Distinctions are Powerful because…

Why would a distinction, a purely mental construct, actually give you power?

What do I mean by power? Is power some abstract concept, like the genie in Aladdin, to make things into whatever he wants by simply willing it?

……Yes. Kind of.

Power is simply the ability to do work, where work is directed force.

That work can be on physical things. Sometimes that work is on other people’s minds, such as when you convince someone that something is different.

But why do we care about other people’s minds? Much less our own minds?

Why do distinctions give us power? What do we mean by power?

Energy versus directed power

Imagine you’re a tornado. Raw force, and energy, and extremely “powerful”.

But without any direction whatsoever.

Ask a tornado to hand you a cup of tea, and see what happens.

A tornado cannot do a simple task. A tornado can only be chaotic.

In some sense, a tornado would be called powerful. But in another sense, a tornado is helpless.

To do work, meaning directed force, requires controlling the application of force.

Controlling the application of force requires pointing the force at something particular.

Have you ever watched a toddler try to wash the dishes for the first time? They take the sponge and ineffectively wave it across the dish, missing most of the dirt, and run the water wherever the water happens to run.

The dishes typically stay dirty in this scenario, except by accident.

But what happens when the child learns to wash dishes?

They start to see that applying the sponge in a particular way to a particular place has a particular effect.

They have made a distinction between dirty plate and clean plate, and they have made a distinction between waving the sponge around and actually applying the sponge to the plate where the dirt is.

This distinction allows the child to direct their forces in a way that gets a particular result.

As we get older, we tend to think we see clearly.

But in fact, we also sometimes just “wave the sponge around” ineffectually, because we don’t take the time to figure out where to apply our forces.

Distinctions are essential to doing work, because they allow you to see where the force must be applied to have the effect.

Again – we all know this, but we don’t really see why it applies.

In the case of purely mental distinctions, we think it’s just “mindset” or “positive thinking”.

But no! It is our fundamental ability to perceive the nature of things correctly, so that we know how to direct our forces to get a desired result.

If you want to turn on a stove, do you just blindly run your hands over it? No! You see that there are knobs and buttons. And you distinguish them from one another. You don’t just turn on the stove by chance.

Similarly, when you think two things are the same thing, you make mistakes.

Thoughts lead to actions

Believing, for example, that taking care of yourself is selfish because other people need something too… this makes “self-care” the same as “selfish”, and then you resist self-care because selfish is bad.

Occasionally you rebel! I’m going to be selfish today! I’m going to do what I need! I’m going to push back all these demands and get what I want!

Then you have a great day, feel refreshed, and with this newfound energy… berate yourself for your selfishness yesterday, and resolve to become self-immolating yet again.

What’s the solution?

The solution is to realize that being selfish and taking care of yourself are not the same. There is a distinction. One is putting yourself above others. The other is putting yourself on equal footing with others. To see yourself also as a self, and not simply to see the other as a self.

Wrapping Up

Distinctions are a source of real power, not because they give us more actual power (they don’t), but because they allow us to see situations and things in a more resourceful way. We can now leverage the nature of the situation or the object to use the power we have (i.e. moving, speaking, etc) to actually make a difference.

We do not, by seeing distinctions, magically become more energetic (though that is possible in some cases) but instead see situations in ways that allow us to act effectively, and to actually make a difference.






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