Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Power is one of those English words that I wish had a wider vocabulary, like 'love' in Greek. Dictionary definitions run the gamut from political authority to energy or exerted force to strength and ability. For a word to be used in so many contexts is frustrating to new English speakers and bothersome for writers (and librarians). If you take a moment, I'm sure you'll think of a variety of ways we use the word power. Here's some I came up with:
  • Political - "in power"
  • Rights movements - "empowered"
  • Car ads - "powerful engine"
  • Sports - "power play"
  • Faith - "power of the Holy Spirit"
  • Business - "power words, power suits"

It struck me that many of these uses are worthless unless there is belief behind the power. Stay with me, I do have a point - or at least some thoughts. See, if politicians can't gather people to believe in his/her ability to lead, they won't come into power. And if you believe a cause isn't worthy of a fight, how is it empowering to stand up for your rights?

Admittedly, "powerful engine" is a marketing term, hopefully anchored in some engineering tests, and has little to do with belief. And "power play" is when one team has the advantage over the other, like when a hockey team is a man down and the opposing team makes the most of the imbalance of power.

What would my faith in the Holy Spirit's power be if I didn't first believe in the trinity and God's constant presence in my life? And isn't a power suit just something in your wardrobe that you believe makes you look your most authoritative?

My poor neglected novella will definitely contain some power struggles. You've got your werewolves, you've got your vampires, you've got your humans - oh, don't look at me like that. It's not Bella and Edward all over again, I promise. There's even some reflections on Thoreau.

Secondly, but more importantly, Canada is headed into a federal election. Our last three have ended with a minority government, the last two with the Conservatives leading and Stephen Harper as our Prime Minister. (This is one of those times I know I made the right choice by pursuing librarianship instead of journalism as a career - I just can't keep up; at least with a library at my fingertips I'll know where to find the information, but I won't have to create the news articles.)

We spoke in my management class about what makes a leader...I would argue that a leader needs power in his/her corner - clout, if you will. And I don't mean the klout that you earn on Twitter; I'm talking about influence. It's preferable that this power and influence will be the kind that makes people want to stand behind you, follow you, believe in you.

My point is this: words don't make something powerful, people do. Sure, words can convey power, but first, there has to be a belief. Believe in your leaders. Believe in your fellow Canadians, your faith, your sports team, your coworkers. Belief is a powerful thing.


Nathan Pralle said...

I think the real power in words lies in their ability to tap into the belief sources that exist within each of us. We all want a leader to follow, a cause to believe in, a force to lean on, someone to not only take care of us but to also be on the successful and winning side. The power of words, therefore, lies in properly tapping, extracting, and harnessing that innate belief within each of us to the cause described.

Julia G said...

That's an interesting view, Nathan - I'll think about it some more. I nearly didn't publish this post but I'm glad I worked on it more and invited comments...
One thing I know we agree on - we both love words!


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