Will-power

I was thinking of writing something to follow up from my essay on the libido and the topic I covered with regard to “dynamis”. An individual’s own power is a little understood aspect of a person’s physical, psychological and spiritual make-up. I wrote a poem about this called “You Have The Power” and in some ways a lot of my poems have had this as a theme in one form or another. I’ve always been fascinated by the power that Nature seems to have, particularly the power of the elements or what we commonly refer to as the weather. This really impressed itself upon me some years back when I was working in the States and was out on the road for a lot of it. At one point we were crossing a vast expanse of prairie in the Dakotas and basically drove through a hurricane. In one side and out the other.

I remember seeing it up ahead as we approached, a gigantic wall of grey cloud stretching from one horizon to the other in front of us with the highway we were on leading right into it. We entered and immediately were engulfed by an onslaught of wind and rain. Most of the other drivers were quite sensibly taking shelter under the overarching bridges that were every couple of miles or so. Cows were standing in herds all facing into the wind trying to hold their ground. And then the hail started battering the roof and windscreen which I thought was going to break, but we kept going. Eventually we arrived at the literal eye of the storm where there was an eerie calm and even a bit of blue sky. However soon we were back into the tempest and the fury. All the time I was scared but also quite exhilarated. I had no choice but to put up with it as I was not driving and the guy I was with on this journey had a timetable to stick to and wasn’t going to let a little thing like a hurricane disrupt his schedule. So once I resigned myself to the fact it was unavoidable I actually started to enjoy it for a bit and just sat back for the ride. The only word for it was “awesome” in the original sense of inspiring awe and wonder at such amazing power that Nature could unleash. Eventually we emerged from the hurricane unscathed and continued on the highway.

I have never forgotten this nor have I forgotten the fear and it instilled in me a healthy respect for the power of Nature. But as I have alluded to in some of my other writings, we are Nature. The same elements and forces that exist in the world around us also exist within us. So we too have such awesome forces within us. This is what I mean when I say that you – and I – all of us – have the power. We have a great source of energy which we can tap into for good or for ill.

When I used to work in a nursing home I witnessed first hand some of the things which illustrated to me how strong the will can be, particularly the will to live. An old gentleman was nearing the end of his life and had developed such extensive bed sores I couldn’t believe how bad they were. It was really disturbing to see him that way and I often just wished he would give up the ghost. Of course he eventually passed away but the will to live was so strong it kept him going through what almost seemed to be unbelievable suffering. Again each one of us is capable of the same. We all have the same quite frail and delicate bodies when you think about it and yet by sheer will-power alone great trials can be endured. People call it “Mind over Matter”. The body can only take so much of anything and will eventually succumb.

My own nephew has been through an incredible ordeal at the age of eight having battled leukaemia to the point where it had nearly gone and then he had a relapse which meant the requirement for a bone marrow transplant which he also survived. He lost his sight in this monumental struggle which has spanned half his lifetime but he told my mother that he “has looked death in the eye” and survived. He is a brave boy indeed as are his brothers and his parents who heroically supported him through his ordeal. Will-power. But when you love someone that much there is no question you will do whatever it takes. Love then is also a source of great power. If only we realised this and cultivated it and shared it more widely.

The will of the individual is so often abused and made to exert control over others who might seem weaker-willed, however that situation cannot be sustained. When a person’s will is hijacked and used against that person’s own wishes, judgement and values, particularly when it involves detriment to one’s loved ones, that person will turn against their oppressor. That is nothing less than the force of Nature that is within each one of us and has its own rules of existence that cannot be denied. So for those people who look externally for their sources or symbols of power, they are missing the fundamental basis of their own power which exists within them.

Some people also perhaps equate physical strength with power. This does express a visible manifestation of internal power and it is also linked to the influence of hormones I discussed in my previous essay. Testosterone clearly is a hormone involved in developing a powerful muscular physique which is prized by body builders and athletes and leads some to the use of synthetic anabolic steroids. However the exaltation of purely physically powerful attributes denigrates many of the other factors that I’ve outlined above such as the mental capacity to overcome obstacles through will-power and indeed the importance of having values that nurture life and love and eschew oppression and abuse of power.

Structures of power in our society also exist that perpetuate the conceptual and symbolic aspects of power that can be distracting from the recognition of the true sources of power on individual and collective levels. My poetry when I wrote it felt quite personal and related to my own feelings of self-worth and self-esteem but it seems to have struck a chord with some readers on a more overtly political level even though this was not really my intention. I was just trying to express my view of personal observances of a natural expression of power I saw in the world around me and within myself.

Power can be complicated but it can also be straight-forward when we look at things without judgemental attitudes and preconceived ideas. Also if we are just basically being honest about things as they are. Thanks for reading.

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