We often think that life and work gets easier, if only we were in charge, had more control over our environment and the people around us. Power feeds the ego and for a moment it will feel great. But as soon as that feeling wears off, we will look for the next step up the career ladder, starting an endless journey for power. Power per se is nothing bad, but power alone can never be the goal. We first need to learn to use the power we already have wisely, before asking for more.
Let us learn from the wonderful story out of the poor stonecutter, who thought that power alone would make him happy (story from Sydney Solis’s book The Treasure in Your Heart).
Once there was a poor stonecutter, and everyday he went to work at the base of a mountain, slinging his pickaxe into the rock.
One day, when he was exhausted, he said aloud, “Oh, I am just a poor stonecutter, working hard for my living. How I wish I were a rich man. Then all my problems would be solved, and I would be so powerful!”
A fairy happened to listen in on this conversation, and she instantly granted the man his wish.
The poor stonecutter suddenly found that he was a wealthy man. He had delicious food and fine clothes and many servants. Over time, he grew used to this comfortable lifestyle, and with so much power, he began to act bossy and mean.
One day, when the sun was shining harshly and making everybody miserable with its heat, the rich man thought, “Well, this sun has more power than I do. I can’t stand it that something has more power than me. I wish I were the sun! Then I would be the most powerful thing in the world!”
The fairy heard the man’s wish, and instantly it was granted.
“Haha!” cried the rich man. “Now I am the sun! I am so powerful! I can shine down on everybody, and make their lives great or miserable!” And he blazed his heat down on the poor people below.
His triumph was short-lived, however. Soon a cloud moved in front of the sun and blocked its glaring rays. The sun was furious.
“Why, the cloud is more powerful than I am! I wish to be the cloud so that I can be the most powerful thing in the world!”
Of course, his wish was instantly granted by the nearby fairy.
Unfortunately, as a cloud, the rich man was stopped by a huge mountain.
“Oh, no! Make me the mountain!” he cried. The mountain is the most powerful thing in the world!” Once again, his wish was granted.
As a mountain, the rich man sat beaming with boastful pride at his power and strength. Then, he heard a strange sound.
“Chink, chink, chink,” went the sound. “Chink, chink, chink.” The mountain thought, “What is that? What is that sound?” He looked down, and there was a poor stonecutter, cutting away at the mountainside.
“Oh, no!” cried the mountain. “That stonecutter is more powerful than me! Eventually, he will cut away the whole mountain! The stonecutter is the most powerful thing in the world! I want to be a stonecutter!”
His wish was instantly granted. Once again, he was a poor stonecutter.
What can we learn from this story?
Power directed at others
Power is the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events. Like the stonecutter we believe that the more power we have, the better we will feel. Early in our lives we learn to compete, to stay on top of things. If we don’t get what we want we use power to achieve our goals. It is as if Sun Tzu’s Art of War is still haunting us thousands of years after it was written. The aim of life is never to accumulate power. Power used to gain power way only leads to suffering. In the end every country, organization or individual using power this way will destroy itself.
Power over yourself
Power over others needs to be balanced with power over yourself. Not using power in a bad way, under any circumstances, is incredibly hard. It requires a lot of patience to not force things, to accept that changing anything requires time. Power can help in achieving your goals faster, but watch out what the use of power does to you. Don’t sacrifice your good intentions for your goals. Remember that there will always be someone or something more powerful than you. If you chase power just to have more of it, you will end up where you began.
Power in itself is nothing bad. It can be used to do good in the world. But we have to learn to use the power we already have, before wanting more. If we are not ready the additional power will turn us into the thing we were trying to fight.
In the end the stonecutter realized, that he already had the power to conquer a mountain. Appreciating the little power we have in our life and learning how to use it wisely, is one of the keys to well being.