To attain spiritual maturity is to become empowered to the fullest extent of our capacity. When we are integrated within, in our best state of relationship to others and the world, and full of energy and enthusiasm, then we can best take charge of our lives and affect the circumstances that surround us. In this state of Being, we have removed internal obstacles to our progress, and as we identify more obstacles, we can remove them too. We have become honest with ourselves and in relation to the world, and open to all that life has to offer and that we have to offer. By applying all the principles that have led to spiritual growth, and energetically pursuing corresponding practices, we rise to the most effective state of our Being.
Technical and Analytical Readings
On power through collaboration:
- R. Keith Sawyer, Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration (Basic Books, 2007).
- Morten T. Hansen, Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results (Harvard Business School Press, 2009).
- Gilbert Waldbauer, Millions of Marches, Bunches of Beetles: How Bugs Find Strength in Numbers (Harvard University Press, 2000).
- Gilbert Waldbauer, Insights from Insects: What Bad Bugs Can Teach Us (Prometheus Press, 2005).
- Eric Topol, The Patient Will See You Now: The Future of Medicine Is In Your Hands (Basic Books, 2015): “‘We are about to see a medical revolution with little mobile devices,’ he writes, and in this transformation, ‘smartphones will play a role well beyond a passive conduit.’ They will perform blood tests, medical scans, and even parts of the physical examination.”
On individual empowerment:
Documentary and Educational Films
- Louder Than a Bomb: about four high school students devoted to poetry competitions and “the defining work of finding one’s voice”
- Paul H. Ephross and Thomas A. Vassil, Groups That Work: Structure and Process (Columbia University Press, 1988).
- Glenn M. Parker, Team Players and Teamwork: New Strategies for the Competitive Enterprise (Jossey-Bass, 2008).
- Andy Boynton and Bill Fischer, Virtuoso Teams: Lessons from Teams That Changed Their Worlds (FT Press, 2005).
- John Eisenberg, That First Season: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory (Mariner Books, 2010).
- Manning Marable, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (Viking, 2011): “ . . . while Malcolm’s ideas changed America, his life journey has captivated us even more. He went from a petty criminal and drug user to a long-term prisoner to an influential minister to a separatist political activist to a humanist to a martyr. Throughout his life he continually grew upward, unafraid to challenge or refute what he believed, giving hope that any of us can rise above even our deepest convictions to become better people.”
- Steven Greenhouse, Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor (Knopf, 2019): “ . . . a page-turning book that spans a century of worker strikes, without overcondensing or oversimplifying, and with plausible suggestions for the future. This is labor history seen from the moments when that history could have turned out differently.”
- Hilary Holladay, The Power of Adrienne Rich: A Biography (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2020): “Rich’s political awakening became a feminist one. She began to see her father as a tyrannical patriarch, for good and ill. She saw how Harvard shunted women off to the side at Radcliffe. She sensed she was a token female in the largely male poetry world. The oink of male chauvinism, she found, was impossible to evade.”
- Alex Danchev, Cézanne: A Life (Pantheon, 2012): “Cézanne's art is giddying and heady, a charge of magnetic energy sent through shapes and colours to regroup them in strange new harmonies: the world looks different as you walk away.”
- Jackson Pollock, Blue Poles (Number 11) (1952)
- Wassily Kandinsky, Dominant Curve (1936)
Film and Stage
- Poetry, “a masterful study (of) subtle empowerment” and the power of imagination and resolve to transform a “small, unremarkable woman”
- Jane Yolen, Raising Yoder's Barn (Little Brown, 1998).
- Roald Dahl, Matilda (Puffin, 2007): a young girl finds that she has the power to fight back against headmistress Trunchbull’s abuse.
- Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring (Flash Point, 2010), "a book about collaboration."
Stories of people not pulling together:
- Lionel Shriver, So Much for That: A Novel (Harper, 2010), a novel about the failure of the health care system in the United States.
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Beethoven, Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55, “Eroica” (1803): initially, Beethoven dedicated this symphony to Napoleon, whom he thought to be a hero because he championed enlightenment values such as democracy. When Napoleon declared himself emperor, Beethoven became enraged, and repurposed the symphony to represent a heroic internal struggle: in the end, he may have dedicated his “heroic” symphony to himself, or to a symbolic internal struggle. However, this is a symphony, with no single dominant voice. I hear the struggle of a people, and their empowerment through community, which makes sense in the context of Beethoven’s composition. Perhaps dissent against the Emperor was a step Beethoven was not willing to take. Top performances were conducted by Wood in 1926, Weingartner in 1933, Toscanini in 1939, Furtwängler in 1944, Erich Kleiber in 1950, Klemperer in 1955, Szell in 1957, Monteux in 1957, Bernstein in 1964, Giulini in 1978, Karajan in 1984, Wand in 1994, Harnoncourt in 1991, Gardiner in 1994, Chailly in 2011, and Savall in 2011.
