Notice how I avoid the question.
Choose the best*
This will assure one’s greatest happiness in the long run.
But what if the best is hard, or scary?
Then one may balk, and choose something less than the best.
It’s time, then, to discuss courage and the ownership of power. At this time, I feel ill-prepared to do so, as I have little experience of either one. I can tell my very humble story as it is; in years to come, it may be different.
Centeredness. I’m not sure what to say about this state. It’s the word that comes to me at once to describe the way I sometimes am; I have heard others use the same word to refer, clearly, to the same thing. When I am centered, I feel completely balanced; I am at peace with all things in the world; it seems impossible for any thing to upset me or disturb me. Had I been centered when I first read about Dwight C. Wells, I would not have been upset.
That brings up an important point. Whereas on the one hand, it appears that as one matures spiritually, incidents of centeredness become more frequent, more profound and of longer duration; on the other hand, “offenses are sure to come.” One will be offended from time to time.
Centeredness enables a kind of courage. When I’m centered, I perceive no obstacles to anything I may desire. Ambrose Worrall spoke of “the lack of resistance to that which you hope to receive.” It’s not, in fact, that there are no obstacles, but that there are none that can’t be overcome. I have all I need to overcome them all. I may fail, but I will not be disappointed.
A few days ago, I would have said I don’t know how intentionally to attain this state. I was mistaken. It results from pursuit of The Way of Peace.
Happiness is the fuel we use to deal with unhappy situations. I suspect the reason many people refuse to admit error — or be accountable — for example, is that they don’t have enough happiness to start with.
About peer pressure. Depending on one’s social context, one of the unhappy situations one may face is others’ disapproval of doing what one can for oneself. To the extent they’ve devoted themselves to self-destruction, they want you to devote yourself to it, too. Upward mobility can be a lonely path.
Grounding. God gave us the earth plane — the world of time, space and matter — to give our souls something to grab on to, to stabilize themselves, in times of confusion and turmoil.
Related: Mooring oneself in What Is
This is more important for some folk than for others. Some live in a world where chaos is so intense, disasters come unforseen one after another, and one may despair of ever being able to devise and carry out any plan.
- You get a job, and a jealous neighbor slashes your tires so you can’t get to work.
- A guest at your house party finds, and relieves you of, your heirlooms.
- Back stabbers relentlessly seek to seduce your partner.
I said elsewhere:
Several years ago, at a meeting of the Church Council (vestry), Pastor reported to us on the work of the social worker we had on staff at the time. He shared that on the intake form that any new client is asked to fill out, at the end she or he is asked to list two goals he or she would like to accomplish. I nearly fell out of my chair. Whether or not I said this out loud is not clear now, but my thought was, “Have you any idea how much courage it takes to have a goal?”
One afternoon I was walking back to the shelter from church, and I gather I’d started out in a state of some distress. I looked at the sidewalk beneath my feet; I looked at the trees nearby. Newton’s Laws of Motion: these things had been here in these places yesterday, and in all probability would be here in the same places tomorrow. There is an orderliness to physical existence that we can count on; that can be as the pavement beneath one’s feet, a foundation one can act on — and plan, and build. I can with confidence make plans and act on them. I will sometimes fail or fall; but I can also get back up.
Trusting karma: There was a time when I lived in apprehension of my own karma. What unseen disaster may be coming in my future, given things in my past in this or other lives? The spiritual results of my past conduct careen unseen into my future following much the same as Newton’s Laws of Motion also. But I came to see that this is simply more of the same orderliness as rules the physical world — an orderliness I can ultimately count on, a basis to desire, plan and act. No disaster has ever yet met me in this life that I could not navigate. None ever will.
Rejecting victory: the civil rights debacle
Philip Lewis’s April 14, 2016 article, “What Is ‘Reverse Racism’? Here’s Why It Doesn’t Actually Exist in the United States,” includes an interesting passage:
“To be guilty of racism, however, to be a racist, say the revision proponents, one must have power, and power of a special sort,” Carlos Hoyt Jr, who is an assistant professor of social work at Wheelock College, wrote in The Pedagogy of the Meaning of Racism of those who would like to change the dictionary definition of racism. “For the revisionists, racism is prejudice plus power leveraged at an institutional level to maintain the privileges of the dominant social group.”
