It Takes Power to Talk About Power

This is the aphorism I mentioned paraphrased. I could have written it; it requires some knowledge to speak about knowledge in a meaningful way. Or even; one has to have at least a modicum of wisdom to speak wisely about wisdom, its acquisition and application.

For me personally these Toltec aphorisms are by nature profound and succinct. It would be relatively easy to expand each one of them up into thousands of words.

Take the alternative meaning of power, the one of positional or political power. Until one has had a modicum of this one does not know what it feels like to wield power. One is also unaware of the temptations posed by such power. One might even get caught snogging an aide in front of a security camera.

Power of this nature cannot really be speculated upon; it has to be experienced. There are many people who might seek power but then when they have it be unable to use it or wield it. They may not like the flip side of “responsibility” which comes with great power as Spiderman alleges. The notion of power is one thing, its yoke quite another. There is another aphorism of my own writing.

“Power can do weird shit to people, man.”

When I started teaching it was before the days of PowerPoint. One used an overhead projector or old-fashioned chalk. I thought I was a smart young gun. That was until I tried to do a live chalk-based derivation of some rate laws in front of a hundred ultra-smart undergraduates. I nearly shit my pants when I had brain freeze and white out in front of the blackboard. Boy did I prepare well after that!!

Yellow chalk and black Levi’s are an interesting combination, be careful where you put your hands…

There is a strange quirk to my character that makes it difficult for me to teach other people. I genuinely have to understand it before I am comfortable teaching it. And for an INFJ that means understanding it on many levels and comprehensively. Others are able to confidently teach material without having to probe it, so far. Those that learn by rote to pass exams can teach by rote too. Because I don’t have a binary right / wrong orientation sometimes those brought up in a “I must pass exams” education system have initially found my methods lacking in confidence of delivery. They want to “know” the answer and I want to know even more questions. I want to fathom.

I had a break from undergraduate teaching for a long while. Then when I came to teach some of the material that I had done previously I started to find holes in the textbook derivations, too many shortcuts, wide generalisations. I found myself going back to square one and checking a whole bunch of stuff that I would have previously taken for granted.

There were some mistakes!!

I have had minor exposure to power back in the days of the start-up. Strange how I was more attractive to the ladies when I had board meetings and shares. At the moment in terms of material or temporal power I am powerless.

I can however say that powerlessness has its own special kind of power under certain circumstances. It takes powerlessness to speak on the power of powerlessness.

Having taught some material over a number of years, one can say that one’s understanding of that material changes with time. It is funny how a new facet and new insight can be had from the very same words. Even when we think we know, there is nearly always another level, should we be open enough to inquire.

One’s knowledge at any given time is just a snapshot of knowledge at that point in time, it is wise to acknowledge that this is all that it is, a fleeting understanding in our journey of evolution upon which there is no destination only travel.

If you think anything is absolute you are wrong.

Even the gospel of science evolves in time. There are many examples of scientists being adamant and later being proven inaccurate by the evolution of the knowledge base.

I am comfortable talking about knowledge, wisdom and power, because I have a modicum of experience of these things.

It is up to you to assess if I am bullshitting or not…

The Power Imbalance

One of the difficulties I had a long time ago was trying to explain to high functioning individuals this notion of power imbalance. If “equals” in terms of status and power have a frank and forthright exchange and they are both able to stand up for themselves with a modicum of assertion, there is no power imbalance.

However, should a powerful professor {for example} behave in a similar manner to an undergraduate, there is a marked power imbalance, and the undergraduate might feel threatened and fearful. Someone akin to God, and who has the say so, to an extent, over their degree result, might be perceived as being highly critical. The student might then shit a large and uncomfortable brick.

Not everyone high functioning is blessed with warmth and sensitivity.

So, to use a possibly imaginary and illusory example.

Let us say a whole bunch of “posh” academics who command research budgets which run to millions of pounds and with a rounded up annual salary of say ~ £100,000 or more are talking about a single individual.

Let us say that individual, who is retired, is not in possession of the best of health and has an annual income of £12,000. He has no research budget and has to think very carefully about spending the 1000 euros needed to fix his 10-year-old car. The value of the car if it was left hand drive is ~ 6000 euros. It isn’t left hand drive.

Is there a power imbalance in this imaginary example?

Are the purveyors of wisdom in essence kicking some poor bastard who is already down?

Are they circling the wagons to keep that Apache out?

Do you think that there is a blind dog’s chance that said individual could get those in “power” to realise there is a power imbalance and that they are bullying by talking about the single poor person behind his back and without including him in the conversation?

In effect they are ganging up.

Or do you think that they will feel thoroughly justified and utterly entitled to behave just how they wish?

Do they the patrician, the wise, the great and the good, know what is best for that poor bastard?

And then if in their grace they offer him a fait accompli?

Will he doff his cap and accept graciously in awe of their magnificent benevolence?



It’s funny, but I had no sense of living without aim
The day before you came

Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus


a nebulous possibility

a fruit of Tantalus

tantalizing nearby

unreachable, intangible


an all changing nexus

a pirouetting pivot

swirling just

over the horizon


threatening to breakthrough

to seep under the walls

of my Hermitian cave

mores external and now strange


on a flip

all might change

beyond recognition

now, around now


Yes, it seems.


a scandal, a shame

long interred

in the mortuary of time

brings once more blushes


an inexplicable

a theorem obtuse

might cloudburst though

and there is…


Nothing I can do