Glen was an emotionally withdrawn teen because he was often teased for his squeaky voice and long legs. He classified himself as “mid-tier” between cool and untouchable according to his school’s hierarchy. His social skills were weak to non-existent, but he had fairly good athletic ability. His cross-country running team had placed second among all “Class A” size Nebraska High Schools at the State meet in Lincoln during his senior year.
Glen lived in a small tract home with his single mom, two cats, and an Irish Setter dog. He often talked about his dream of leaving Nebraska so he could “be himself” and fulfill his creative ambitions in commercial art and design. He often talked about what he would do if he possessed status, money, and social influence. He frequently daydreamed about the future when he would become a famous designer.
One September day, Glen loaded a few duffel bags into his old Dodge Omni and drove away. He had earlier informed his mother that he was moving out, and swore her to secrecy. Nobody in his friends-group had any clue as to where Glen went.
23-years later, Glen finally returned home for a family reunion and to see who remained of his friends-group. A peculiar transformation had happened to him. He was no longer a dreamy, idealistic young man. There was a palpable coldness to his demeanor. Glen had become quite opinionated and enjoyed sharing his brutal, harsh, bigoted judgments about people and society. He was dressed tastefully and could turn his charm on or off at the blink of an eye.
Glen told us about his life after Nebraska. He had moved first to Chicago to complete his studies in commercial art. Afterwards, he moved to Berlin, Germany for a position in a marketing company. During his employment, the company had many lucrative contracts with major world corporations. Glen traveled to many of those corporations’ home-offices in places scattered throughout Europe and Eastern Asia. Glen had transformed into a completely different man. His personality had become more distant and cold. There was an air of superiority in his mannerisms.
He and I did not meet one on one as we had back in the day. In fact, Glen has only returned home one other time. It was for his mother’s funeral. He did not touch base with any of his former friends in Nebraska. As far as we know, Glen is still living and working in Germany.
Both anonymity and fame are forms of bondage. They are reinforced by circumstance and opportunity. They are easily corruptible by power. Power is more tempting than wealth and possessions because wielding power is often rewarded by wealth, possessions, and status. Unlike money and stuff, power becomes enmeshed with personality and mind. Money and things can be taken away or lost, with no lasting harm to the person. When power is lost, great mental anguish can occur.
There are several pathways to power. Most of them require either asceticism or aggression–that is through self-denial or exploitation. To be powerful is, in a sense, to be slavish. To be slavish is to surrender one’s freedom, which is not virtuous. To chase after power is to relinquish humility. The power-seeker must continually compete in order to maintain or increase her or his power.
At its heart, power is the art of domination. To dominate is to set oneself apart in an hierarchical manner. The desire for recognition, relationship, work, and ideation causes personal isolation. The struggle for power breeds antagonism, and harm. Supreme power breeds fear in others and hubris in the power-seeker. Fear spells the end of cooperation and communion. The power seeker loses her or himself in the struggles for ever-increasing levels of power.
Brought to its logical conclusion, power results in extreme self-centeredness and selfishness. The compulsiveness of power brings about possessiveness, fear, sadness, and suffering.
We must be mindful and careful about the paths we choose.