Friday, 9 February 2018

Vulnerability, Power, Love

A couple facing one anothher, holding hands, in silhouette against twilight, with a crescent moon in the sky and out-of-focus light sources in the foreground.
I wasn't at Yearly Meeting in 2015, nor the Swarthmore Lecture given at it. I have read the minutes, however, and minute 36 gave me some trouble. I understand it was somewhat derived from the Swarthmore Lecture, Faith, Power and Peace, but I shan't judge the lecture on that; I am sure it had more nuance.
What I struggled with was the idea of power linked to vulnerability. As a disabled person, and knowing many other disabled people, including all forms of disability – chronic illness, mental illness, everything – I have trouble with that. Vulnerability can lead to power, certainly, but the minutes seemed to suggest that it was a more reliable consequence than is found in my experience, first- and second-hand. Vulnerability is often characterised by profound powerlessness.
Yet I see now one situation in which the link of power and vulnerability is utterly true, and inescapable. It is not in our interactions with the world at large, it is not in our ability to make the world a better place in general. It is not economic or political. It is personal.
There is a case in life, fairly common as I understand it, in which truly embracing an opportunity requires one to become utterly vulnerable, and which gives one great power. This is not vulnerability to the world at large, however, nor power over it. It is in relation to another person.
Love between people, embraced faithfully, the joining of two in spirit, and perhaps in the Spirit, means opening oneself to the other person, and them to you, in a way that renders one utterly vulnerable to them. They can hurt you as no-one not in such a relationship can. You do this because of trust, and because it is necessary to allow that relation to bloom and flourish, to develop as it will. They, likewise, are vulnerable to you, which is the first sort of power it gives you.
It gives another power as well, though it is hard to articulate what it is. While making yourself vulnerable, you gain power over yourself as well. You become more than you were, and have new resources for directing your life and your self.
It doesn't matter how many such relationships a person has in their life, nor how many they have at one time. That spiritual intimacy is empowering in a way that is beyond, that is different from, any other thing you will experience.
Written February 2018
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