Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Power Without Resistance

I was thinking about resistance to power this morning. As a result I've got books scattered about looking for quotes and ideas. I stumbled across this idea in James Hillman's Kinds of Power that has got me thinking.

"Power, without the resistance of a counterforce, mimics the intertia it strives against, becoming an unhindered, tensionless expansion, following the lay of the land, flattening out into stagnant accumulations without intention, much like the pictures we make of inert despots on fat pillows in their pleasure domes, all resistance to the plenipotentiaries overcome." Pg.144

In search for clarification I read the sentence to my wife as she was lying on the bed nursing our daughter. I wanted to know what inertia power was mimicing. I read it. She, like usual rolled her eyes and said speak English. So, I read the first part of the sentence. We still couldn't figure it out. Oh well, I thought, just another question gone unanswered. Nothing new. But as I was randomly paging through the beginning of the same book I ran across this:

"The deeper syndrome is inertia of the spirit, a passivity that feels no vocation and shies from imaginitive vision, adventerous thinking and intellectual clarification. That we imagine ourselves today as a nation of victims attests to a vacuum in the spirit of the nation. These are symptoms of the soul in search of clarity. Clarity is the essential.

If I'm understanding Hillman right, he's saying that without resistance power mimics spirit. Without the process of soul-making spirit becomes passive, shallow, expansive and unclear. It reminds me of a poem by Swedish poet Harry Martinson:

When Euclid started to measure Hades,
he found it had neither depth nor height.
Demons flatter than stingrays
swept above the plains of death....

There were only waves, no hills, no chasms or valleys.
Only lines, parallel happenings, angles lying prone.
Demons shot along like elliptical plates;
they covered an endless field in Hades as though with moving

victims of flat evil,
with no comfort from a high place
or support from a low place

That's how I'm starting to see the removal of mountaintops to provide us with coal to light and heat our homes. It's all part of the process of what I've heard poets call flattening. And now I can understand why author/activist Derrick Jensen ended an email to a fellow activist with this phrase: Welcome to Hell.

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