Tuesday, 24 March 2015
Follow-up to the previous post (which originated partly from a recent post on Chiron http://chirontraining.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/on-power.html, and partly from me trying to make sense of some important people in my life).
What is Weakness? What is Strength? Are they relative, absolute, on-off states, or on a continuum?
I don't think Strength is about how much you can do. However much you can take on, there's something out there that can break you. Everyone can break. Everyone has limits. There are so many components to strength, in fact, that I don't even know how you could measure or compare different people's strengths. I'm under five feet tall, with a spinal injury. The average 12-year-old is physically stronger than me. I'm also very, very hard to bully or repress. I have a defiant streak a mile wide. You can beat the shit out of me, but unless you kill me, I will get back up. I have a martial-arts instructor buddy with more black belts than I have trousers who can swing kettlebells that weigh more than me. However, despite all his mad skillz, he gets treated like a heel by absolutely everyone in his life. Who is stronger? He could turn me into a smear on the wall without breaking a sweat, but I could make his ego implode by telling him a few hard truths. We're both strong and we're both weak. It's comparing apples and oranges.
I think Strength is partly about realising where your talents lie and making the most of them. Knowing what you're good at can make you more efficient, hence better able to overcome obstacles. Most of it, though, is probably about realising where your weaknesses lie and determining to do something about them. It's very unpopular these days not to believe that you are 'perfect as you are'; we're supposed to accept and honour ourselves blah blah blah. Well, I'm not perfect as I am, and I want to be better. I've got inabilities that not only limit me, but prevent me from being as useful as I could be to the people I care about. I want to address that. I don't see it as a problem.
This doesn't mean that I'm going to berate myself for what I can't yet do. Our culture seems to believe that there are only two options on how to treat yourself: indulgent or castigatory. That is plainly bullshit. There is a whole continuum between thinking you're the bees knees and thinking you're a piece of shit. Anyone who has ever taught anything to anyone in a half-decent fashion is operating somewhere along that continuum. They accept that the person (dog, squirrel, you name it) has something they could do with learning, but they also accept that the person is not utterly worthless or inherently flawed because of it.
I think Strength has more to do with that than with anything else: being able to look at the holes in yourself and trying to fill them, ideally without being an asshole in the process. And I think Weakness is the opposite: either refusing to acknowledge the holes, or - worse - making them sacrosanct, something demanding of respect or consideration, something that entitles you to special treatment.
It's interesting that our cultural obsession with perfection and self-protection of the ego is making that aspect of Strength abominable. Our culture increasingly embraces Holy Weakness. This could be a problem.