This work-in-progress begins this way:
If this were a podcast, you would hear the shadow in my voice. Soft-spoken, constricted, some say I swallow my words. Recently I was told that because I experienced the abuses of power as a child I have an intimate knowledge of power itself. This was a shocking proposition that landed with a ring of truth. It was like suddenly seeing through the opposite end of a telescope. What I thought was most “other,” most “not me,” turned out to be a central theme running through my life, often in disguise. Like so often happens, my biggest blindspot became the opening that let in new light and a whole new set of questions and insights about my life and my world. This writing is an exploration, a way of revealing more of that blindspot to myself. It is an archetypal story of escape, questing, and doubling back. It is about veering off well-worn paths, trusting faint memories, meeting guides, and using the fuel of a broken world, a broken story, to find and create the new.
Two characters loom large in this story. One is Imperator Furiosa, the heroine of the 2015 Mad Max movie Fury Road. She is a fierce warrior who is also on a quest in the dreamworld of a post-apocalyptic future. The other is Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the Tibetan Buddhist master who shed his monastic credentials and robes in order to bring the essence of his spiritual tradition to the West. In the 1970s and ‘80s Rinpoche led his students on a quest to discover the true meaning of buddha-dharma and enlightened society. I was one of those students.
In my own dreamworld, the quests of these two characters come together in a beautiful weave of dark and light, outer and inner, fury and sanity, myth and truth, past and future, profound and campy. Other major influences include many fellow Buddhist travelers and teachers; colleagues and faculty at the Authentic Leadership in Action (ALIA) Institute; ideas embedded in the practices of Deep Democracy and Feeding Your Demons; and my life partner, Tony Lamport.
This exploration is about a quest that involves power—the power to know, evolve, create, achieve, be free. And it is about the shadows of power—oppression, self-doubt, helplessness, fear, and anger caused by all the ways we are exploited and disempowered by others. Or so it seems.
Susan Szpakowski is co-initiator of Likely Stories.