The Wrong Kind Of Power

Picture the scene. The terrorists, holed-up with their hostages, are becoming increasingly desperate. At the very moment when all seems lost, the heroic special forces agents burst into the hideaway and all hell breaks loose.

There can only be one outcome to the firefight. Most of the criminals meet a sticky end and their leader is taken into custody. The hostages are reunited with their loving families and their rescuers stagger into the sunlight, blinking and clutching their wounds, to receive the adulation of those who are dear to them.

Unless you are a hermit, you will probably have watched such scenes played out many times at the cinema or on television. Perhaps you got caught up in the emotional artifice that film makers employ and you were surely drawn to the star actors. You may be forgiven for overlooking the surprising fact that the gun is the true box office star for these lurid screenings, a truth recognised by Abigail Disney.

Why do so many people love guns? Especially Americans? The United States, whose Constitutional Second Amendment opens the door to gun ownership – in the interests of freedom, you understand – has nearly 90 firearms per 100 residents. That is almost one gun per member of the population. Enough to equip every baby with an AK-47, should the law be changed to bring the minimum age for ownership down. As a percentage of all unlawful homicides, gun-related killings in the US are 14 times higher than they are in the UK.

The civilians of most countries are not allowed to own firearms. But crowds will nevertheless flock to cinemas to revel in the firearm-wrought carnage around which the latest blockbuster revolves.

You may think that guns confer power on those who wield them. And in a way they do. But it is a base, cowardly sort of power born out of anger, hatred and a twisted psyche. Guns are crude weapons that have a single purpose – to kill a person or force them to act against their will under threat of killing them. What sort of belief system does such perverted motivation have at its core?

You might believe, based on your visits to the cinema, that guns are an indispensable force for good in the hands of law enforcement officers and soldiers when dealing with criminals. Chris Voss’s engaging book “Never Split The Difference” paints a different picture. It highlights the innate superiority – on many levels –  of the subtle and patient use of empathy over the brute force of firearms. Voss writes with the authority you would expect from someone who worked as the FBI’s chief international hostage negotiator for many years.

The psychology of negotiation, a subject of fundamental importance spanning all areas of our daily lives, perhaps does not make good viewing on the big screen. Unless, of course, it is augmented with gunfire-induced mayhem.

The Knot Garden understands that uninventing things (the verb, tellingly, does not actually exist in many dictionaries) is very much more difficult than inventing them. And it believes that, as we might consider the pen to be mightier than the sword, the tongue is infinitely more powerful than the gun.



Arabella awakens suddenly, rudely dragged into consciousness by the harsh metallic greeting of her alarm or the piercing cry of her young child – she cannot remember which came first. It is dark outside and freezing within.

On waking, Arabella’s head starts to fill with a familiar anxiety. The plumbing is broken, the stack of unpaid bills mocks her silently from the hall table and her unfaithful husband, now estranged, continues to make ludicrously unreasonable demands, treating her with contempt. She is sailing a stormy sea in a boatload of worries.

Arabella slowly and deliberately pushes the bothersome thoughts away in the manner of a hostess dismissing unwelcome guests. The unruly intruders will need to take their place at the back of the queue, making room for more constructive agents.

How is she able to deal with such an array of distractions? Arabella has a vision. She has been building it for a few years, nurturing it but keeping it hidden from the malicious eyes of others who like nothing more than to heap scorn on people’s dreams.

Arabella’s model of a future world, fabricated entirely from her imagination and built upon her beliefs and aspirations, drives her forward against formidable headwinds.

Perhaps our vision defines us more than any other aspect of our life. It is surely more important than our present circumstances, that superficial set of conditions by which others are quick to judge us. The unseen is truly a greater force than the outwardly visible, displayed in broad daylight for all with an eye for such things to see.

Our vision is inseparable from our soul and determines our character. As it gradually evolves we can ask ourselves some insightful questions. What belief system lies at its core? How well are we living up to the principles it embodies? How constant is the vision – does it maintain its form, glowing ever brighter or does it oscillate like a wayward child and fade one day only to grow bright again the next? And, most important of all, to what extent are we manifesting it in our life?

You might think that the most powerful visions are based on a single, laser-focused goal. I believe instead that they are composed of multiple elements that represent a set of mutually reinforcing themes, acting in concert to create an integrated system.

The Knot Garden understands that the greatest visions ultimately make a lasting contribution to humankind. They have at their centre the ideal of permanent value creation. Surely nothing can be more fulfilling than that?