All of us have certain degrees of power—power that influences others. It’s not magic but it might as well be. When we’re young, we often admire the powers of others and try to emulate it mostly to our disappointment. In youth, we want the powers of physical attractiveness, charisma, and that of popular athletes, musicians and celebrities. When we get older, we want the more refined power of successful business leaders, politicians, poets and gurus.
Some of us discover our own powers early in life, while others much later. Some of us, blind to their use or importance, never realize their powers or perhaps never learn of their existence. There are different degrees of power. For example, we might be creative and exhibit sparks of genius early in life, but not have enough will to sustain it, to hold onto it, to cultivate it.
All powers in the end, have one goal: to influence the world; to have some control. Powers are magical in that they allow an individual to do things others cannot. Where doors open for one, they won’t open for others—no matter how much you try.
No matter how much you try, you could never play basketball like LeBron James. No matter how much you try, you could never make a company like Elon Musk. No matter how much you try, you could never be an actress like Meryl Streep.
Powers not only influence, they enchant, charm, even put one under a spell. The spell might be evoked by a smile, a tone of voice, or a gesture. When I catch myself in the moment admiring someone, I observe their power. What is it? What did he or she just do to captivate me and their audience? What was their technique? Is it one power or a mixture of powers? Is it real power or just the illusion of confidence that most people feign when they don’t know what they’re doing (which is what happens most of the time).
How about powers for good? The power of kindness, compassion, acceptance? We mustn’t always view power cynically. After all, these powers don’t belong to anyone in particular, they are God-given. They are God’s way of keeping the creation moving.
When I observe people, I no longer just see them as people, but as power-wielding jivas. The world is all of a sudden more interesting and less mundane when you realize all the magic around us: the dancer with perfect movement, the guru that shows the logic, the politician that cuts through the cynicism, the CEO that inspires innovation.
But what greater power than the power to know who you are? All the world’s great politicians, artists and intellects are just actors on God’s stage, but how many of them actually know that? What greater power is there than the power of Self-knowledge? Self-knowledge is the power that surpasses all powers. It’s the power that sees other powers for what they really are, just temporary, impersonal feats of fancy.