This week’s excerpt comes from Chapter 2, Paradise Lost in which I chronicle the fall of man and the implications of that which permeate throughout society even today.
Lust for Power
Back at the very beginning I noted that God had created mankind for the purpose of ruling over creation. The mentality of mankind is therefore to set up domains and dominion over certain areas that he can easily control, the more powerful a ruler, the larger the domain. Private ownership of property, mainly land but other forms of property can apply here, only serves to increase our power. Up until very recently in our history even a small man of little influence could at least say that he was master of his own household and many did attempt to lord over their subjects (wife, children and even the family dog) with an iron fist. Once these men left the comfort and safety of their domains however, they were once again under the influence and control of someone or something larger than themselves.
In the 1960s Psychologist Dr. William Glasser developed what was then referred to as Reality Therapy (later renamed Choice Theory) which identified 5 basic needs that human behavior is constantly seeking to satisfy. The needs include; Survival, Love & Belonging, Power, Freedom and Fun. For the purposes of our discussion the need to exercise some form of power is chief among them.
Psychologically the man (or woman) who has no power generally ends up in a deep depression while the picture in his head of what ruler ship looks likes constantly butts up against the reality of his insignificance. This depression can only remain for so long. The individual must either find an outlet for his ruler mentality, some small area of life that he can control, or he will become so enraged that he lashes out violently. Most cases of domestic violence can in some way be traced back to a depressed individual seeking power.
Perhaps no one in the last century understands the consequences of life lived without any sense of power better than Dr. Viktor Frankl. Frankl was an Austrian born psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor who spent most of his life in the Jewish ghetto of Vienna. He was eventually rounded up by the Nazis and sent to Dachau, Germany to work in a labour camp. In the course of just a few years Frankl lost his mother, brother and wife to the horror of the concentration camps and emerged in 1945 broken and alone.
Several years later Frankl admitted that he had been able to survive only by looking at his experiences and the experience of those around him through the trained and objective eye of a psychotherapist, rather than dwell on his own losses. After returning to civilian life in Vienna, Frankl opened a psychiatric practise primarily counselling other holocaust survivors in how to move on from the trauma they had all experienced. This work led to the writing of his land mark work originally titled, “Saying Yes To Life, In Spite of Everything”. The book was translated to English and re-titled “Man’s Search For Meaning” in 1959. In it Frankl chronicles his own experience in the Nazi death camps and gives some incredible insight into how to reconcile mankind’s ruler mentality with the reality of oppression. Frankl describes, in brilliant detail and clarity of insight how he and others found purpose in a life lived without power.
For Frankl what it all comes down to is personal responsibility. Or more to the point, becoming your own caretaker. If your goal in life is to be a ruler it is far too easy to neglect your other responsibilities both to yourself and to those around you. If you are not taking care of yourself there is no way you can hope to take care of anyone else and so win the rights and privileges of a ruler.
In this day and age we are constantly bombarded with images that support the idea of personal freedom. But don’t mistake freedom with personal responsibility. You can be responsible without being free just like you can have freedom without taking any responsibility. In fact many times freedom is portrayed as having no responsibilities but that is really just another form of selfishness and narcissism.
Toward the end the book Frankl addresses this contrast between freedom and responsibility profoundly by stating;
Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibleness.
There is power in freedom but Frankl reminds us that to be truly free, to be truly powerful we must also remain responsible. Otherwise unchecked freedom will result in anarchy. Put in the terminology of God’s Perfect Economy; to realize our potential for ruler ship, we must accept our responsibility as caretakers.
Jesus put it this way;
“For whoever has will be given more, and they will have in abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” [Matthew 25:29]
Now before anybody gets confused and starts thinking that I’m preaching a works based health and wealth gospel here, we need to take a step back. This quote comes at the end of what is referred to as the parable of the talents or the parable of the bags of gold found in Matthew 25:14-30, I’ll summarize it for you.
Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who while he is preparing to go on a trip calls his servants together and gives them a portion of his money to take care of and manage in his absence. To one servant he gives 5 bags of gold, to another 2 and to still another 1 bag. When he comes back and asks to settle accounts the one to whom he entrusted 5 bags of gold returns to him 10 and the servant with 2, returns to him 4 but the servant with just 1 bag returns to him just that original bag. Interpretations vary on the meaning of this parable but I think it comes down to the taking of responsibility.
First off the land owner or ruler knows who is the most responsible of his servants even before he goes away, otherwise he would have divvied up his gold more equally. In the end it is the servant who feels oppressed by the master and has no love in his heart that gives in to selfishness and buries the gold. It’s as if he says that since he is only a servant, and not a master he has no obligation to invest the money at all, he walks away from his responsibility and ends up being chastised and further punished for being a poor caretaker. This servant was so wrapped up in the fact that he wasn’t a ruler he couldn’t see that he still had some responsibilities as a caretaker.
It’s clear to me that even though mankind rejected God’s Perfect Economy and became enamoured with our ruler mentality that deep down the desire to please God is still there. Even though we can’t see it this desire to simultaneously please God, others and ourselves has set up a constant conflict within our ruler and caretaker mentalities that cannot be reconciled on our own. In the next chapter I take a look at how, just as it was with Cain, God continually steps in and shows us how far we have fallen from his l
 Glasser, William “Reality Therapy” (1965) New York, Harper & Row
 Frankl, Viktor “Man’s Search For Meaning” Beacon Press (1959)
 Frankl, Victor “Man’s Search For Meaning” Beacon Press (1959)