Don Paglia | Marriage and Family Counseling. Constellations Workshops


Tip #52

“Fishing is a… discipline in the equality of men – for all men are equal before fish.”

                                                                                         Herbert Hoover

“All men and women are equal.” We better be talking about, well… about everything. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is what our democracy is built upon. The American Revolution, which first formally established freedom as an inalienable right, set this precedent for centuries to come.

A related pivotal event in global history came about in the last century through the power of a solitary man: Mahatma Gandhi, a 90-pound man, who single-handedly overcame the British Empire, which was then the greatest force in the world, ruling two-thirds of the globe. Not only did Gandhi bring the British Empire to its knees, he effectively did so by simply standing for a principle: the intrinsic dignity of each and every human, and with this the rights to freedom, sovereignty, and self-determination.

Gandhi believed that human rights aren’t granted to people by virtue of any earthly power, but are ingrained in the nature of humankind itself because they’re inherent in our creation. He held that these rights are rights that come by virtue of the dignity of one’s creation.

Violence is a force, and it opposes these rights. But since Gandhi was aligned with power instead of force, he forbade all use of violence in his cause. With these universal principles he was able to unite the will of the people. When the will of the people is so united and aligned with these universal principles, it is virtually unconquerable. The Colonialism of Great Britain was defeated with the power of selflessness against self-interest. Nelson Mandela also demonstrated this source of power later on in South Africa.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did so here in the U.S.  

True power accomplishes with ease, something which force, even with extreme effort, cannot. Granted, force is seductive, whether that be in the form of glamor manifested in the guise of false patriotism, prestige, or dominance.  Conversely, true power is often quite unglamorous. And here’s the thing: the weak – those that are low on the maturity scale – are attracted to, will even die for, the glamour of force. How else could something that is as outrageous as violence and killing, and even war, occur?

One characteristic of force is arrogance. Power is characterized by humility. Force is pompous; it has all the answers. Power is unassuming. A leader that is driven by force tells people he knows everything, has all the answers, is the answer. A leader motivated by power is one who listens and seeks the advice of experts and those who have certain knowledge and experience to offer.

Many political systems and social movements begin with true power, but as time goes on, they become coopted by self-seekers and end up relying increasingly on force until they finally fall in disgrace. History shows many civilizations that demonstrate this repeatedly. 

Worth noting is the dichotomy between a politician and a statesperson. Politicians operate out of expediency, rule by force after gaining their position through dishonest persuasion and other underhanded means. States people rule by inspiration, and through what can best be termed as coming from “the heart.” These people enroll others into a possibility, and do so without being autocratic.   

Power is associated with that which supports life; whereas force is associated with that which exploits life for gain of an individual or an organization. Force is divisive and through that divisiveness, weakens. Whereas power unifies; it activates the innate goodness and greater Self in others. Force polarizes; it actually needs to pit groups against each other in order to control and manipulate.

Power has no true enemies, although its manifestation may be opposed by opportunists whose means to an end are self-serving. Power selves others; force is self-interested. True states people serve others; politicians exploit people to serve their own ambitions. Our nation has had a history of politicians who were great statesmen and women and they have made all the difference.

We need only to look at how different our current president is handling the global pandemic crisis we are in the midst of, and how many governors, mayors and other leaders are handling it. The contrast is striking. Force offers quick and easy solutions. With power, the means and the ends both require a greater maturity, discipline and patience in order to bring about a fruition.

All great leaders have always inspired us to have faith and confidence because of the power of their absolute integrity and alignment with inviolate principles.  Winston Churchill never needed to use force with the British people. Gandhi defeated the British Empire without a hand in anger. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave us his Dream of a future we could also take on as our own.

Our democracy arises from the principles upon which it is founded: Our Constitution, The Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence. These were also acknowledged in the Gettysburg Address by Lincoln. These principles are the great American experiment that so much of the rest of the world is watching and hoping to be capable of using of principles of their own democracy, as well. Some already have gone on to do so quite successfully.

