Does winning the lottery increase your agency? In my “Forms of Agency” post, I said yes. After all, the lottery winner suddenly has more resources, which leads to more choices, and isn’t agency about choice? But now that I’ve thought on it some more, I’d like to give a more nuanced response.
Imagine that you are cool dude or dudette (which shouldn’t take too much imagination, since most T&S readers are, in fact, cool dudettes and dudes). You’re witty, well-dressed, and totally hot (as I’m sure you are), and people like you. Now say you win the lottery — suddenly you have several new options available to expand your jet-setting lifestyle! You can get your pilot’s license and an airplane to go with it. Or you can build a theme park in your backyard. Or you can get an all-Prada wardrobe.
Each of these options represents a significant exercise of agency, but they all lead to the same end: increasing your prestige. So, while your options have increased, your values haven’t changed. Now say that, after winning the lottery, you happen upon King Benjamin’s address to his people. Your heart is pricked with a newfound desire to selflessly serve your brothers and sisters. Suddenly a whole sphere of new options opens to you. You can use your lottery winnings to build a vocational school in Detroit to help address chronic unemployment. You can donate your winnings to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and help protect African children from measles. You get the picture.
King Benjamin’s words caused your values to shift. Our values determine which goals we accept as valid, or worthy of our time and effort (etymologically, the words “value” and “valid” come from the same root). So, while increasing resources expands our options marginally, changing values expands our options fundamentally. So winning the lottery increases our agency on one axis, but a change of heart increases agency on another, more profound, axis.
To tie this into my seven “forms of agency” archetypes, before you had read King Benjamin, you were a knight. After reading his words, you also became a healer.
Remember that each archetype represents a “sphere” of agency — a set of related values and choices. As I described in the previous post, being a knight is about popularity, leadership, and social power. The healer, in contrast, is about service, health, love, friendship, happiness, and wholeness.
Healer (service, health, love, and wholeness)
Acting as a healer means desiring to fix what’s broken. This isn’t just in the most obvious sense of physical healing, like a nurse or doctor. It’s also about being a friend, offering sympathy, kindness, and a listening ear. It’s about being conscious of nature and living sustainably. It’s about using education as a tool to provide people with the job skills, life skills, and world context needed to function effectively in society. So, professionally, examples of healers include teachers, counselors, environmentalists, stay-at-home parents, and, of course, health service professionals.
Agency is additive. The knight who reads King Benjamin and enters the sphere of healer doesn’t lose his or her agency as a knight. The agency of the healer opens new options while also retaining the previous options. Additionally, a person who can traverse between two forms of agency has additional choices that aren’t available to a person who holds either one of them:
Each form of agency is associated with a form of power (because without power, there is no agency). The knight has social power, the ability to influence people. The healer has the power of selflessness or sympathy, the ability to look beyond one’s own limited interests to identify and address the needs of others. Combining these, you have a person who can use social influence to help address the needs of others — a champion, or advocate.