Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Sobriety and Power: A Paradox -- Part II

Nearly four years ago, once I had decided to leave the job that I held at the time, I wrote the following post on the paradox of sobriety and power. That was a time when I faced the dilemma of compromising my ethics to hold on to power, which would have allowed me to continue helping some people, or stepping away to avoid the impossible situation of having to act unethically in one way or another. In that earlier post, I wrote that I had never understood Nietzsche's notion of the "will to power," even as a descriptive model -- suggesting that people should immediately see right through the illusion.

Now, thanks to discovering the late philosopher Walter Kauffman, who translated and commented on Nietzsche and others, and wrote extensively on religion and ethics, I think that I have come to understand the concept to some extent. My wariness of power illusions and addiction increased significantly based on this understanding. Ever the academician, I tried practically to communicate what I had learned to some colleagues, but it backfired! In the process, I am learning a lot about the mirror image problem of pursuing and exercising inner power by shunning external power, which may be more or less addictive.

I find this all to be quite useful for personal growth, but face a different challenge. What is the point of accumulating this knowledge if one cannot share it with others -- through formal writing, which I am forced to self-censor, or communication with friends and acquaintances, which I am learning to self-censor as well? How can humility and narcissistic self-absorption be so closely linked? No wonder Nietzsche had to quit his academic post, and his writing eventually drove him mad. I cannot afford either of those radical steps, so I must accept not only academic but also personal mediocrity.


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