Hunger for power, in any of its multiple forms, domestic, sexual or political, is perhaps the deepest human craving. If we so often feel dissatisfied and restless it is because this hunger conflicts so directly with our hunger for love. Power as we imagine it – possession, domination and control – is irreconcilable with love. The conflict between them accounts for much of interior human suffering.
Love is the real power. Everything else is eventually exposed as a kind of substitute. Love may be missing in our life or our capacity for love may be chronically damaged. When this is this case we seek alternatives, false gods to worship in place of persons to love, positions, possessions or projects. No doubt many great works of art and political achievements have resulted from this transference from love to power, born from deep, unsatisfied human longing. These may have incidentally brought much joy and many benefits to others. But equally, this dysfunction in the human soul has caused immeasurable social disruption and often triggers huge regressions in the path of human evolution.
The lonely tyrant, in any field of human endeavour, may be ruthlessly cruel in the process of acquiring and holding onto power. At the same time they reveal – especially as power drains away from them – the pathos of loneliness caused by the transfer of our attention to a false god. If we witness the last moments of a tyrant’s fall from power – whether in a family or on the stage of global politics – and see their pride and prejudice crumble, revealing a vulnerable and neglected child; and if we then feel only a cruel glee at their humiliation, we are showing ourselves to be likely addicted to false power as much as they were.
The narrative of Lent unfolding in scripture and liturgy builds up to the most intense and transformative story every told and passed down the generations. Over the three days of the paschal mystery the falseness of the power-lust is stripped away. Innocence not tyranny is humiliated and rejected. But extreme vulnerability, like the sun breaking through dark clouds, reveals the one and only true power to be the divinity of love,.
Easter is an amazing, annual opportunity to reset our lives on the axis of true priorities. It displays in heroic but simple terms the meaning of love on a cosmic, not an egotistically romantic, scale. Because of Easter bunnies and public holidays celebrating nothing, this opportunity is barely even recognised let alone embraced.
That is why we train in Lent for the three day marathon of the Triduum. What we are doing or not doing during this training, what we take on or what we give up, have meaning beyond themselves.