Thursday, January 7, 2016

You Don't Know The Power

Even before audiences knew the power of the Dark Side, we knew the power of a voice. In 1977, Darth Vader was poised to be little more than a glorified thug, a man in a full-body suit who made vague threatening gestures and, let’s be honest here, had all of the physical grace of Frankenstein’s monster. To be fair, he had the physical presence of the monster as well, provided by the fantastic body acting of David Prowse, and that certainly helped, but it was the voice of James Earl Jones that tipped the scale and gave the character that real sense of menace that he would become known for. Vader would go on to be one of the most memorable movie villains in cinema history, and that was due largely to a power that had remained mostly unknown before it was released upon the world.

Luke Skywalker was a farm boy who wanted to be somewhere else, almost anywhere else. He was every small town teenager looking for a way out while believing that nothing was under his own control. Ultimately he would be the pivot point upon which an entire galaxy would shift, being instrumental in ending an evil empire and reestablishing a force for good in the universe. In the process, he made Mark Hamill one of the most famous people in geek culture who has gone on to be an important element in a few popular franchises. Not bad for a backwater orphan whose previous ideas of excitement centered around shooting rats with his buddies at the local watering hole.

More recently, we have the character of Rey, played to perfection by relative newcomer Daisy Ridley. Kept largely under wraps in the pre-release build-up for The Force Awakens, Rey would turn out to be the epic hero of the movie, and has lit up the imagination of an entire new generation of fans. Retail outlets are having trouble keeping up with her popularity, and I know that I am in plenty of company with people looking forward to where she goes as this new trilogy progresses. I don’t think even Disney really knew how much she would take the world by storm, but you can bet they’ll be capitalizing on that fact now. If you’re one of the people having a hard time finding merchandise for Rey, be patient. I’ll be very surprised if there isn’t a flood coming in the very near future.

Power often comes from unlikely sources and in unlikely ways. Even with this Star Wars discussion, I’ve only highlighted a few of the more prominent examples, and those are actually just some of the more obvious ones. The Force users. The people who can demonstrate their power with the wave of a hand or the swing of a lightsaber. There are plenty of less obvious examples as well. Think about R2-D2, who probably has more Save the Day moments in the original trilogy than any other single character and is, hands down, one of the most popular characters in the entire franchise, all without a single spoken like. How’s that for hidden power?

The truth is that we all have hidden power, and most of us don’t know about it. That power won’t always present itself as dramatically as it does in the movies, but it’s there just the same. It’s in the examples we set, the lessons we provide, and the history we leave behind. True power changes the world, and everything you do changes the world. It won’t usually change in a big blockbuster cinematic way, but that’s a good thing. Small changes are less disruptive and can often lead to more long lasting, positive results. There is a reason that “May you live in interesting times” is considered to be a curse.

Don’t ever believe that you don’t have power simply because you don’t see it in action. I remember running into a guy a while back who I had known indirectly when we were kids. He’s a few years younger than I am, but has an older sibling who was often a part of my loose association of friends in high school, who was in turn a neighbor of one of my closer friends. We didn’t necessarily hang out all the time, but we saw each other often. One of the things that came up when we reconnected was his telling he remembered some weird but cool item that I used to wear way back when and then informing me that I was something of a trend setter. Me? As far as I had known, I was mostly invisible in high school but it turns out that there were people who believed I was a trend setter. I had no idea. I’ve learned over time that having no idea is far more common than most people realize. I found out about that one, but how many such instances never get discovered? You never know who is looking, and you might be changing the world in numerous ways that you know nothing about. Hidden power.

Power is a weird thing, and it is pretty common for it to go unnoticed until something happens where it grabs the spotlight. It’s possible that individual examples of power never grab the spotlight, but that makes them no less powerful. The merest trickle of water can cut a hole through a mountain with just patience and time. If you think about it, big, overt displays of power usually just cause trouble anyway. They’re a good way to get thrown down a reactor shaft or blown up because you forgot a little detail like an exhaust port, but large displays of power tend to be more about show than results. When it comes to results, a lots of successes will outdo one showy demonstration almost every time.

You don’t know the power that you have over the world around you, but you don’t have to know it to know that it is there. I can almost guarantee that you know people who you can see exert such power without knowing it. If you see one example and they don’t see it, isn’t it likely that there are more that you don’t see? Have faith that you are one of those. We all have power. Part of living a mindful life is using that power responsibly even when you don’t know that you’re using it at all. Figuring out that trick is usually what separates the Light side from the Dark.

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