The Will to Power, the Will to Meaning, and the Will to Love

Friedrich Nietzsche in the 19th century popularized a view of the world that he called the Will to Power.  His was a response to the emerging NietzchkeDarwinist view of evolution that there is a Will to Survive by all living things, not deliberately conscious (because, for example, blades of grass or turtles do not consciously reflect on such a will to survive).  For Nietzsche, the Will to Survive was not, well, powerful enough to explain how living organisms and systems work.  Grasses do not only struggle to live, but to expand territory by pushing out other living forms for a larger habitat.  Thus, even grass has the Will to Power, to control or even to (again unconsciously) dominate.

Viktor Frankl, a psychoanalytic psychologist, imprisoned in concentration camps during World War II, Viktor Franklhad a direct response to Nietzsche by saying that the primary human force is the Will to Meaning, a will to make sense out of life and particularly out of suffering.  Finding meaning, not a specific meaning common to all people, but finding a meaning itself has the survival value.  As people think of life as meaningless, then they die.  Yet, this contentless Will to Meaning has a contradiction in it.  It cannot be opposing Nietzsche’s Will to Power if, in finding meaning, one person’s meaning for life is to gain more influence over another.  In other words, Frankl’s deliberately contentless theme of the Will to Meaning must accommodate the content in some people’s minds that the Will to Power is their own personal meaning to life.  It is the way the world works, at least as some people try to make meaning out of a cruel world.  Yet, Frankl’s view, I think, is a developmentally more sophisticated worldview because it makes room for much more than the brutish vying for dominance and control in the world.

Jesus Christ, in contrast to Nietzsche and Frankl, has a different worldview.  It is the Will to Love.  Others, of course, have said this, too, but we must be scholarly here and give credit to the originalJesus - forgiven 2 proclamations.  This Will to Love consciously repudiates the need to dominate, to seek power.  Even if Nietzsche is correct that the Will to Power typifies the untrained, under-developed will of humanity, Christ’s challenge is to overcome that.  Nietzsche, in other words, takes what is and mistakenly presumes that this is what ought to be.  Frankl, in contrast, takes what is (we are presuming for now that the Will to Power is a natural tendency in humans) and is showing us that we can fill in the blank with other, perhaps better content when we ask, “What is the meaning of life and suffering for me?”  Christ, in contrast to Frankl, and in common with Nietzsche, commits to one particular content—in this case, love—as the central Will for humanity.

It seems to me that we have a developmental progression here in terms of a greater fulfillment of humanity, the fulfillment of who we are as persons.  We start in the mire of a Will to Power and can do great damage if we stay there, and if the world stays there.  The Will to Meaning is a transition in that it takes us out of the inevitability of seeking power.  The Will to Love, which honors the life of all, is the highest of these world views.  Why?  Because it is the only one of the three that is intimately concerned about all life.  If humanity will survive, our questing after the Will to Power is a dangerous path because in its conscious, extreme form, it destroys others so that one’s own domain can expand.

To those like Nietzsche who think that love and the equality of persons is a weakened view of humanity, my response is this:  How are you distorting the moral virtue of love?  How are you misunderstanding it?  To love is to help with the survival of all others, not to destroy for one’s own survival, dominance, and control.  In the seeking of others’ betterment, one finds vitality and joy and gives the freedom to others to do the same. The Will to Love is the only assurance of survival and the thriving of all, including the self.

Which of these world views will you bring to others today?

Robert

In Memorium: Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

We are aware that Nelson Mandela was a controversial figure in this life.  He admitted to 156 acts of violence as a young man.  Apparently, his view was to counteract oppression and violence with violence.

Yet, people change, sometimes toward bitterness and despair, other times toward a greater vision that we are all in this together.  Mr. Mandela seems to have transformed in prison to seeing the humanity in all with the one exception of the unborn.  Yes, he had a flaw there in not seeing deeply enough into the humanity of the most vulnerable.

nelson_mandelaIt is for his stand against the evils of apartheid, a stand that ultimately became non-violent, that we say thank you. Thank you, Mr. Mandela, for your unwavering vision and amazing courage. You guided a nation in transition away from violence. It could have been very different.

One case in point: he invited his jailer to an honored place for the Presidential Inaugural Address.

He showed by his actions that forgiveness is the way back for South Africa.

As another case in point: How many reprisals against apartheid happened after he was elected?  People listened.

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” –Nelson Mandela.

He did not always see clearly, but he matured to see that political violence is no solution at all.

Rest in peace.

On Lowered Expectations of Injustice

We can get so annoyed so easily.  A traffic jam….and we are annoyed.