This is the first time I’ve met reference to a “revisionist definition of racism.” I haven’t read Hoyt’s piece, but I suspect it doesn’t say quite what Lewis wants it to, or he would not have used that term.
Originally, “racism” meant racial prejudice by anyone, against anyone; and that remains the definition in most dictionaries today. Sometime in the mid-1960s, some began insisting on the “revisionist” definition, that “racism” means prejudice plus power. Except in dictionaries, this prevails in most places in my world today. This is a matter of ideological dogma, and not up for discussion. If one questions it, one meets a filibuster.
I have sought to find out when, where, by whom and why the “revisionist” definition came to be. It may have begun with Stokely Carmichael in 1967. I did find out a lot about that period — during which I was still a pre-teen.
The pinnacle of the civil rights movement came in 1963-1965. Lyndon Johnson won the 1964 Presidential election by a landslide, and civil rights was the foremost issue. Under his leadership, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Make no mistake: notwithstanding a significant strident, sometimes violent minority of what at the time would have been called “racist” whites, it was the determined will of the vast majority of white folk at the time, that these acts become law.
Martin Luther King, Jr., however, had sold the nation a bill of goods that the nation had been all too eager to buy. He convinced us that blacks were eager to assimilate into the social mainstream, and that that assimilation — desegregation — would occur easily.
It did not, and would not. The new legal context presented blacks with new bests that they might choose; but they proved hard, and scary. No one had prepared us for that.
To this day, I have never heard or read any concession that justice requires blacks to do anything hard, or scary. In other words, to do any real work.
A reaction developed. Blacks burdened with tremendous resentment, anger and hatred toward whites were unwilling to accept any more the dictionary definition of “racism,” as it implicated them. They demanded a new definition whereby only whites could be called racist. They came up with, “racism equals prejudice plus power” — a definition that, on analysis, assures (1) that blacks need never do anything hard or scary, (2) that justice will never obtain, and (3) that thus black folk can continue hating white people forever.
The “power” aspect refers to the fact that we all live under a “system” that white folk created to suit themselves — and with a presumption of ill-will toward blacks. Black folk in the U.S. are currently powerless to replace it with a system they might create to suit themselves. In this sense, all whites are “racist,” since its “their” system, and “they” have power; to what extent, if any, a white individual holds ill-will toward blacks, is immaterial.
The presumption of powerlessness is pervasive. I have been told that in any encounter between a black person and a white, the American “historical context” effects an imbalance of power that can never possibly be overcome. The two persons can be in complete agreement; it’s still a racist encounter. If they disagree, it’s the white person who is racist and therefore in the wrong.
Below I list three opportunities for use of power that almost every black man has. Some years ago, I brought those up to a white liberal authority figure, who would not concede that a black man has even that power. The dogma is that the black man cannot do
to improve his lot.
Power and accountability
|With great power comes great responsibility.|
Power and responsibility are inseparable. In short, in our current scenario, the claim of powerlessness actually reveals a rejection of accountability.
Poor folk worldwide, regardless of ethnicity, tend to reject accountability. That is, for example, what makes “trailer park trash.”
The adults in the child Dez Bryant‘s world exercised great power over him and his siblings, but would not own any accountability.
How to gain more power
Per the Parable of the Talents, the key to getting more power is to take responsibility for the power you have now. Examples available to practically every man include these:
- Power to whoop or not whoop your child or woman
- Power to put the trash out in the right place on the right day
- Power to assume or not assume that everyone of another color hates you.
It gets even more basic. Everyone has
- Power to choose happiness
- Power to love oneself
- Power to walk The Way of Peace
What can you do for yourself today?
*Note that I’ve already sidestepped the question. I confronted myself about this in church Sunday, and came up with this list of observable things-to-do:
– improve grooming
– get to shelter early enough to get a bottom bunk
– eat less
– cut back smoking
– practice The Way of Peace
– seek normal housing