Poet, can you teach me how to influence others?
He leans back in his chair, studying my face. A naive lust for power is written plainly upon it. His code of generosity compels him to share any knowledge freely requested of him.
I think he’s disappointed I choose to spend my time pursuing selfish endeavors.
The Poet acquiesces with a nearly imperceptible sigh.
As always my friend, I can teach almost anything. The task of learning, however, is entirely up to you. If you wish to go down power’s path, know it is the most dangerous game.
Upon entering, you’re at the mercy of the others playing. Once you know about this dance of illusions, you cannot leave. It is not a contract to be entered into lightly.
There is no unringing of that damn bell.
I smile at the boxing metaphor.
The Poet speaks fondly of his Kinshasa memories, how Ali and Foreman slugged it out for eight glorious rounds in Zaire's sweltering jungle.
He recalls his adventures in a wonderful hodge-podge stream-of-consciousness coupled with the detached narration of a graciously amused eternal observer. His casual acquaintance with the consistency of perspective means I have no clue if he watched the fight in person or had heard tales of the legend from a storyteller much like himself.
A gentle clearing of his throat brings me out of my reverie.
Should we pursue power’s trappings or the source of power?
It depends on what you’re willing to sacrifice.
To reach the source of power, you would need to sacrifice your identity. That external you whom you’ve mistakenly thought you were. In return, you’d achieve eternal union with the faceless, timeless, and limitless current of universal energy.
Acquiring the trappings of power means sacrificing and leveraging your time. Every spare second is spent ravenously collecting and hoarding knowledge. That knowledge is then used as a cudgel to brow-beat your peers into respecting your superior intellect.
I felt the Poet trying to dissuade me from pursuing power but couldn't understand why.
What's the big deal? I don't see how knowledge is a bad thing.
All other passions slowly diminish as you become engrossed in the thirst for more. Your identity becomes inseparably intertwined with one who possesses knowledge or power or wealth, whatever fix it is that you’re craving.
This hardening of your false self drives you farther away from true, boundless power. The power of the Universe is not ours to hold or manipulate. We are meant to be but conduits for love and compassion, the highest vibrational forms of energy.
Instead, we dam the limitless ocean by trying to wrap our greedy mitts around a thimbleful’s worth of vitality.
The paradox is that we cannot achieve unity until our desires for power are exhausted.
Yet, without the initial desire for power, we may never embark upon our journey inwards towards self-realization.
That spiritual pilgrimage can only begin when our attachment to the material realm is shed in exchange for the etheric realm’s infinite delights. But the true nature of these delights remains unknown to us before our unfettered surrender.
Why should we surrender if there is still ecstasy available at our fingertips? Why do these Yogis deprive themselves of the chance to capitalize on power with their austere practices of meditation?
Yogis, swamis, rishis, whatever you want to call them, are not against ecstasy. Quite the opposite.
They simply believe it is a waste of time to settle for the inconsequential morsels found in the physical realm. The Siddhis, or miracles they’re able to perform through their austerities, must be surrendered by the practitioner.
It is not their power to wield, they are but conduits of the universal force.
Their meditations and yoga asanas become single-mindedly affixed upon the goal of God-realization. Enlightenment brings with it limitless heights of divine ecstasy.
Let me put it another way, would you rather have some cheap-ass shurikens from a middle of the mall kiosk or wield a katana crafted by Hattori Hanzo? They’re both weapons, expressions of power. However, they differ widely in their purity and potentiality.
The Poet swirls the dregs of his drink around before finishing it, giving me time to think.
But why do we have to exhaust our desires? Can’t we choose not to pursue them?
He retrieves a half-melted ice cube and pops it in his mouth to crunch before answering.
Self-mastery is not attained solely through avoidance and abstinence. That is allowing fear to govern our lives, afraid that we might succumb to the wiles of our subconscious.
Mastery is gained when an emotion, an experience, is felt with every atom and every fiber of our being. When its reality cannot be denied by your rational self, you will have the ability to consciously recognize that desire the next time it peevishly tugs upon your lizard brain.
Look, you can’t be a little pregnant.
Stop sinning halfway and immerse yourself fully in your debauchery. You will feel no more tugging at your heartstrings as there will be no more urge to satisfy because that itch has been well and truly scratched.
We cannot grow from what we do not know.
He pauses, signaling to the bartender for another round.
Were you afflicted with the same craving for power at my age?
Ah, that was a very long time ago. Or was it a few short weeks ago? The Poet replies, eyes twinkling with roguish delight.
Time eludes us all, take comfort in its unceasing passage.
But yes, I was struck with a voracious appetite for power. You and I differed only in our desired channel of expression.
I wanted to be a literary giant. A writer whose prose transcended the bounds of time. Whose poetry soared throughout the cosmos powered solely by the dint of my brilliance. Unfortunately, I am predisposed to occasional bouts of grandiosity.
Like the protagonist in Borges’ “A Secret Miracle”, I wished to judge my fellow writers only by what they had published, begging to be appraised by my great works still yet undreamed and very much unwritten.
Years passed before I realized the appellation of Poet had first been bestowed upon me in jest.
He looks out into the street, remembering an old self.
So what changed?
The Poet returns his gaze to me.
Eventually, even your loved ones tire of the disconnect between who you hope to be and the ignominious reality of whom you’re not. I had to embrace the role authentically.
Like most young artists, I was overwrought and melodramatic. My first poems were insipid and uninspired. They were carefully curated in a transparent attempt to elicit praise from the masses. Their subsequent lack of immediate and unwavering adoration rocked my fragile self-confidence.
Like kidney shots from Foreman haymakers?
A rueful smile crosses his face.
Alas, I was not gifted with Ali’s genius. I had no grand rope-a-dope strategy. All that was laid bare was my abject mediocrity.
Not of technical ability nor compositional competence, but authenticity. I was so worried about potentially upsetting any non-existent fans that I didn’t write with any bravery, abandon, or genuine introspection.
Art, like everything in this beautiful life, is nothing more than human connection. My readers felt nothing. They could intuitively sense I had haphazardly attempted to rid myself of everything that might be unpalatable, uncouth, unappealing.
I mistook self-consciousness for grace.
You've never been one short of grace.
He accepts my compliment with an easy smile and returns it with some playful shadow-boxing.
Let me explain it a little better.
There was a moment late in the Ali-Foreman fight where Foreman is pounding away doggedly at Ali. Ali leans in and whispers “That all you got, George?” Foreman is rattled to his core. No other man had pushed him to that moment of piercing introspection that comes right before you’re emptied of whom you used to be.
Unfortunately, I had not reached that level of awareness.
I had not made peace with my imperfections. I had not stared my peccadillos square in the eyes, grasped their gnarled paws in genuine appreciation, thanked them for their presence which had contributed invaluably to the totality of myself.
The waiter comes by with a G & T for the Poet and a whiskey sour for me. We clink glasses.
How the hell am I supposed to applaud my weaknesses?
I know it’s hard to find that initial thread of self-compassion to pull upon. Something to unravel, to be knit into tangible gratitude. Know that you are a child of the cosmos.
A mother’s love is incomparable, unwavering, limitless.
While others may wince, she loves the way your hiccuping laughter fills the room. Who is this soul whose amusement rings out self-possessed, full of joie de vivre? One that honors the present without fearing the future or lamenting the past.
Rejoice, for she sees the spark of divinity within you.
She is Creation, whispering in your ear.
Remember me. Embrace me.