The Roman Catholic Church, as well as many other religions and faiths, also hold up the intrinsic dignity of the individual person. These principles predate our democracy. They go back to ancient times. These principles have been held by mystics, the desert fathers and mothers, as well as other holy people, all who have long been there to guide us, perhaps to this present moment. I want to think we are possibly evolving into the next level of human consciousness. These rights that are given as our common birthright – inalienable rights – and rights that are self-evident must be uplifted and upheld today more than ever.

Unfortunately we seem to have allowed the Bill of Rights to lose some of its power and some of these rights have now dwindled and been weakened for the sake of expediency. Also over the years I believe we’ve gotten lazy, and/or perhaps we’ve have taken our democracy for granted. We’ve slipped a bit and gone with expediency over principle. This has cost us greatly.

Our democracy only is effective to the extent that our citizens participate. And we have begun to see a failure to differentiate between patriotism and Patriotism, freedom and Freedom, liberty and Liberty. Thus Americanism has become used to justify white supremacy groups and other hate-groups. In other words we’ve tolerated intolerance. We’ve become accustom to our having rights without it requiring equal responsibility.

Learning the difference between principles and their imitators requires experience and educated judgment. This need for discretion is necessary for one’s moral survival, and therefore our common survival in the modern world in general. But it is imperative in those gravest of areas, where ethical ambiguity has been elevated from convention to an art form; especially today in the political arena and the in our marketplace of daily commerce.

Last week I spoke of this pandemic as causing a collective prompting toward a movement; a possible paradigm shift. People have been given unintended time to slow down and be reflective. Also many people are getting more in touch with their own goodness and are acting from this place in numerous ways. We are seeing one another bonded together and many people are showing up courageously. There seems to be a resurgence of self-empowerment and I believe we are on the stage of a new – renewed – journey back toward our American principles.

Recently on Cramer’s “Mad Money” show he cited how the Stock Market had had its best week since 1938, while we had 16 million people losing their jobs in the past three weeks! And that the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. had climbed to 22,000 (even more since then). This is an unjust system; it is immoral as well.

Love always wins out. Love is the true source of Power. As human being we crave depth. We seek meaning and purpose. All of this gets us back to our integrity and purpose – a purpose that is beyond solely ourselves. We also are born with a longing, desire, and a deep hope that this thing called life will somehow last forever. It turns out that, yes, we are all going to eventually die, and also that this longing is a premonition from something eternal that is already within us. It is called soul. Christians call it God within – or the indwelling presence of God. It is God within us that makes us desire and seek God.

Death cannot be the end. Rather death becomes a new form of love that takes over. This knowledge can only come from the heart. The head, which is driven by our ego and is too often fear based cannot help us. We are being called to a greater maturity. Only with maturity can one surrender and trust. Heal the boy and the man will appear. We each carry childhood wounds and these wounds tend to keep us stuck in our emotional development. Many of us are still 5th graders. An effective democracy requires a mature citizenship. This crises is maturing many folks. I doubt everyone is going to rush back out to their pre-COVID lives.

I have kept an old article I’m fond of. It’s written by Martha Beck. In it she describes a counselee that is rejecting her family’s advice to leave an abusive man. Martha agrees with her family and the woman rejects Martha, as well. Eventually Martha realizes that the counselee’s major issue is that she does not feel listened to. Martha then changes you tactics with the woman and tells her, “no matter what you do, I am just going to love you.” This begins to change everything, and opens her to hearing what she needs to hear.

 We cannot go back to the way things have been with so many things that need to change and made right. A simple example is how we currently have many people who are paid the least now carrying the country – us – on their shoulders.    

In referencing the original quote above, we are all equal before fish….no, no, no! I mean, are we not all are equal before God? If so, then freedom and justice and the pursuit of happiness are disciplines for the quality of all human lives; not just for some, but for all. Like no kidding!