Power and helplessness


 

powerWhy does Kurtz steal the Russian adventurer’s small bundle of ivory? Because he can. He’ll kill the Russian fellow. There is no law to stop him. Kurtz is his own law.

Power is heady stuff. You can feel powerful when you have limitless money, military power, personal strength, beauty, talent, or whatnot. You’re unstoppable.

Until your mortality catches you. For some, it’s cancer.  For others, it’s addiction. But most of the time when people are brought to their knees, they try keep up pretenses, to project the image. To admit their weakness would be to relinquish power. For many, the illusion of power is what keeps them from seeking God.

Kurtz is broken by sickness — it was something out of his control. Only then does he come to terms with what power has made him. In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Kurtz is the renegade trader deep in Africa who goes native, becomes a chieftain, raids villages to steal ivory and accepts satanic worship to himself. He has heads on stakes outside his hut to inspire fear in “rebels.”

For someone who began with high ideals of bringing civilization to the Dark Continent, his devolution into savagery shows what can happen to any human heart that lacks restraint.

“The horror! The horror!” he utters on the boat going downstream, as he remembers that he is a European and that he he has become a savage. He never makes it back. Kurtz dies on the boat.

We like to feel power. To feel helpless is to feel despair.

All humans are basically helpless — despite our much vaunted human achievement — and we need God.

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5 responses to “Power and helplessness

  1. Amen. Well said.

    “To feel helpless is to feel despair”

    Yes, unless you truly know Him, unless you’ve hit bottom enough to have learned that to feel helpless is simply to be like a child slipping their hand into their Father’s hand and immediately knowing everything will be okay.

  2. I’ve never read that book; it it sounds interesting and incredibly sad. A cautionary tale, I guess. My husband says when someone at his workplace is promoted, it usually goes to the guy’s head and he becomes proud and dictatorial. May God keep us from pride! It is a temptation to everyone.

  3. Amen, Amen, Amen. I’ll have to read that book.

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