I watched a film the other night, Factory Girl. It is about Edie Sedgwick, a rich, young woman who became a part of pop-artist Andy Warhol's groupies who hung out in his art studio, called "the factory". I enjoyed the film, even while I found it disturbing. Warhol is portrayed as an immature, egocentric, blood-sucking leech on the lives of the rich young people he exploited. The whole time I watched the movie I was thinking about Picasso, another artist, who seems to have been the same with those around him. And the whole time I'm watching this movie and thinking about these narcissistic men, I'm thinking about how easy it is for those with powerful personalities and charisma to use those who gather around them, to live off of the adoration of their groupies, to even destroy the lives of those who love them. I'm fully aware of this dynamic because, as someone who oversees a community, the temptation to let the appreciation, respect or adoration of those you care for feed your ego is enormous and perpetual. I've allowed adoration and used it to position me above others. But I've been on the other end too... more than once... where I've allowed my adoration of a man (which in itself is questionable enough!) to feed his sense of power and importance, while depriving me of my individuality, autonomy, and self-respect. I often wish I could relive those times. But I can't. They are gone. However, I can learn from them. And I have. I have learned to never adore another person, no matter how powerful or charismatic or influential. I've learned never to elevate another person above myself but to see myself as equal because I am. I've learned to not nurture adoration from others. I've learned to question appreciation and have tried to learn to live and work without a need for it. I've learned to debase myself in the face of admiration. I've learned to refuse elevation above others. I've learned to be discerning when it comes to charisma in others, especially if it's cultured. I've learned to be skeptical of magnetism in leaders. In other words, I've learned to become completely suspicious of anything that sniffs of pride, arrogance and pomp, as well as the children of these: manipulation, control and exploitation. The world abounds in these, and organized religion is at the epicenter of it all. The photo is the creation of my friend, Mark Hemmings.