Friday, November 02, 2012

Power to the People

We live in a world in constant search for answers. I happen to be one of those in search. I want to know everything. I want to know the meaning of life. I want to know how somebody could be that crazy? And I want to know if oysters taste good? Most everyone else does too.

We really do want to know it all.

There is nothing wrong with that quest for knowledge, for answers. A good healthy quest like that can bring lots of satisfaction and joy. Where our search sometimes goes wrong is when we give up our power along the way.

Instead of finding our answers by trial-and-error experiments, self-reflection and seeking, we try to find the answers from one or two reliable sources. Those sources provide the answer we seek, we believe those sources hook line and sinker and we give ourselves permission to relax. Those sources could be a book, a teacher, a friend, a television program, and even The Internet — The Source Of All Truth.

We give up our power to that source, so that we can assuage (thesaurus word) ourselves and can stop seeking for those answers. But if something happens to discredit that source, we blame the source and move on to another source.

In reading a book last week called ”Zen Wrapped in Karma and Dipped in Chocolate” by Brad Warner, I learned that some Zen Buddhist teachers have a way to deal with questions.
”A good Zen teacher will toss the power you attempt to hand him right back at you like a hot potato.” If you try to find the ”perfect” answer from a Zen Master, he will turn you right back around and make you do a little more searching.

I’ve had this power shift happen to me several times.

Once, when I worked in church ministry, we were in a meeting looking for ways to trim the budget. At the time, we were using a consultant to help us with some writing projects. He was expensive but worth his wage because of the help and guidance he provided.

When it came time to talk spending cuts, one of the powers that be asked if we could do without the consultant.

”We could,” I said. ”It would be difficult, for sure, but yes, if we needed to, we could get away without using the consultant.”

When it was time to make the dreaded phone call, guess what reason was given for letting the consultant go?

”Rodney said we don’t need you anymore.”

But that’s not what I said. I said it could — could — be done without him. It didn’t matter. I took the power and wound up getting a pretty good view of the underside of the bus I was thrown under.

Another time, some friends of ours were looking to buy a laptop computer for their daughter as a graduation gift.

Since I am considered to be a Mac guru, they asked my opinion. Considering that Macs usually run $500 to $1,000 more than a PC-type laptop, they wanted to know if having a Mac was really a necessity. ”Does she really need a Mac,” they asked.

”Of course. Everyone needs a Mac,” is what I should have said. But I didn’t.

”If she isn’t going to need a lot of graphic-heavy programs, she can get away with a less expensive PC-version laptop,” is what I wound up saying.

They bought a very nice — but less expensive — laptop.

When the time came to open her gift, guess what happened?

”We looked at the Macs but Rodney said you didn’t need one,” they told her.

More views from under the bus.

I took the power so that the parents could relax and not worry about making a mistake. It was my fault. Which was true because it really was.

I have given my power away too. I have asked for advice and when it didn’t work out, I point an accusing finger at the advice-giver. No problem. Not my fault.

The only problem is, it is my fault.

I’m at fault for giving away my power. And it is my fault for taking the powers others give me.
It’s the proverbial give a man a fish story. If you give him a fish, it’s your fault when he’s hungry the next day. If you teach him to fish, it won’t be your fault when he can’t catch his dinner (unless you’re a bad teacher, then I can’t help you).

I will continue my search for answers to questions like, What is the meaning of life? and Do these jeans make me look skinny? But I will try to find those answers on my own. I will ask for advice and look to other people’s experiences but, ultimately, I am responsible for me. And you are responsible for you.

So search on, brothers and sisters, but for goodness sakes use a Mac.

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