A colleague late for the meeting…..and we are annoyed.

A spouse who is taking too long in the changing room at the clothing store…..and we are annoyed.

Spend a little time with a homeless person and then ask yourself if the above three are big or minor annoyances.  When I pass a homeless person, I can tell that he expects me to not see him.  He thinks he is invisible.

He is not.Homeless

Just yesterday, in leaving a restaurant with a good friend, there was a dear homeless person on the corner.  It was a cold evening.  He smiled.  We gave him our “take out box” and he beamed.  He laughed and with arms outstretched, he proclaimed, “God bless you.”

So amazing.  He has nothing….no home…..and he thinks he is invisible to the rest of the world.

Yet, he is rich because he has gratitude and love in his heart.

We decided, after having traversed a block on making our way to the safety and warmth of our homes, to turn back and give him some money along with the food.  He was eating, saw us coming, and with outstretched arms, welcomed us with a “God bless you.”

He seems to have no resentment in his heart…..even when outside….without a home…..in the cold of an early winter……even while seeing that others do not see him.

Robert

Note: We are filing this in the category of Famous People.  The homeless are not invisible and we did not want this uncategorized post to become invisible.

Quotations on Forgiveness from Desmond Tutu (Honorary Board Member of the International Forgiveness Institute)

We are made for loving. If we don’t love, we will be like plants without water.

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.

Desmond TutuWhen we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.

Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.

A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

Robert

In Memoriam: Anne Gallagher, Seeds of Hope

It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of a true patriot for peace, Anne Gallagher of Dublin, Ireland (August 7, 2013).

Anne started the peace organization, Seeds of Hope, in Ireland as a way to counter the after-effects of The Troubles. Even though the peace accord was signed in 1998, hearts were still embittered by the struggles that began to erupt in early 1972 with Bloody Sunday. Some of Anne’s friends and relations took up combat and were part of paramilitary organizations in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Anne, in contrast, sought dialogue as a way to peace.

Anne was instrumental in the International Forgiveness Institute’s transition to forgiveness education in Belfast. She tirelessly set up meetings with us at various schools such as Ligoniel, St. Vincent de Paul, and Mercy Primary School. Because of Anne’s endorsement of us, doors flew open and within about one month of trying, we were accepted into schools within the inter-face areas of the city (where contentious groups live segregated lives but in close proximity to one another).

……………………. ANNE GALLAGHER (1953-2013) ……………………

I recall vividly in 2003 sitting with three ex-combatants who wanted to know more about forgiveness education. They were unsure if it was a good idea. Anne set up the meeting. You see, we needed their permission to go into a particular school because some of the ex-combatants informally controlled their neighborhoods. One of them, battle-tested, said to me, “My son is in that school. Forgiveness will make him weak.” I swallowed hard and asked, “Do you want your son to grow up and live as you have?” He bowed his head and with love in his heart for his son said, “No.” It was then that he gave us permission to enter the school.

Anne was always close to danger like this. She did not care, even though some of her brothers were scared for her. Yet, she had a spark in her eyes and a conviction deep within that peace must be sought even if it meant putting oneself on the line at times.

Anne Gallagher represents peace in Ireland. We at the IFI will do our best to keep alive her vision for Seeds of Hope in each human heart. Peace be with you now, Anne.

Robert

Author’s Note: Read about the Northern Ireland Troubles, about Bloody Sunday, and about learning to forgive in the “Seeds of Hope Ex-Prisoners Think Tank Report” co-authored by Anne Gallagher (whose four brothers became involved in the Northern Ireland conflict and served long prison sentences, one being shot dead upon his release.)
— Anne Gallagher photo by Brian Moody

The Wisdom of Benjamin Franklin

One of the famous quotations of Benjamin Franklin is this: “The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.”

I have never heard a challenge to the quotation, but I wonder. Surely, his list of offerings to certain people sounds completely reasonable, but I wonder about the exclusivity of it all. Why not give a good example, for example, to an enemy as you give forgiveness? Why not give forgiveness, for example, to your mother or to yourself when standards are broken.

It seems to me that the “best thing” to give anyone is forgiveness when they have been unjust.

Yes, let us give forgiveness to an enemy….and to all others listed when it is appropriate. Let us give charity to all, as the wise Mr. Franklin says, and forgiveness is one aspect of charity, given when others offend.

R.E.

Wisdom From a Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Please consider the following quotation from Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” Now for a little homework assignment. Please consider doing one small, seemingly inconsequential act of love toward someone who has annoyed you recently—-maybe a smile or an encouraging word or an act of service of some kind (such as holding a door open for him or her). Practice forgiving through a small act that has great love attached to it.