want to hoard power (and the resources it yields) in order to control others, THEN I must deny others access to knowledge that would empower them.”

To heal the harm incurred by limiting what can be known (ruling out the senses, intuition and conscience as valid information sources), it is imperative to reintegrate these decision-making influences into the rules of what is acceptable.

Currently, rules of empirical science dictate that only knowledge about material, tangible, observable and quantifiable objects is valid. Only university educated, degreed and certified “experts” using standardized research methods are qualified to obtain and disseminate knowledge. Here’s the picture of the hollow shell allowed by these rules.

material rules sized

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying this approach to obtaining information is invalid. In its place, on the surface of material appearances, it is an important piece of the knowledge puzzle. It’s a necessary balance to the opposite and equally exclusionary “religionist” mistake of elevating inward experience to the exclusion of the material world.

BUT, however necessary, it is not sufficient.

Throughout his lifetime, both in personal experience and professionally, the pioneering Swiss analyst Carl Jung dealt with the suffering caused by squeezing the richness of life experience into this hollow mold. As a matter of personal sanity and social health, he advocated “individuation” as a process for reintegrating all the layers and levels of life into conscious awareness.

The Life Wheel compliments Jung’s work. It can be used as method to assist in this process of making the unconscious conscious, of restoring access to inner knowing that has been repressed by socialization, including education.

Here is a picture to show you what I’m getting at:

Wealth.sized

On the outward path, the individuation process differentiates the individual from the universal center. It integrates timeless unity with the outward layers of idea, energy, action and results. This was the reality check Mukti needed – a correct picture of where my personal boundaries began and hers ended. We are one at the center, but not on the surface. It was NOT okay for her to take my things.

On the inward, return path, the individuation process reintegrates personal, separate identity with awareness of the timeless, universal source. This is what Jason lacked – a concept of his own inherent value, independent of the people. events and circumstances around him. The qualities he admired in David weren’t defined by physical attributes. Looking on the outside for the inherent self-worth he already had on the inside was a sure recipe for disappointment.

What is needed to change the Rules of the Knowledge Game is access to a useful reality map, one that includes the whole of human experience, one that is easily converted into a practical diagnostic and decision-making tool. That is the purpose of working with the Life Wheel. It can easily be personalized to ask, “Where in the Wheel Am I NOW?” — “Where Do I Intend To Be?” — and then decide – “How Do I Get from Here to There?”

Expanding Rules of the Knowledge Game to match the whole of life can be a matter of life or death. For example, just as 3 year-old Jason tried to acquire my brother’s virtues through imitation, David, in turn, copied his dad. As a Yale grad, David chose to become a physician, following in the footsteps of our Harvard-trained cardiologist father.

David too accepted the scientist’s belief that exclusively empirical science can explain everything. He dismissed other approaches to knowledge as ignorant superstition. He rejected as quackery my quest for deeper knowledge about the origins and purpose of life.

I dearly hope when when faced by extreme adversity, he’ll not, for lack of inner awareness, make the same choice his medical role model did.

When we first found out in the year 2002 – 50 years after the fact – that Kirby hadn’t died of a sudden heart attack (as we grew up believing), that he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the back of the head, my younger sister Annie was instantly reminded of a haunting poem by Edward Arlington Robinson.

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim. . . .

. . . he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without meat, and cursed the bread.
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

This poem dramatizes the saying, “Appearances are deceiving.” The key difference it illustrates is this. Those who endured external adversity by patiently waiting for the light survived. Whereas Cory, who seemed to “have it all,” lacked awareness of the inner resources needed to cope with hidden suffering.

Without the confidence that comes from inner wealth, all the riches in the world cannot withstand the despairing, dark of night of the soul.

In sum: the first front against suffering remains knowledge. Knowledge – complete and correct – is the beginning of empowerment. Ultimately, changing the Rules of the Knowledge Game is matter of personal as well as human survival.

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Rethinking RESPECT

“The wisdom of the ancients can inspire a reinvention of democracy now.” In this context, RESPECT is the necessary balance to the earlier blogs on FREEDOM and POWER.

