Friday, January 30, 2015
I sit in the desk I started out in, window behind me that no longer looks over New York as the masters of revision pound in the pilings until my fillings fall out.
I feel this place in my bones, as if it has seeped into my blood and I can’t get it out of me.
We liked to think we control our own destiny, steering our fate this way and that, when we all live our lives like Captain Ahab pursuing something that eludes us for so long we wonder if it is real.
This space is a world of cubicles, out of which we somehow manage shape reality, and we become like store clerks cast into a sea with sharks, managing to save ourselves only by learning to swim faster than the sharks can, or out think them, or sometimes, become as they are, and gobble them up before they devour us. Do this long enough, sometimes, you just want to stop swimming and let whatever happens happen.
We live here with the illusion of power, watching big egos work themselves up into a frenzy, only to get deflated when they are cast down.
Those who survive longest in that game are the ones who don’t believe their own hype.
But it is all so seductive – this idea of being on the inside and being with people who matter.
The sad ones are the ones who discover too late that it is all an illusion and that we are only as powerful as we are useful. The ones who work at it hardest and are savvy enough to read the water for when to move or not move, last the longest in this fish bowl filled with budding sharks.
Loyalty means little except between those with the closest ties, mostly people who grew up together in old neighborhoods, building a union not originally political or powerful.
Position gives people the most power – whether it be someone in a corner office issuing orders, or someone in a city hall. But position is not the person, and once the position is gone, the person reverts, and becomes nobody.
A few have power that is self contained, something that can’t be given or taken away easily, a self-centeredness that defies the concept of traditional power – but this is such a rare commodity as to not exist in the real world: Jesus had it, Gandhi, too, but few others.
Sometimes, you have a different kind of power that wouldn’t be recognized as such, learning to duck and weave like a skilled boxer, avoiding punches that you know would knock you out if they connected.
This is a skill I’ve learned over the last few years, even though my basic tendency is to fight back or confront power with power.
But surviving is often more important that feeling important, and in the end, those left standing are the truly powerful people.
I feel sorry for those who got seduced and then fell to the wayside because in most cases, they were deluded into the belief they could hold onto power simply by clinging to the rungs of those who have power, and they are shocked when the rungs of the ladder are yanked from their grasp and they find themselves clinging to empty air.
In some ways, I’m a voyeur, a silent observer watching the rise and fall of powerful people the way fisherman watch the rise and fall of tides, able to predict some of it by watching the phases of the moon, but unable to do anything more than watch and sympathize.
What I want most out of this world of cubicles is to leave on my own terms, to survive long enough so that I won’t be grasping empty air when I’m done.