Joy Is Always, Power Is Borrowed
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Politics and Activism

Joy Is Always, Power Is Borrowed

Happiness, once recognized as something you own as your piece of the world, is yours.

Joy Is Always, Power Is Borrowed
T.M. Eaton

Sometimes a person comes into your life and changes you for the better. They make you think, encourage you to learn from your own mistakes, and teach you some of the most important life lessons that you'll ever learn. They become your mentor, and that's what Dr. Eaton is to me. He is also the person that inspired me to write for Odyssey. As a published author, Dr. Eaton is a big proponent of writing and a piece of advice that he gave me in the very beginning was to write for a short period of time every day. When the opportunity to join Odyssey came along, I took it. Odyssey gave me a goal to work toward each week. This was my chance to share my thoughts with the world. Since then, I've learned so much from my experience as a Content Creator for Odyssey. The most important lessons that I've learned about being a writer and a person have come from Dr. Eaton, though.

Throughout his history in academia, Dr. Eaton has had the opportunity to touch many lives and teach many wonderful lessons to numerous students. Unfortunately, not all students have the opportunity to have a mentor like Dr. Eaton in their lives, which is why I asked him to be my guest author this week. The lessons that he has taught me are invaluable, and other people can benefit from his words of wisdom. On that note, class is in session.


It’s not even Christmas yet, or the month of recognitions that all nations serve at different times in the year in recognizing the gift of a higher power as a guidance in their world, yet today, I’ve been given a gift; a joy that I neither deserve nor have owed to me; that of being a guest writer in your world as you read and think. If you walk away with nothing else, remember this following line.

Joy is Always, Power is Borrowed.

The rule is as unbreakable as any law of physics, although mostly forgotten and that is what I want all readers to adorn as a centerpiece within their familial tables, or their quiet apartment where a sandwich serves as holiday dinner but is glorious nonetheless. I’ve had both –aloneness and a full table – and both can bring joy.

I have the privilege of writing, by invitation of an Odyssey writer, to a young group of readers her age who take a lot of static and accusation about not being one with the world and wanting everything easy – we use the word “Millennial” and we older folk use it like a lash sometimes.

Yet, as a 23 year veteran in teaching, I know that your world is not an easy one. No world is. You younger people do work hard – you just work in a different light, like when a rainbow shifts its spectrum. You are too careful, slightly fearful, wanting to get it right the first time always – but that’s because you’ve spent more time growing up hearing more of what you can’t do than what you can. My generation has to learn that and take responsibility for that weakness.

That’s part of joy – understanding people and self-responsibility, not by world definitions prescribed by some formula or policy, but by recognizing the sheer warmth of others’ existence. Mandated ‘word choices’ in our world are visions of power held by some to overthrow others. You’ll hear them on the street, you’ll hear them at the schools and universities but you won’t ‘hear’ them until you uncover your own joy; an honest, humanistic understanding and a willingness to see our own failures in understanding others.

Embrace those failures, recognize their flaws, and approach the world not as ones who are going to love everyone, but as ones who are going to try to love everyone. Language choices are simply part of that reaching the unreachable – if words are built to hurt, don’t use them. Words will hurt in helping us become better people so you’ll have to deal with that. I’m a writer and I’ve heard harsh words, including “Give it up – you’ll never make it as a writer.” I did make it, but all of those who told me those things made me better; not worse or wounded. We can choose what words attack a person and what are attacking an idea that may lead the person to more success and joy. We don’t need a national nor university law for that. We have our joy to protect us when it is said to us.

Education can bring you this and obviously, you younger ones are going to find out that I’m a career teacher, a college professor with the passion that still holds the true beauty of education above everything else.

And here you are, readers, thinking you’ve taken your last college exam and the holiday break lies before you and here is this professor, this guest, trying to throw in one more lecture before you go home to open presents and negotiate the family tide that is rolling in with all of its love and angst. No lecture here, but the honest truth of a man who has known joy all of his life; not because of lots of money or an easy world, but because he’s learned that Joy is Always and Power is just Borrowed.

