Love and Power

Kurilpa Bridge, Brisbane, Australia- the largest tensegrity structure in the world

What is the balance between love and power?

One of Buckminster Fuller's quotes is “Tension is the greatest integrity.”

I have worked to really understand what he meant by this. In his work he talked about the principle of Unity.

“Unity is plural, at minimum two.” To every up there is a down, to every in, an out, to black, white, to hot, cold.

Tension and compression are pairs. Some of the beautiful models that Bucky created that are now used around the world in architecture are based on what he defined as tensegrity. A combination of tension and integrity. A beautiful dance of tension and integrity.

Between the up and the down, the good and the bad, the in and the out lies a tension. Metaphysical gravity. (Bucky said that love is metaphysical gravity.) Its kind of the invisible glue that holds everything together.

We all know this place in between, although we may not have used this kind of language to describe it. The push/pull between work and play. Between family and work, exercise and relaxation. Between love and power. It’s not so much a balance as it is a delicious tension. Too much one way and we have collapse (syntropy). Too much the other way and we have blow out (entropy).

Too much relaxation and we have collapse. Too much exercise and we have blow out.

Personal mastery is a constant dance of managing this tension.

In the geometry of the earth, sun and moon, the sun’s gravity continues to pull the earth into the sun. If it were not for the rotation of the earth at ninety degree’s to the sun, (precession) we would collapse into the sun. It’s the tension of the gravity that keeps us from been roasted.

In relationship, if we have too much neediness we have collapse; too little time together (or trust), blow out. As we ‘orbit’ each other, the requirement for the right amount of tension is very important. It is the very factor that keeps us in a healthy dynamic.

Similarly, in relationship, if we have too much ease we have collapse, too much dissonance, blow out. A healthy relationship requires the combination of both ease and dissonance. Yet many of us fear the dissonance, seeing it as a sign of failure. Healthy relationships require tension, whether it be relationships between lovers, friends, or between systems, structures, communities, nations, or planets.

Speaking of love, Paul Tillich’s definition of love is "the drive towards the unity of the separated"

He opposes this to power. His definition of power is “the drive of everything to realize itself, with increasing intensity and extensity'.

Martin Luther King Jr articulated this tension between love and power so beautifully - "Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose. It is the strength required to bring about social, political and economic change...And one of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites - polar opposites - so that love is identified with the resignation of power, and power with the denial of love. Now we've got to get this thing right. What (we need to realize is) that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic...It is precisely this collision ofimmoral power with powerless morality which constitutes the major crisis of our time".

(The above quotes were sourced from Adam Kahane, author of Power and Love: A Theory and Practice of Social Change and arrived on my desk via a good friend.

What he is saying is that love and power are the yin and yang of each other. That unity is plural, at minimum two. One without the other is like a light without a shadow, an up without a down. We need this exquisite tension between love and power. However, most people have not recognised this.

Some of us hunger for power. We yearn for power over, represented by money, status, glamor, influence.

Others yearn for love. We long to find another to merge with. On our own we feel incomplete.

When we have the tension between love and power right, we find the sweet spot at our centre that allows us to speak with loving authority.

Loving authority = caring authority (authority in this context = authorship of self)

Speaking with loving authority means we care about the other, AND we are not allowing ourselves to be used, abused, manipulated, walked over, by the other. This is the basis of the Dare to Care program. The ability to speak our truth and to stand our ground when needed, while being in exquisite care and regard for the other. Not “I”, or “my” way, but my way and your way. It is the basis behind win, win, win. (For an example conversation on speaking with loving authority, see the article on accountability at work.)

Our life is about finding the sweet spot between. Its a dynamic equilibrium, which means that the sweet spot is never stationary. It is always moving, a dance between the too hard and too soft, too big and too small, too black and too white. Between love and power. Most of us yearn to find the perfect spot. But the perfect spot does not exist, except maybe in death. (I don’t know as I haven’t gone there yet).

The tension between is where life is lived. It’s the seed of creativity. Its the comfort in discomfort.

Our ability to stand in the tension between love and power is what the world needs now.

What do you think? How does love and power and the tension between inhabit your life?


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