There is a power that each of us has which can make possible a positive and abundant future for all of us and for the world as a whole. There’s nothing magical or esoteric about it. It is available to us every day, and many people do make a point of using it. But it can be overlooked because it operates on a different scale and in a different way from how we usually think about power.
I think most of us would understand power as the ability to accomplish something, a force to make something happen or to get something done. This might be muscular power to physically implement one’s will, or intellectual power to persuade and compel. It might be the power that wealth brings or political or social status. It might be power granted by an organization such as the government or the military.
Whatever its source, power is seen as a capacity to impose, to compel someone or something else to do what I want. Power becomes a commodity that is not equally shared in a zero-sum game where there are winners and losers. Some people have it and some people don’t, and in most human societies, the latter are far more numerous than the former, which, of course, leads to abuses and imbalances in human relationships.
Because of the consequences that can follow when one is on the receiving end of power in the service of dominance, we seek after it so that we won’t be subject to those consequences. This quest for power can itself become fraught with destructive and hurtful results. We can descend into a social-Darwinian mindset in which only the most powerful can survive, much less prosper. We favor competition over cooperation.
The power to impose is inherently insecure because the foundation on which that power rests can change or disappear. As a commodity, power can be won or lost. I can amass a fortune and then lose it. I can be elected to a political office and then be defeated in the next election. I can work out in a gym and develop a powerful physique and lose it to an accident or illness. I can occupy a favored demographic position and then lose it to changing population dynamics or social norms.
The power that I’m referring to, though, is different. For one thing, it can never be lost; we always possess it. We may choose not to use it, but we cannot lose it. For another, we all possess it equally. Some do not have more of it while others have less. It is not based on wealth, social status, organizational membership, race, religion, gender, or any of the many other means by which we usually measure the presence of power. It is not a commodity, and its use is not part of a zero-sum game. It does not produce winners and losers, only winners.
Broadly speaking, this is our power to choose how we relate and connect to others. The results of such choices always affect someone else or the world around us. The scale of the effect may seem small, but it is never inconsequential; in fact, the consequences can ripple out widely, often beyond our ability to foresee or to know.
We are constantly affecting each other through our thoughts and feelings and the behavior towards one another that they inspire. I don’t have to have a dollar in my pocket to give you a compliment that may brighten your day, for instance. I don’t have to have any special social status to treat you with kindness.
While a competitive society bids us struggle to be “in power,” a holistic society that can bring wholeness and healing into the world bids us to develop the skill to “empower.” This means using the power of my presence to enhance your experience of the power of your own presence.
I like the word “empower” to describe this capacity we all have to engage with one another in mutually supportive and beneficial ways, ways that make each of us a winner. However, when we think of being empowering, I would like us to think of it as more than just giving something—our own power, perhaps—to someone else or of doing something beneficial for them. These things can certainly be helpful, but there’s a deeper potential at work here.
To describe this deeper power we each have, let me introduce a hyphen to “empower” and turn it into “em-power.” This could be seen as short for “emergent power.” This is the power—the capacities—that emerge when two or more people connect through mutual respect, sharing, and cooperation. This power doesn’t belong to anyone but arises within everyone. It is the power of synergy, a power of wholeness. It draws out the best in all who participate.
This is not an abstraction by any means. Anyone who has been part of a successful team knows what this is like. Being part of a group whose members mindfully and deliberately work to support each other and draw out the best in each other is a joyful and profoundly empowering experience. Now imagine if the team was humanity itself, all of us learning to both stand in our individual sovereignty and power and be empowering with each other, allowing a power of wholeness to emerge from our connectedness.
The ability to em-power is always part of us. We exercise it when we choose to honor another and deal with him or her respectfully and with a desire to discover the power we can unfold through our cooperation and kindness. We lose it when we seek to dominate, to go from being empowering to being in power.
The shift from struggling for power as a commodity to enjoying and nourishing emergent power in which everyone is benefitted is the shift that I feel humanity is struggling with at this time in our history. Empowerment—or em-powerment—goes beyond how we relate to each other and defines how we relate to and empower our world. It is what I call a holopoietic power, the power to create wholeness. Nothing, it seems to me, is more needed on our planet today. The important thing—the hopeful thing—is that we don’t have to seek for this power; it is not available only to a few. It is always present in the heart of each of us.
David's Desk is my opportunity to share thoughts and tools for the spiritual journey. These letters are my personal insights and opinions and do not necessarily reflect the sentiments or thoughts of any other person in Lorian or of Lorian as a whole.