My morning read both repelled and inspired me. First I want to say, a big part of these “laws of power” is really laws of control, and not a positive form of control. Maybe that is a big part of what is wrong with our society. We cling to archaic, fear-based, ‘kill your enemy before he kills you’ logic. Maybe this is what is at the root of ‘Black Lives Matter’.

I was talking to a friend who is black. He told me of his experience with the police.

I thanked him for sharing his personal story. I told him that I, being raised a privileged white girl, had no reality on what he had experienced, that I had no fear of cops. But I thought about it, and realized that wasn’t true. I have no fear they will kill me, but if a cop is behind me in traffic, I become terrified, which causes me to drive irrationally and often get stopped.

Like I said, I’m not afraid of physical harm or gross humiliation like my friend is, so my level of fear is insignificant compared to his. But that cop who stops me can seriously screw up my life with a ticket. As a struggling artist, paying a $100+ ticket does put me in financial danger. So I understand the fear, even though my fear pales in comparison.

Think about it, it’s called police FORCE. Force is not a word that inspires equality and understanding. When a cop stops you, you don’t expect an equal discussion of your actions. If they deem it necessary, they are giving you a ticket or arresting you. It’s like parenting of the 50’s Vs parenting today. The parent is the authoritative figure, and they do need to exercise control. In the 50’s they controlled like dictators, often using corporal punishment (in the form of spankings). Today they control with reason and understanding. Which works better? Experts on the subject can answer that better than me. But I sure do like the relationship my sister has with her now-adult kids.

So, law #18 — do not build fortresses to protect yourself — isolation is dangerous.

I came into this world an adorable but twisted up mess. Pigeon-toed feet, a twisted spine (scoliosis), I wrote backwards and could barely read (dyslexia), and I was so introverted I did not speak except in dire emergencies (like getting my butt stuck in the toilet). Isolation was my haven. I would retreat to my room and build castles in the sky. All questions of this new world I now lived in were answered by me and the medical book my mom kept on the bookshelf. So the concept that isolation is dangerous intrigued me.

The chapter tells the story of an emperor who became the mightiest man of his day by conquering all of the kingdoms around him then unifying them into a massive realm that he called China. Once he had done all that, he walled himself up in a fortress, slept in a different room every night, never let anyone see him, and if they did, he killed them. The guy was terrified of human contact. In the end, his enemies got him and he died alone.

That was compared to Louis the XIV, who, after a terrible civil war, built Versailles. The place was far more than the decadent whim of a luxury-loving king. It was the king’s way of keeping his enemies close, of knowing all that was going on around him. He had daily rituals that kept him surrounded by people. One ritual, the lever, filled his bedroom every morning with nearly a hundred people.

Here is the paragraph in this chapter that I loved:

Because humans are social creatures by nature, power depends of social interaction and circulation. To make yourself powerful, you must place yourself at the center of things… In moments of uncertainty and danger, you need to fight the desire to turn inward.”

I, of course, have always relished in the desire to turn inward. That’s the place where my aesthetic universe lives. It’s a magical place, where I get to touch the secrets of the universe, the place where love and beauty live. But then I leave there and crash into the world. Because I have lost connection with the world, I have then lost perspective. I remember back when I was designing for Nipon, spending an entire weekend locked up in my apartment designing the line. By Monday I had pretty much forgotten how to talk, stumbling over my words and feeling horribly insecure, which I’m sure inspired suspicion and even gossip.

I guess the truth to be learned here is that balance is required.

Isolation sends paranoia into hyperdrive and you lose proportion, where as diving into the human pool, sharing your life and love with others, keeps you artistically inspired, and safe from enemies and insanity. As an artist, I want my work to be a reflection of my world, so I need to be in it, feeling what people feel. Then I need to retreat to isolation to actually create it. This movement back and forth is empowering. Maybe real power is less about controlling others through force and more about controlling through empowerment.

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