Power Always Costs Something
In my novel-in-progress Saving Doctor Dewey, an ancient world has some access to electric power because of knowledge transfers from more advanced worlds. Power of any kind has to be paid for, whether it comes from natural sources, magical sources or spiritual sources.
Believe it or not, "Paying the bills" is a key element in fantasy writing. Whenever a character in a fantasy novel uses magic or power of some kind, it has to cost them something.
You can see this played out to an almost absurd degree in Gordon Dickson's Dragon Knight series where there's a celestial accounting office that tracks people's use of magic on ledgers. If their allotment runs out, they have to borrow or go without for a while.
In the "real world", power equals current times pressure. Electricity, for instance, is measured in amps and pressure is measured in voltage. This is sort of like water flowing through a pipe, where the amps measure how much water flows through the pipe and volts measure the water pressure inside the pipe.
A pipe is a constraint. Without constraint there's no power. This is a key to understanding the power that we as human beings have. When we haven't constrained ourselves by using our time wisely, for instance, our power quickly dissipates.
Lack of constraint may take the form of an addiction, such as alcoholism or overeating, which reduces our personal power in various ways. Ironically, even an addiction to power reduces our power.
Addicted to Power
Suppose we're addicted to power. Isn't that a contradiction? In a fantasy story, using power requires something in return. In the Dragon Knight books, using power faster than you're accumulating it will cause you to run afoul of the celestial accounting office. You'll get a bill for the overcharge. Does that happen in life?
I think it does. A workaholic can be addicted to power. A job requires the use of power to bring about results. Bringing about meaningful results feels pretty good to most people, and some people get so addicted to it that their work life gets completely out of balance with their personal life.
Question: Is the workaholic in danger of running afoul of some sort of celestial accounting office? If so, do we get presented with a bill? We do. Workaholics often neglect their family. If they do so long enough, divorce can result. Kids that are neglected in this way may end up neglecting their own kids, setting up a cycle of emotional destruction that may take generations to repair.
In short, addiction to power ends up being just as destructive as any other kind of addiction, which helps prove that true power requires meaningful constraints.
The Importance of Constraints
So how do we constrain ourselves? It's usually about the little things. For the overeater, even the smallest steps can be meaningful. Eating a little less dessert. Eating half a donut instead of a whole one.
Often, the most important constraints often have to do with how we use our time.
Taking time in the morning to fill up our spiritual tanks by communing with God and reading His Word. Not staying so late at the office to give us more time with our families. Taking time to build and maintain meaningful relationships. Turning off the football games on Sunday so that we can go to church.
If we want power, we have to pay for it.