Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Power, Elliot Spitzer and Diving Shaqs

The recent fall of New York Governor and hard-charging former prosecutor, Elliot Spitzer, has left many people asking, “How could he be so stupid?”.

But, I don't think it is really a question of intelligence, per se.

To me it is a more about what was going on his soul (and what is going on in mine). He made a career and a reputation by mercilessly going after corrupt wall street players and seemed rather proud of it. I think he was drunk with pride and felt, in a sense, invincible.

This story really made me check my own heart and the direction it has been taking over the last few years. I am not altogether pleased.

While I may not be involved in types activities in which he participated, I am still alarmed and humbled by his story in a way that is somewhat difficult to put into words. I can say that I learned some serious lessons on purity of the senses, the true meaning of power and growing from the experiences of others.

On Purity of the Senses

St. Peter of Damascus writes,

...sight was given us, not so that we should desire what we ought not to desire, but so that on seeing God's creatures we might because of them glorify the Creator and thus nourish our soul and our body...ears were given us, not to listen to slander and stupidities, but to hear the word of God and every form of speech - of men, birds or anything else - that leads us to glorify the Creator.
-Book 1: A Treasury of Divine Knowledge" in The Philokalia Vol. 3 p. 157

On the True Meaning of Power

I’m reminded of some words once penned by H.H. Pope Shenouda III:
Meekness does not contradict power.

The Lord Christ was powerful and meek at the same time. He never quarreled or cried out (Matt. 12:19), but at the same time He was persuasive and had a strong personality that convinced His adversaries in every discourse.

Will power:
Among the aspects of will power is self-control. A powerful person can control himself whether at the time of anger or against the wish to revenge. He can also control himself against any lust or any sin fighting him. A powerful person can restrain his tongue, his senses and his thoughts. If such a powerful person has diabetes, for example, he will be able to restrain himself from forbidden foods.

Here I want to say: If a person cannot restrain himself from food in cases of disease or fasting, how would he be able to control himself against any lust or any sin ?

Some persons are weak before certain allurements. These allurements might be position, money or lust. Before such things he cannot endure, he is overcome by his weakness or his lust and falls or deserts his faith!

Others might become weak before vain glory, or before words of praise and extolling. Martyrs and confessors, on the other hand, were very powerful before all allurements.
- on "Power" in Ten Concepts, pp. 27, 28

Learning from the Experiences of Others

Finally, I think this story is a general reminder to learn from the experiences of others. I’ll illustrate this by simply asking you to watch this video clip from three nights ago, then this video clip from last night.

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