I first heard Adam Kahane speak about, `Power and Love' over a year ago before he had written this his second book on the subject. The impact of what he said was so great that I immediately wrote about it and sent the article to two different journals connected with people trying to create community. To my amazement I was inundated with phone calls, emails and letters. People from all over the world responded with the same sentence:
Thank you for writing about this, I now understand what was always going wrong in our different attempts to work together.
Many of these people then went on to read Adam's first book on the subject. I would now like warmly to encourage you to read this his second. It is helpful in that it builds on the themes of the first book which are now enlarged upon and deepened through the author being able to reflect on what he himself has learned in his earlier attempts to become literate in both love and power.
The issue of being able to be both an individual and to work with other people in such a way that a task is done without sacrificing selfhood is a pressing one. When a group of people are both self-realized and willing to put who they are at the service of something that they all recognize as important they experience not only the joy of community; they are also effective way beyond their ordinary expectations. Furthermore what they do together is rich and original, what the designer William McDonough calls, `piquant'. Goethe said that we develop our character in the full flow of life and we develop our gifts alone. This is interesting in connection with the theme of this book because in many professions and in many social situations the issue of character is subsumed by the agenda of the social group or organization. People find themselves saying `I am just doing my job' at best keeping their conscience at home in the private sphere. The issue of developing our gifts, on the other hand, is often just completely ignored, mostly because people feel that they need to make a living and would never be able to do that with something they simply loved. They feel that unless their gift is good enough to put them among the great people, remembered by history, it shouldn't be given priority. This division of ourselves and this neglect of what we love, in art or play, leads to a lack of congruence between our inner and outer values. It is important to be able to act from the base line of our conscience wherever we are and it is important to be creative, to play, not because what we make will be great but because making it helps us to remain in touch with the vital wellspring of our inner selves. Every attempt we make to work together will need this kind of whole self, a self who wishes to manifest its potential, to be aware of and even in service of the community and to maintain health and strength to live in a sustainable way. It is these possibilities that this book addresses.
What is meant by power and love is explored at the hand of Paul Tillich and Martin Luther King and through the author's own attempts to become literate in both. Using stories and concepts, describing success and failures, he makes these two aspects of our humanity accessible and therefore applicable to our own experience and situations.
Two other aspects of life are discussed. They are in my view as important as the issue of power and love. The first is the role of the peacemaker in creating toxic groups. The peacemaker as described here could probably be called a degenerate peacemaker. This is the person who will not allow risks and closes down processes and prevents transformation. This kind of peacemaking, rather than helping, reinforces the status quo and its abuses, often allowing the innovative and original members of the group to be frustrated in manifesting their essential contribution. For me this is one of the most essential chapters of the book because this aspect of community and group disruption has a huge impact both in the smallest group such as a family or a group of friends and in wider communities of every sort. The problem of power becoming abusive is something most of us are familiar with. The misuse of peacemaking causes just as much havoc. It was through Adam that I first heard this described though I had experienced it time and time again. For this I cannot thank him enough.
Most people will never become visible in the history of the world. They may live in places far away from the news headlines or the front line of political or commercial power. The feeling of powerlessness and insignificance is probably one of the primary reasons why people choose to numb themselves rather than to awaken their thinking and find ways of living that challenge the status quo. This is why I was also so touched by Adam's exploration of the effect that an individual can have on the world through how they change themselves. Adam speaks about the moment of liberation where the human being finds the place of freedom in changing themselves and how it is exactly this first step that prepares the ground for all the work we may do either on our own projects or in our ability to accommodate and understand each other.
We are often filled with idealism at the beginning of an endeavor. Taking that idealism on through disappointment and failure is one of the greatest tests we can face. On a personal and a political level human beings need tools both for learning to work together and for finding the courage to endure and try again while learning from our mistakes. This book provides the analysis of many of our mistakes. This analysis has the potential to liberate us from constantly repeating them. Adam's description of the nature of love and power and of the role of individual self-transformation gives us tools for real communication and for finding the still point where we would be able to sense the emergence of a creative future.