- First movement (Allegro con brio): the movement begins with a strong affirmation and announcement of a theme, conveying an urgent sense of purpose. Bursts of energy alternate with more sedate passages that suggest regrouping. No single voice leads. Instead, instruments and combinations of instruments advance and champion the theme. Beethoven repeats these ideas throughout the movement, staying on message, with little variation but occasional development. Occasionally, sections offer each other assurance; always mutual support of a common cause.
- Second movement (Marcia funebre – Adagio assai): this movement begins as a mournful dirge, evoking the troubles that ordinary people faced in early 19th-century France. A ray of sunshine appears, suggesting that good will prevail, but then the dirge re-emerges. After awhile, the olume increases, suggesting a gathering of forces. The movement ends with a question, as if to ask, “what next?”
- Third movement (Scherzo – Allegro vivace): though presented as a scherzo, this third movement is playful and affirmative. The forces gather to repeat the theme, which rises to a crescendo, followed by a triumphant statement by the horns. The forces discuss their plans, then rise up together. The movement ends in a statement of great confidence.
- Fourth movement (Finale – Allegro molto – Poco andante – Presto): the final movement begins with a strong statement in a major key. Someone quietly announces an idea; before long, the orchestra adopts and develops it. A harmonious theme emerges, carried and championed in community. This continues, then an ear;ier theme re-appears, with nostalgic overtones. Earlier ideas are re-stated, then the music sounds triumphant, as though the orchestra spoke as one, saying “I got this”. After a brief expression of doubt, the symphony concludes in glorious triumph.
I can only imagine what it might be like to be a greatly talented jazz musician, and to give a live performance with other highly talented musicians; and to have the sense of combined freedom and empowerment that might bring. Benny Goodman seems to have had that experience when he performed with his band at Carnegie Hall on January 16, 1938. The performance was so memorable that he was invited back for, and performed, a forty-year anniversary concert there.
- Perhaps John Coltrane and his group had a similar experience performing live in Europe in 1965.
- Erroll Garner performed a “Concert by the Sea”.
- Like many other musicians, John McLaughlin performed live at the Montreux jazz festival.
- Duke Ellington’s performance in Fargo, North Dakota, in 1940, is widely recognized as among the finest in jazz history.
- Anthony Braxton has performed live in many venues, famously including Willisau, Switzerland, in 1991. His “Paris – Concert” album also exemplifies empowerment through strong community effort.
- Lennie Tristano, Chicago, April 1951
- Roy Brooks with Woody Shaw, Carlos Garnett, Harold Mabern and Cecil McBee, “Understanding”: in this 1970 gig, they were on fire.
- Luther Allison, “Live in Chicago” (1995)
- Judy Garland did not have a great voice, her vibrato was too wide, and she over-dramatized, but she commanded audiences. Here is a recording of her live performance at Carnegie Hall on April 23, 1961.
- And of course, there was Louis Armstrong, who empowered others.
- Dvořák, Piano Trio No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 90, B166, “Dumky” (1891)
- Gubaidulina, The Canticle of the Sun of St Francis of Assisi for cello, chamber choir and percussion (1997): in this work, the cello represents the sun’s creative, life-giving power.
- Lutosławski, Concerto for Orchestra (1954): different voices come together to confront many challenges.
- Berwald, Symphony No. 3 in C Major, "Sinfonie Singuliere" (1845): harmonic community, culminating in triumph
- Raga Gawati (Gavati - Gavti - Gaoti), a late evening raag (performances by Banerjee, Shahid Parvez Khan and Shivkumar Sharma)
- Stanley Cowell, “Live at Keystone Korner Baltimore”
- George Colligan, “More Powerful”
- Tower of Power, “50 Years of Funk & Soul, Live at the Fox Theatre”, June 2018: as joyous a musical celebration as you’ll hear
- Anoushka Shankar, “Rise” (2006): after trying to follow in her father Ravi Shankar’s footsteps as a classical sitarist, and perhaps recognizing that she would never match his level of skill in that genre, Anoushka ventured into fusion. This album, consisting of her own compositions, marks her empowerment as an artist.
- Melissa Stylianou, featuring Gene Bertoncini and Ike Sturm “Dream Dancing” (2022): the singer is billed first but the trio plays together like a band, each performer enhancing the others. “Vocalist Melissa Stylianou, guitarist Gene Bertoncini, and bassist Ike Sturm make for a canorous combination. A working trio elevated by keen conversational rapport and an embrace of spur-of-the-moment suggestions, theirs is quite simply a perfect partnership.”
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
[from Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb”]
. . . while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
. . . .
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
[from Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb”]