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53. RESPECT

Through the text runs a moral thread, which foreshadows the most noble ideals of Confucianism: A respect for the Natural Order, an esteem for self-cultivation, and a sense of social justice.  — Kerson and Rosemary Huang, The I Ching

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As long as companies think of employees as costs rather than assets, they will always be tempted to reduce the costs rather than invest further in the assets by providing safety nets for health care, retirement, and all the things that help people to get through their lives with dignity.  — Autry & Mitchell, Real Power: Business Lessons from the Tao Te Ching

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Our respect for ourselves determines (a) the amount of respect we crave from others and (b) our need to push for control and dominance. . . when you are in a situation when you feel disrespected, it causes a negative response [as if] the outside world, through your ego, is your only source of psychological support or nourishment.  — David J. Lieberman, Make Peace with Anyone

THE FRONT

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Roots of respect mean to look at, or look back on. Webster’s first definition is to feel or show honor or esteem for, to hold in high regard, or to treat with deference. It also means to show consideration for, to avoid intruding upon or interfering with, as to respect others’ privacy. It can mean a deference or dutiful regard, as in respect for the law. Respect is used to indicate courteous regard, as in respect for others’ feelings.

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In the context of Affirmative Action objectives, respect refers to acceptance of diversity in public life, honoring each individual’s dignity and value, regardless of national origin, age, gender or personal beliefs. This implies more than an obligation to pay token lip service to legislation or an attitude of condescending tolerance. It supports the welcoming, embracing view that everyone has something of unique value to offer; that the whole is completed and enriched by contributions from every possible point of view.

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In Native American, Buddhist and Hindu traditions alike, children are taught a reverence for all of life, extending not only to humans, but nature as well. This includes creatures of the animal and insect kingdoms, as well as rivers and oceans, forests, mountains, deserts, jungles and even the air we breathe. Together they weave the fabric of life on earth, and evoke a commitment to maintaining the delicate balance of life-sustaining elements.

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In corporate context, unfortunately, respect takes on the qualities of intimidation, fear of retribution, and enforced loyalty. In the context of inner city gang cultures, respect takes on intense meaning. The slang word “dis” means to disrespect. News stories tell of youth so outraged when strangers show disrespect that they kill for revenge. Their extreme desire for external show of personal respect changes to its extreme opposite, the ultimate show of disrespect for life.

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Sages teach enduring respect for the timeless essence of all traditions, but do not hold onto particular forms of its expression after their usefulness has been outgrown. In Chinese history, the life span of successful dynasties was extended not by resisting change, but by embracing it.

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When barbarians hordes assailed the empire’s gates, royal advisors, knowing that resistance was futile, recommended that the newcomers’ vitality be respectfully assimilated by mutually beneficial intermarriage of races and ideas.

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When paradigms are in flux as new approaches are sought to answer new questions and meet new needs, messengers of change are often shot as if traitors by short-sighted, self-serving gatekeepers of the passing order. This may impede progress, but cannot turn back the clock.

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When the times are dangerous and the need for growth imperative, attempting to inhibit urgently necessary change is as dangerous to the civilization as is attempting to stop a mother’s labor pains once the birthing process has begun.

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If, through our examples, we taught our children self-respect, self-awareness and a fearless respect for life, they’d experience no need to demand respect from others. Then disrespectful behavior would trigger not rage, but rather compassion and a commitment to uplift the ignorant and less fortunate.

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THE BACK

Disrespect is the opposite of respect. Often it’s a product of sheer laziness and inattention. It can manifest as careless word choice or manner of dress. It’s reflected in failure to maintain one’s health, relationships, tools or property. This attitude is passed down through the generations and perpetuated by imitating bad examples.

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The word respect is perverted when used in the context of Mafia-like extortion. It becomes a euphemism for submission due to extreme fear and the illusion of powerlessness. Corrupt governments and organized crime rings which depend on passive acquiescence to stay in power are not respecters of life, nor do they receive of authentic respect.

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Kerson and Rosemary Huang, The I Ching. (Workman Publishing Co.: New York. 1985.)  Preface.

James A. Autry & Stephen Mitchell, Real Power: Business Lessons from the Tao Te Ching. (Riverhead Books: New York, 1998.) p. 186.

David J. Lieberman, Make Peace with Anyone: Breakthrough Strategies to Quickly End Any Conflict, Feud, or Estrangement. (St. Martin’s Press: New York, 2002.) p. 15.

