Der Wille zur Macht

As a young child of seven or so when bedtime had come and my parents had said goodnight, having left on a light for me (we lived in the deep woods of Alabama, isolated, and there were always noises from shadows and critters in the dark dark night), there was a period one summer wherein I would sit in the bed cross-legged and focus my childish mind on that bare bulb overhead in my bedroom. I do not remember how it came to me, but I found myself nightly focusing my mind again and again on making that dim light bulb go out. For several weeks I concentrated on that each night, until I fell asleep.

One night I thought I glimpsed the light dimming, but I fell asleep so quickly that in the morning I decided, no, I had only imagined that. The next night, nothing happened. Over and over I would strain to focus, only to fall asleep while the light burned on. It never “dimmed” again. I convinced myself it never really had dimmed at all.

Still, when I awoke the next morning, sometimes the light was out.

My childlike mind figured either I had finally made it happen, had made the light extinguish– *or* my parents simply had turned the light off before waking me. Either way, that was not important, not at all; what was important was that I was methodical in trying to focus my attention, was striving to maintain focus for an extended period, was trying to make my will strong.
Although I continued the practice all that summer, I never mentioned my pastime to anyone,  perhaps because it was merely a playtime activity, a way of passing time before sleep, or maybe I did not mention it because I felt I had always failed at it.
You see, I didn’t really care if my parents turned the light off, or if the light went off by itself after I had fallen asleep. Both options were beside the point. What mattered was me actually seeing that bulb go out *while* I was willing it to do so. I wanted to know it was because of me, directly and only, happening in the present moment. I wanted to be certain my will could influence inanimate objects, just with thoughts. And so, because I could never make the light go out while I was looking at it, I lost interest in trying to make it happen, and I stopped that practice just before school started again.
“Ein traum, ein traum ist unser leben auf erden hier…”
 A  few years later in Munich I learned to appreciate philosophers and debate classes, and to think logically and to rebut quickly. That proved helpful in school work and socially. (Because I could quote a few sentences from various philosophers, I found that many people tended to assume I actually knew what I was talking about. )

By the time I was sixteen I had become a devout follower of Nietzsche:

“If we affirm one moment, we thus affirm not only ourselves but all existence.For nothing    is self-sufficient, neither in us ourselves nor in things; and if our soul has trembled with happiness and sounded like a harp-string just once, all eternity was needed to produce this one event – and in this single moment of affirmation all eternity was called good, redeemed, justified, and affirmed.”

Soon enough I discovered that many people are drawn not only to words well used, but to will-power. Naturally, I became an actor.

Rehearsals in high school were held evenings for three hours, and so I would bicycle to the auditorium at dusk, and then bike home alone in the dark. One night as I pedaled homeward, an overhead streetlight went out as I passed below. Poof. Black night.
I had forgotten that lightbulb exercise from my Alabama childhood, but the memory returned as I pedaled on, and I wondered about cause and effect, and about how much time that might take, since again I had started really focusing (learning lines, paying attention closely for hours, effecting my will and attention for extended periods) with discipline, with will, with intent.
Nietzsche was surely smiling, I thought.
One night biking home late after a performance, a gang of hooligans started throwing rocks at me, vicious teens, hard sharp rocks. As I began to grow truly afraid, the streetlight around us suddenly went out, and they laughed as I escaped into the darkness.
Even now a streetlight may go dark as I pass in the night. This has been happening regularly now for over fifty years. Whatever city I am in, whoever I am with: driving, biking, or walking–streetlights extinguish as I pass.
“Ein traum, ein traum ist unser leben auf erden hier…”
Looking back now to that child at home in the deep country woods at night who sat alone in bed focusing on a lightbulb… if only I had willed that bulb to glow brighter, rather than to be extinguished… what a different life I might have known, what a different person I might have become.