The power of one for good is crucial


If anyone should symbolize the power of one life, it should be Jesus. Unfortunately, much of the Christian community has so divinized his life, potential followers are unable to see his life as a model for their own. His teaching and healing and sacrifice are observed and revered, but not followed. 

People say, “That was then! This is now!” They give Jesus special status as the “Son of God,” and then they can rightfully surrender to being the son of their human father, with no special divine connection or destiny. In so doing, they surrender their inherent God given “power of one,” to make a difference, for good or for evil. 

Teaching and healing and sacrificing for others are God given. For anyone choosing to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, choosing such work gives them the power of one worthy of esteem and reverence.

There’s an island off the coast of Mexico that is home to 95% of the world’s Blackvented Shearwaters, a bird known on the island as “their bird”; loved for its shoreline flights, and raspy cries. The birds have been valued inhabitants of the island for ages and are considered the “soul” of the island. The island is without Shearwater predators, until one of the residents coming home from work saw a rat. It wasn’t the resident mouse. This was a new immigrant, a clear threat to the Shearwaters.

This discovery sent the residents of the island into a full-blown effort to find and trap the rat. It took 300 people watching over 2,000 acres; more than 200 rat traps; 13 imported ecological experts monitoring of 115,000 pairs of shearwaters for any signs of invasion; significant funding; many night vision cameras; and several months of effort. 

Eventually, they trapped the rat. The story made me think of the power of one, for good or evil. You can find the story in the summer issue of Audubon magazine. The name of the island is “Isla Natividad (Nativity).” 

The predators seem to be exploding on our own “Turtle Island.” I was revisiting the story of the Las Vegas massacre, where some 20,000 people enjoying an outdoor music festival were killed, wounded or traumatized by the power of one individual.

In July of this year there had been an average of two mass shootings a day in the U.S., with 1,800 people injured or killed. 10,000; had already been killed on July 7 by gun violence. The power of one, especially with an arsenal of firearms, is becoming legendary, whether we want to admit it or not.

In the larger scheme of things, we can see how the power of one person in a position of authority can impact many. President Bolsonaro in Brazil has supported deforestation of the Amazonian rain forest, the largest rain forest on earth, and what many call the lungs of the planet. Some believe deforestation has become so severe, the Amazonian forest will not be large enough to help produce rainfall sufficient for its own survival. At the same time, Bolsonaro’s autocratic ways threaten the future of Latin America’s largest democracy. He constantly undermines trust in elections and threatens a military coup. (He sounds like an autocratic climate change denier, democracy underminer and coup leader of our own). 

The power of one for evil is visible all around us. What is not as visible is the power of one for good. It is evident in those myriad islands around the globe, where populations of individuals are awake to the presence of a predator and determined to save the “soul” of their own place. 

There is an idea in Jewish mysticism that there are 36 “righteous ones” alive in the world who hold it all together. Some traditions suggest that they don’t know they are one of these saints; they are hidden, humble and holy. When one passes on, another takes their place. Because of their presence and righteousness, God preserves the world, even if most have descended into barbarism.

I recall the Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon of some years ago. It was the idea that in primates, when you reached a certain number of the population prepared to function in a new way, it happened.

One more monkey and the new behavior would replicate in the whole population. It gave those of us wishing and working for an alternative to war, hope and inspiration. Perhaps our power of one would make a difference!

There is a difference between those who would aspire to wealth and power; and those who would inspire through service and sacrifice. Whichever one chooses, there is a power in one life, for good and for evil.

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