I have been going through the book, The 48 Laws Of Power, by Robert Greene, because I feel it has a lot to offer that is good. But, I also want to go through it because I also feel there is a lot of bad that this book offers. Though, interestingly I have heard the author blur the line on what is good and bad in interviews, there is a clear line that God has laid. The author does do a good job of showing the tactics of power people use, too. I think that is his main point of the book.
So, just to let you know, there is some bad, ugly, evil tactics in the book that can be used but shouldn’t be. But, the book is worth reading for 2 reasons, one, it is a great and fascinating read, that will give you some good skills to use in life when tempered with the truth of the Bible. Two, it lets a person know there are evil people out there who will do anything to have power, and the book exposes some of the things people do to have power. With that being said, understand this: Thoughts are dangerous, and they precede ideas, and those ideas can have consequences, good or bad. With anything, weigh the concepts on the scale of the Bible. Let’s begin.
The law that is about to be reviewed is a really good one. For one, it is practical, and also can be linked Biblically very well. Two, if the law is not followed in the practical sense, it is dangerous for people who isolate themselves. In this post we are going to examine the law and then weigh it and tie it with the Bible.
It is Law 18 DO NOT BUILD FORTRESSES TO PROTECT YOURSELF–ISOLATION IS DANGEROUS. It is one of the shorter laws, but very important. And I think it is one that is very applicable in the life of a Christian. Judgment:
The world is dangerous and enemies are everywhere–everyone has to protect themselves. A fortress seems the safest. But isolation exposes you to more dangers that it protects you from–it cuts you off from valuable information, it makes you conspicuous and an easy target. Better to circulate among people, find allies, mingle. You are shielded from your enemies by the crowd.
“But isolation exposes you to more dangers that it protects you from[.]” Let’s talk about what isolation is not, I don’t think it is referring to spending a week alone in the woods, if that is what you like doing. But spending, months and months in the woods alone. Well, I think that turns dangerous for a person. Furthermore, I think if a person spends considerable time with themselves and only a couple other people or one, that is dangerous isolation. Your mind will take you places, that are usually unreasonable to other people. And it makes sense, we fight a spiritual war as well, and as people, moreover Christians, we need others, other to buffet us, help us, talk to and encourage us. If we don’t have that, we are left to all kinds of craziness.
Moving on, I came across an interesting article I found on the New Yorkers website, and it gives some of the effects isolation has on people:
He missed people terribly, especially his fiancée and his family. He was despondent and depressed. Then, with time, he began to feel something more. He felt himself disintegrating. It was as if his brain were grinding down. A month into his confinement, he recalled in his memoir, “The mind is a blank. Jesus, I always thought I was smart. Where are all the things I learned, the books I read, the poems I memorized? There’s nothing there, just a formless, gray-black misery. My mind’s gone dead. God, help me.”
He was stiff from lying in bed day and night, yet tired all the time. He dozed off and on constantly, sleeping twelve hours a day. He craved activity of almost any kind. He would watch the daylight wax and wane on the ceiling, or roaches creep slowly up the wall. He had a Bible and tried to read, but he often found that he lacked the concentration to do so. He observed himself becoming neurotically possessive about his little space, at times putting his life in jeopardy by flying into a rage if a guard happened to step on his bed. He brooded incessantly, thinking back on all the mistakes he’d made in life, his regrets, his offenses against God and family.
His captors moved him every few months. For unpredictable stretches of time, he was granted the salvation of a companion—sometimes he shared a cell with as many as four other hostages—and he noticed that his thinking recovered rapidly when this occurred. He could read and concentrate longer, avoid hallucinations, and better control his emotions. “I would rather have had the worst companion than no companion at all,” he noted.
In September, 1986, after several months of sharing a cell with another hostage, Anderson was, for no apparent reason, returned to solitary confinement, this time in a six-by-six-foot cell, with no windows, and light from only a flickering fluorescent lamp in an outside corridor. The guards refused to say how long he would be there. After a few weeks, he felt his mind slipping away again.
“I find myself trembling sometimes for no reason,” he wrote. “I’m afraid I’m beginning to lose my mind, to lose control completely.”
One day, three years into his ordeal, he snapped. He walked over to a wall and began beating his forehead against it, dozens of times. His head was smashed and bleeding before the guards were able to stop him.
Some hostages fared worse. Anderson told the story of Frank Reed, a fifty-four-year-old American private-school director who was taken hostage and held in solitary confinement for four months before being put in with Anderson. By then, Reed had become severely withdrawn. He lay motionless for hours facing a wall, semi-catatonic. He could not follow the guards’ simplest instructions. This invited abuse from them, in much the same way that once isolated rhesus monkeys seemed to invite abuse from the colony. Released after three and a half years, Reed ultimately required admission to a psychiatric hospital.
“It’s an awful thing, solitary,” John McCain wrote of his five and a half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam—more than two years of it spent in isolation in a fifteen-by-fifteen-foot cell, unable to communicate with other P.O.W.s except by tap code, secreted notes, or by speaking into an enamel cup pressed against the wall. “It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.” And this comes from a man who was beaten regularly; denied adequate medical treatment for two broken arms, a broken leg, and chronic dysentery; and tortured to the point of having an arm broken again. A U.S. military study of almost a hundred and fifty naval aviators returned from imprisonment in Vietnam, many of whom were treated even worse than McCain, reported that they found social isolation to be as torturous and agonizing as any physical abuse they suffered.
And what happened to them was physical. EEG studies going back to the nineteen-sixties have shown diffuse slowing of brain waves in prisoners after a week or more of solitary confinement. In 1992, fifty-seven prisoners of war, released after an average of six months in detention camps in the former Yugoslavia, were examined using EEG-like tests. The recordings revealed brain abnormalities months afterward; the most severe were found in prisoners who had endured either head trauma sufficient to render them unconscious or, yes, solitary confinement. Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury.
On December 4, 1991, Terry Anderson was released from captivity. He had been the last and the longest-held American hostage in Lebanon. I spoke to Keron Fletcher, a former British military psychiatrist who had been on the receiving team for Anderson and many other hostages, and followed them for years afterward. Initially, Fletcher said, everyone experiences the pure elation of being able to see and talk to people again, especially family and friends. They can’t get enough of other people, and talk almost non-stop for hours. They are optimistic and hopeful. But, afterward, normal sleeping and eating patterns prove difficult to reëstablish. Some have lost their sense of time. For weeks, they have trouble managing the sensations and emotional complexities of their freedom (Gawande, 2009).
So, this is a extreme case of isolation, but nonetheless, isolation is dangerous. We do much better with people. It is how God designed us.
IN wrapping this up, I remember seeing a show on solitary confinement for prisoners. Here is the thing, I’m not sure who was sicker, the people leaving the prisoner in solitary confinement for days and days on end, or the prisoner in solitary confinement.
Now it should be easy for any Christian to see how that can apply to their life. But for those who don’t know about the Bible, Jesus, and God. Let me help.
It makes you an easy target for the devil. Left alone to our own selves, we can come up with all kinds of thoughts and or ideas that are not sane. Learn the lesson: Don’t isolate yourself.
Check out other laws we review from the book here:
Gawande, Atul. The New Yorker . N.p., Mar. 2009. Web. 19 Apr. 2014. <http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/03/30/090330fa_fact_gawande#ixzz2IPiVyMTW>.