“Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking.” ~Carl Jung
As Joseph Campbell has emphasized, mythic stories of good vs. evil have been around since the beginning of human history. In modern times, there have been many popular books and films that highlight the dangers of power seeking, fear generated mindsets and dualistic “us vs. them” thinking.
In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings we see how different characters react when tempted by the gravitational pull of the ring. Gandalf, Frodo and other central characters are all caring people, yet, if they touch the ring the desire for “power” rises up and twists their thinking. There’s similar themes in the Harry Potter series, Wizard of Oz, Avatar and Spiderman.
In Star Wars the “dark” power of the force seduces Anakin Skywalker, transforming him into Darth Vader, until finally that darkness is undone as the sight of his son Luke being tortured opens Darth Vader’s heart once again.
This tale of two mindsets (one compassionate and caring, the other hostile, fearful and/or power seeking) is the central theme of Beauty and the Beast, Shindler’s List, The Color Purple, Roots, Little Big Man & King Kong. It provides the narrative theme of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, and likewise West Side Story, where two young lovers who view the world holistically are surrounded by families and friends caught up in their fears and hatred of “the other.”
In the film Frozen the story is presented in a new way, where a sister’s act of compassion and sacrifice teaches that love and power are meant to be brought together. That power without love is destructive and cold, while power guided by love is creative and harmonizing (see final scene).
One needs look no further then the never ending cycles of violence in the Middle East, or the rising tension in France right now, to see how such stories mirror real world realities. Without love in our hearts, humans are easily seduced by angry calls for destruction and vengeance.
In the more well-crafted tales, such as Romeo & Juliet, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables or Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huck Finn the story isn’t just a matter of good people battling evil people, the message is how anyone can be taken over by a mindset that causes them to want to dominate and battle others, to think that they (and their group) alone are “good” and their enemy is “evil.”
These are tales born of the crucible of human history, the centuries long march of individuals and civilizations bent on conquest, nation states and religions set on dominating and oppressing others. It’s about the dualistic thinking that has given rise to militarism, sexism, racism, witch hunts, genocide, totalitarianism, colonialism, organized crime, corporate profiteering, human trafficking, terrorism and slavery.
Hugo’s Les Miserables is a masterpiece in that respect, showing how love is the only “power” that will allow us to transform these patterns that still dominate. In a sense, the creators of these narratives have attempted to communicate what may be the single most critical lesson that humanity as a whole still needs to understand and learn.
It’s the wisdom that Jesus, Lao Tsu and the Buddha tried to teach, that the Beatles sang about, that Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King took action upon. It should be at the core of every literature or history course taught in schools (in my opinion), though sadly the cultural and psychological factors that feed violence and war are not always recognized or emphasized.
And so these tales have been passed down over the ages, to be told and retold, until our species as a whole finally “gets” the message, understanding how easily wisdom and compassion can get blinded by quests for power, dreams of domination, angry calls for vengence and the seductive simplicity of “us vs. them” thinking.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
”When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” ~ Sri Chinmoy Ghose