It’s true. I can look any of you in the eye and tell you, point-blank that I am a happy man. I’ve gone through loss and divorce and poverty and stupid decisions that I made; trips down artificial worlds of synthetic toys, like social media, or alcohol, or any number of things that promised more than I could provide myself as a person who tries to simply be good – only to find that I had learned that simply trying to be as good as I could be was the joy. Happiness is not something one pursues like a chimera in the sky but is something one possesses in the worst of circumstances to be used not as a net to catch something -- but as soft cloth to bind the wounds given from that which caught us.

That is what education gave me and it is why I believe in it; it is why I don’t mind student loan debt or the long hours spent studying the world and myself, or my anger toward my professors who pushed me in ways I did not want to go, or the periods of unemployment or the heartbreak of not reaching the student that I meant to reach, or even now, in our political climate where the teacher; the professor – is the focus of blame today for the failure of people to understand that Joy is forever but power is only borrowed – blame only deserved when any teacher turns what should be learning into political propaganda – they are not teaching from joy but teaching within power and their holdings are only borrowed – no student will remember a year from now.

I am a man, a writer, a teacher, a fool, and -- just happy that way because one of the most basic lessons – I’d say, along about sixth-grade science when we learn about earth science and forest growth is:

A tree grows from the ground up, not from the sky downward.

Very basic. Obvious even – and yet, we forget.

If politics and government is the metaphorical sky, the ultimate power as it were, and we grow in the ground of the people that care for us, with our families, communities, our gifts and successes through failure, then why is it we always look to power in the sky when our joy lies in our ground?

Happiness is the ground in this metaphor, that which we occupy and hold, that which marks us – all generations. Politics and other artifices in which we seek happiness are the sky – often beautiful and something to reach for, but not something that should send us, as trees on a planet of life, into violent twitching, self-hatred, twisted loathing, and bitterness.

If you think I’m wrong, and that’s OK, ask yourself which changes most? The ground or the sky? Happiness, once recognized as something you own as your piece of the world, is yours. The sky above will change even tomorrow or, by our democracy, during elections. Joy is always. Power is borrowed.

So go home for the holidays and don’t mind coming back to your dorms next year. It’s not about the scholarships and the awards or the politically-correct monologues of self-righteousness, or whether you’ll make a million after graduation. It is that education teaches you, if you’ll listen and challenge yourself, to look down at your roots for your own strength, rather than up to the sky for protection.

One is Always, the other is Borrowed. When you understand that, then you’ve owned your education because you’ve learned to protect your joy as something that only you can protect. You will be buffeted by strong winds, hailed upon with stinging verbal ice, but you will understand that the only tree that can support other trees are the ones who roots are deeply set in immovable joy. I am one of those trees.

Own, not just pay for, your education; own your joy, stop looking at the sky for answers when you already possess the root nutrients of human life, be proud of who you are but not so proud that a wind can take you over and remember – when the sky looks bleak and the wind is whipping around, that is only borrowed for a time. The breezes and sunshine of yesterday and tomorrow lie in your roots and memory and will return.

Your joy is Always, Power is only borrowed and your holiday of joy is waiting for you to use with respect and dignity, not a longing look to the ever-changing sky.

Given that? -- Class is dismissed.


An author, teacher and educational programs developer, Dr. Thomas Eaton has made a career of education and language. Recognized in 2001 in the National William Faulkner Short Story Competition for his short story, “Antelope,” followed by recognition by the Carnegie- Mellon Open Learning Institute for his online course supplements in 2008, and his appointment to the 2016 International Science Congress on Special Needs Learners, sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Ukraine, Eaton spends his days teaching, developing school programs, conducting educational and literary research and writing various columns, as well as writing Americana fiction stories and novels in both Arkansas and his native Wyoming. His newest novella, “Why I Can’t Leave Shadyville Court” is set for release in February, 2017 by High Hill Press, St. Louis as a follow-up to His previously-released short story collection, “Stories from Mission County.”

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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