Monday, March 12, 2012


An Apocryphal Story of AN EMPEROR and A PHILOSOPHER

Here is an apocryphal story I had read long back about Alexander the Great and his encounter with the Greek philosopher Diogenes.

Alexander the Great, the Emperor of the World, who had conquered all lands and seas and considered himself the “son of a God” and before whom all knelt in veneration and reverence, one day early in the morning, was riding with his army through Greece. 

Suddenly he saw a man lying naked in the sand by the side of a river basking in the early morning sunlight. 

Curious, Alexander rode towards the naked man and sat imposingly astride his horse towering over the emaciated prostrate man.

The Emperor Alexander was shocked to observe that the naked man seemed to be totally indifferent to the distinguished visitor and appeared nonchalantly oblivious of the bountiful entourage and captivating presence and charisma of the great Emperor. 

The stranger remained prostrate and made no attempt to get up and pay obeisance to the Emperor.

In fact the prostrate naked man continued lying down and totally ignored Alexander the Great sitting majestically on his horse. 

An angry soldier shouted at the naked man, “You there – do you know in whose presence you are…?” 

“Who is he…?” the prostrate man answered lazily, without the stir, making no move to get up. 

The astonished soldier proclaimed, “Wretched man, you are in the presence of His Exalted Highness Alexander the Great – Emperor of the World.”

“Oh,” the naked sunbather said impassively, continuing to lie down. He casually looked up at Alexander the Great mounted imposingly on his horse and said, “I am Diogenes.”  

“Ah, so you are the eccentric philosopher Diogenes…!” Alexander exclaimed, “I have always wanted to meet you – I have heard so many stories about you. Diogenes, I am impressed. I will grant you anything you wish. What do you desire…? Tell me Diogenes, what do you want, ask for anything in the world and it will be yours…” 

Still lying prostrate on the sand, Diogenes looked Emperor Alexander in the eye and said to him, “Please could you move a little to the side and get out of my sunlight, because you are blocking the sun and spoiling my sunbath. That is all I want from you…” 


This story illustrates that POWER is inversely proportional to DESIRE

You cannot have power over someone who desires nothing from you. 

Till such time you desire something from a person, that person has power over you. 

Your desires can be tangible (like money, food, sex and other material things) or intangible (like love, security, recognition, respect, ego massage etc).

If you desire nothing from someone, he has no power of you. 

Conversely if you want to have power over someone you must be in a position to satisfy his desires. But the irony may be that once you satisfy his desires permanently you may cease to have power over him. 

At work, if you want a promotion (a good appraisal report) your boss has power over you. Once you get the promotion, he may no longer be your boss (or the person writing your appraisal report) and power equations change.

This is true of an intangible desire like love too. Suppose a man is in love with a woman and wants to marry her. Till such time she does not reciprocate his love she has power over him and can make him dance around her since his desire for her love remains unsatisfied. Suppose she reciprocates his love and marries him then the power equations may change since now not only are the man's desires satisfied but in fact the wife may start desiring things like money, security etc from her husband. In later life the husband may desire care from his wife so she once again has power over him. So the power versus desire relationship is a dynamic one.

For example, take the case of money. In earlier days, the husband was the breadwinner and that is why he had power over his wife and family. Today, when women have become financially independent, the power equations have changed, and wives are more assertive.

That is why they say that POWER IS THE RECIPROCAL OF DESIRE

The less you desire the more powerful you are.

Think about it. And observe the desire-power equations in your workplace and personal relationships as well - it is quite an enjoyable and illuminating pastime.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for almost 14 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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