I’m reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art right now.
Well, actually, right now, I’m writing this blog post.
In his book, Pressfield talks about Resistance, Creativity’s diabolical foe.
Resistance, says he, is that nefarious voice in our heads that tells us to put off today what we can do tomorrow ‘cause, like, there’s good TV on and stuff.
There’s a whole bunch of really useful stuff in the book about how to engage oneself in the creative process, but the following paragraph stopped me:
“Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I read ‘self-help’ books, there’s a running dialogue in my head that goes something like, “Is that really true? Who says so? Why should I believe you?”
My mind is actually a rather disagreeable place to be when this line of interrogation ensues but, after a childhood of swilling religious ideals as if they were a life-imparting elixir, I’ve trained myself meticulously in the art of skepticism.
I have a hard time believing what you say, just because you said it.
So I overthink things.
Which is what I did with that paragraph.
I asked myself, “Why? Why would Resistance be stronger when we’re pursuing our soul’s purpose than, say, when we’re just cleaning up the dinner dishes?”
Why, if we have a purpose to fulfill in the material world, would our inner selves be adamantly opposed to fulfilling it?
Why wouldn’t we WANT to get busy doing the thing we’re really meant to do?
I’m going to tell you how my brain answered that question, but first I’m going to interrupt my train of thought with a new one.
It’s interesting to note that everything – absolutely everything – that can be described in the world can be described in relation to its contrast with something else.
You’ve got good and evil.
Happy and sad.
Light and dark, comfort and pain, yin and yang, Democrat and Republican, Mac and PC.
You get my point.
In this case, Pressfield’s Resistance is the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
It is the 'evil force' that hinders our progress towards enlightenment.
It’s the Satan that spends our whole lives trying to trick us into attending his kegger in hell rather than spending blissful eternity with a harp clutched between our wing-adorned arms.
The fact that nothing 'good' exists without its 'bad' counterpart is why the mythologies around which religions are built are so compelling.
It’s why people believe them without question. They are so close to truth that, if you’re not a highly-trained skeptic like me, you can fall prey to them quite easily.
They feel right because they’re born of the truth, that pure essence out of which everything else emerges.
The trouble is, we fallible humans get our greasy mitts on the truth, mix it with a generous portion of fear, a handful of guilt, and a heaping tablespoon of ignorance, and turn it into a twice-baked holy casserole of prejudice and mass destruction of our enemies.
But back to the question, and its subsequent answer. In fact, back to the very Meaning of Life itself, ‘cause I’m pretty sure I just discovered it (sorry, Monty Python).
You see, whenever we’re moving toward the thing that we’re really meant to do, the voice of our ego - the part of us that is concerned with self-preservation - says, “If you fulfill your life’s purpose, then, um. . .what are you still doing here?”
Fulfilling your life’s purpose, to your ego, is akin to coaxing death to your doorstep!
Sitting around doing nothing, on the other hand, is a great insurance policy against becoming obsolete.
Well, so, obviously you’re going to die anyway. I mean, that's not morbid, it's just fact.
And failing to spend your time achieving anything meaningful in life won’t keep the Grim Reaper from ringing that doorbell forever.
All it’ll do is ensure that, when you finally do kick, at the moment you realize your time is up, you say, “Crap! I’m not finished yet!”
Now that you know why you listen to that voice of Resistance, shut it up.
Put a chloroform-soaked rag over its blathering maw.
Shake off that hangover you’ve been nursing from the devil’s underworldly frat party, get on with the work you were meant to do, and find your very own heaven on earth.