Now is the leverage point of all our power.

Now is the leverage point of all our power.

Power is how things get changed from one state of affairs to some other state of affairs.  Hurricanes like Katrina are a result of the gathering together of moisture, clouds, humidity, wind,  rain and waves all moving in some direction. New Orleans just happened to be in the way of where Katrina was going.  All kinds of natural manifestations of power have that element of indifference. They operate within the constraints and possibiliities of the natural laws that are their foundation. This is natural power, and we have limited means of reacting to such power and limited possibilities of controlling such power. Such manifestations of power are how the world operates.

Then there is our own personal, human power which operates on a different kind of foundation.  There are no natural laws governing our personal power other than our specific physical and mental limitations. Mostly, we learn to use our power in the world by a kind of trial and error.  On occasion we learn to make our power effective from the guidance of others, but this is, for most of us, relatively rare.  Most of us are too stubborn, or too embedded in our own beliefs, or too resistant in some fashion or other to be learning from others.

Bascially, we take some action, which invariably generates results. We evaluate the results on a favorable/unfavorable scale, and take  subsequent actions  to shift that ratio to what we see as more useful or more favorable or generally more beneficial to us. Out of this experience, out of our interaction with the world we find ourselves living in we develop a set of coping habits that make our passage through that world less chaotic. In short, through our actions, we develop habits and strategies for coping with the world, and the sum total of those actions on our part constitute the way we make our way in the day-to-day world. Those strategies and coping are the foundation of  all our “power.”

Once something has worked for us, it holds a priority in our retinue of working strategies,  which is good in making it available for future issues, but drifts us away from the unavoidable fact that the world is constantly changing, and what worked for us yesterday may not work at some future date. One facet of our personal wisdom is the capacity to recognize when a given strategy no longer works. This is more difficult than it seems, for once we have a working strategy and have used it over time, the habituation which accompanies its use makes it harder for us to give it up.

There is a story about an experiment with rats, a maze and cheese. The rats are let loose in a maze which has several reachable destinations. Some of these destinations are dead ends, and others have cheese. The rat quickly learns the mazes that have cheese, and when this happens, the rat only goes down the paths that lead to the cheese. Once the rat is habituated to this process, the cheese is removed and placed elsewhere in the maze. The rat continues to seek out the cheese in the mazes that worked for it for some time, but eventually gives up and no longer heads down those now dead ends.

Some wag wryly commented on the difference between people and rats. The rats give up on the dead ends, but all too often we keep heading down those dead ends forever. This is the force of habit in our lives.  Habits are vital to our well being, but there is a time to move on to new habits if we want  to truly enhance and improve our power in the world. That means we need to focus on the present, for that is where all of us act and live all of the time.  We can think about the past or anticipate the future, but we are always doing that in the present time.  Everything that happens to us and everything that we do in response happens in the ever ongoing present. There is no other option. This is simply the way we live. We live always in the present experience. If we pay close attention to that ongoing present, it will show us when old habits are no longer working for us. The more we are present in this way, the more effective we will be in our lives.

Therefore, the source of all our leverage with and against the world is in that continually surfacing, sliding, disappearing present. If you want to travel to Los Angeles and you are in New York, you have to start the journey in NY. If you are in Calcutta, then you’re journey has to begin in Calcutta. If you want to go to College, you have to decide which one, then apply, get accepted, pay your first tuition, etc. In short all that we wish to accomplish follows this inexorable pattern of starting where we are in order to get to where we want to be. This mixture of what is – the present time – and what isn’t – where we want to be or go or what we want to accomplish  is ever the matrix within which we exert our power.  There is no other way. Welcome to the present time.  Make it count.

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About The Practical Philosopher

I am a retired Philosophy professor. I taught philosophy for 43 years, and I would like to share some of what I have found pursuing the fascinating journey of philosophy.
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3 Responses to Now is the leverage point of all our power.

  1. John McDevitt says:

    Thanks Bill. Great advice for all of us.

    John

  2. Richard Petrino says:

    Great ideas in this piece, thanks Bill. Much to think about, as always. Rich

  3. Kathrin says:

    An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto
    a coworker who was doing a little homework on this.

    And he actually ordered me dinner due to the fact that I
    found it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this….
    Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to discuss this matter
    here on your website.

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