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* See the Conscience Page for a description of the structure-within-structure format of the Essays, an overview of CONSCIENCE: Your Ultimate Personal Survival Guide, and an alphabetical list of the Essays.

Rethinking POWER

Because democracy is defined as “power to the people,” the Essay on POWER follows FREEDOM. With the stage set, the third blog – Rethinking Democracy – will summarize personal observations made in Rethinking Survival.

 

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57. POWER

 

 Nothing under heaven is as soft, receptive and yielding as water.

Its gentleness dissolves the hard, erodes and absorbs the rigid.

Thus, those who bend endure long after the unbending have snapped.

So it is that the low and high trade places, and the forceful loose their influence.

Like water, sages embrace humility to endure,

remaining flexible and responsive to the needs of the time.

This is known by many, but practiced by few.

 

— Patricia West, Two Sides of a Coin: Lao Tze’s Common Sense Way of Change

 

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“The principle aim . . . is to unfold a Tao of economics; it has always seemed to me appropriate to establish and re-establish a truer alignment of political and economic forces with the natural processes and, through the ancient Chinese I Ching, such an endeavour is possible.” — Guy Damian-Knight, The I Ching on Business and Decision Making

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“Part of what goes into acting decisively in any life situation, along with aggressiveness, clarity of thinking, the awareness of one’s own death, is training. The warrior energy is concerned with skill, power, and accuracy, with control, both inner and outer, psychological and physical. . . He has developed skill with the “weapons” he uses to implement his decisions.” — Moore & Gillette, The Warrior in His Fullness

 

THE FRONT

The root of power means to be able, potent. Webster’s first definition is the ability to do, act or produce. It refers to a specific ability or faculty, like the power to hear. It refers to a great ability to act or affect strongly using vigor, force, or strength. Power is used to describe the ability to control others, or the authority to influence, such as legal authority.

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Power refers to the source of physical energy or mechanical force that can be put to work, like water power. It points to a person or thing having great influence. It can mean a nation which dominates other nations. Power also refers to spirit or divinity. An archaic use implies an armed force: army, navy, or military strength, like air power. In optics, power refers to the degree of magnification of a lens, microscope or telescope.

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R.L. Wing elaborates on the adage, “Knowledge is power,” pointing out the unique advantage gained from focusing the I Ching magnifying lens on daily life. “The power and astuteness that we gain from this universal perspective,” she writes, “can be applied to any of life’s situations.” In addition, “We recognize situations that hold no promise because they are structured in a way that will cause their own downfall.” In other words, knowledge gives us insight to recognize where various choices are likely to lead, resulting is better decisions.

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In Taoist thinking, laws of nature explain why power over time reverts to the people. While drops of water are insignificant, they add up. The momentum driving a tidal wave is formidable. Divided by fear, ignorance, and narrow materialistic beliefs, individuals remain insignificant. Unified in wisdom by common purpose, people become powerful indeed. Leaders, whether a Stalin or a Mandela, ride the waves of time like energy surfers, directing their followers either towards slaughter or towards freedom.

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Great temporal power of itself implies no value. Its effect, whether positive or negative, depends on the context within which it’s used, either consciously or unconsciously, skillfully or incompetently, for good or evil. The results of a warrior’s prowess, military arsenal and self-control depend on how, when, where and why they’re applied.

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For example, in the last century Germany produced both a Hitler and an Einstein. Hitler was obsessed with the occult. He wanted to harness unseen forces to further his goal of world domination. Einstein, on the other hand, searched for the subtle laws of physics. He hoped thereby to discover a Unified Theory which perfectly describes the operations of nature. Had he prevailed, he would have re-invented the I Ching and its off-spring, the Positive Paradigm of Change.

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THE BACK

The opposite of power is powerlessness. Though energy is inherent in every life form, and every individual has the potential to express a unique variation of power, through any combination of external circumstances and personal choices, it can remain latent and dormant, an opportunity lost.

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A perversion of power is malicious aggression. Using force to harm others, even destroying life to steal material possessions or gain political power, violates natural law. In time, harm returns to the abuser in equal proportion to damage done. Herein is practical proof of biblical wisdom, “Justice is mine, sayeth the Lord.”