In his seminal quote titled ‘The Paradox of our Time’ Bob Moorehead captured man’s personal struggle with self and the frailty of our human existence when he wrote ‘we have conquered outer space, not inner space‘. Surprisingly, the low point of our failure to conquer our inner space is not found at our worst moments of depression, like where adversity lurks. Instead, it exists at the elevation or apex of our life. In other words, while it would have been thought that disasters and adversities would dampen our human spirit and not bring out the best in us, this is not the case. Adversity does not shape us as dangerously as we ordinarily presume and nearly everyone can handle it.
The reason for this is not far-fetched and can be explained by the role adversity plays in our lives. For one, adversity reminds us, once again, about the frailty of living which on its own is a vital ingredient needed to help us conform and condescend the reality of our existence. Adversities re-awaken us to the brutal honesty and makes us aware of the vanity of life, thereby making us reflect on the true mortality of our being. Adversities set us on the path of self-realization and make us conscious of the nothingness of our ego. Not surprisingly, we self-discover ourselves. Because adversity lays bare to us the nothingness of our human nature, while revealing to us our self-worth, it gives us our best moment of truth in self-evaluation, eventually edifying us. Therefore, there is rarely any man who goes through the furnace of adversity that does not come out better, like a sparkling precious metal – at least in character. Adversities take us down from the height of personality to the realm of character.
Nearly all men can handle adversity because the true nature of our humanity and humanness is only discovered in humility, when the blindfold of personality and the attributes of self-importance are shed off.
Unlike adversity, power is a deceptive elevation of the human ego and the worst form of adrenaline because instead of character, it feeds the monster of personality we have within us. Trickily, power elevates us above the realm of our true human nature, and most times it sets us on a self-destructive battle of self-importance.
A man endowed with power is like water at elevated temperature. In its true natural state, water is ever so calm and could handle anything that comes its way. However, under elevated temperature, water boils and burns, hurts and harms, and dangerously goes off into an uncontrollable state of vapour and steam. Like power, temperature is all it takes to test it. A man with power is no different from cold calm water set on fire to boil. And like boiling water, the best way to test a man’s character is to give him power, to make him seem elevated above his natural state of existence.
Abraham Lincoln could not have been more apt in any other statements he made than in this. Even though he said it over a century ago, it is no less true today than it was when he first made the statement. Not surprisingly, the authenticity of the statement is found in several spheres of human relationships. It is found with the man entrusted with the duty to serve as leader over his fellow countrymen, who turns a dictator overnight. It abides with the once submissive loyal wife, who turns Lord over her husband, because circumstances thrust upon her the role of breadwinner, therefore she becomes more powerful, and finally it is tested in the teenager who turns eighteen and suddenly finds power in the status of her new age and then indulges in un-curtailed liberty and freewill.
The proof of the statement is found everywhere. Although it is not adversity in the literal sense of it, the misunderstanding and misuse of power is the greatest adversity I have come to know. It has tested the character of so many and sadly only a few passed. But worse of all, unlike other adversities, only a few men could withstand the adversity called power.