Last week the students in my Writing Close to the Earth online class read George Orwell's classic essay, "Politics and the English Language." In it ... Read More
You hear a word, see a color or come across a concept that, for you, is not part of your routine and suddenly you notice you can’t stop noticing it. It is everywhere: on everyone’s lips; on the morning news; now in the story you’ve read ten times before; at the airport on a woman’s handbag.
So many people are wearing orange lately. Has it always been like this? Am I just now starting to notice?
It’s ubiquitous. Perhaps serendipitous. Carl Jung called it synchronicity. Everyday psychology calls it selective attention or perceptual vigilance. It sounds like you should seek professional help when you call it the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.
Resistance has been the theme running through my life for the past few months and I don’t expect it to cease, now that I’m on to it. When Baader-Meinhof strikes, someone is trying to tell you something and you better take note. It showed up first as a word, then as a concept, then a physical fact and now as a growing appreciation for just how beneficial it can be. It’s been fun trying to spot it—á la Where’s Waldo—but in the fun are those Emmausian epiphanies I’m hoping to catch before the moment is over.
“Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
It was writ large in my mind through music first, from Muse’s 2009 album The Resistance, on which the title track declares “love is our resistance” against forces trying to split apart lovers. Hmmm … love is resistance. When limiting or otherwise getting in the way of a force, how often am I resisting in love and with love?
Music often lays down the backing track for my life, but I didn’t expect an encounter with the cleverly goofy band Everybody Was In The French Resistance … Now to keep pressing the concept of resisting upon me. No songs on their only album to-date specifically address resistance as a topic, but their band’s mission is resistance. As they say, they are “correcting the mistakes of pop songs past” by telling the points-of-view of other characters in some of our more well-known pop songs. Sometimes speaking up for a point-of-view is an act of resistance.
A few months ago in the dead of winter, I went into the gym with more dedication than ever before. About that time I was also reading Adam Gopnik’s accounts of raising his young family in New York City. He observed the differences between the Running Fathers who jog around Central Park and the Motionless Mothers who sit to get fit in the city’s yoga studios. While turning the two groups into metaphors for a Life Lesson, he tells of a yoga master’s disdain toward all those who are bouncing, dancing and jogging for their health. “All that matters to the body (and, so the hidden corollary runs, to the soul, as well) is resistance. That is what the body is made to learn from, and all that it is made to learn from.” Gopnik remarked, “The theory is impeccable, or at least persuasive. Muscles learn only from failure, like French schoolchildren, and they can be made to fail only by repeated stress slowly applied.” Hmmm … here I am in the gym a few days a week, choosing to stress my body and make resistance situations for it, and then I go home to relax with a book only to read about exactly what I just did.
By spring, I started wondering if anything in life was NOT a picture of le resistance? Buds bursting open to keep trees alive. Young robins learning to harness and even push back against an invisible, necessary power swirling all around them. Our 10-year old child asserting herself more and more, with seemingly more dramatic crises per day than even Shakespeare would spread across five acts. The muddle at church on a Sunday morning; the spousal missteps; the way writing-as-work leads to revising, editing and back to more writing.
I’ve got to get this all down. It’s too prevalent to ignore anymore and I think it’s doing a good work in me. I’m aware, too, that I resist. As a phenomenon, it isn’t always something that comes to you; you can create it. You can use it for good or use it to block a growth process intended to transform you more into His likeness. In some cases, I am still resisting and that’s not a good thing. One way to resist can be to force disagreements away from you–“clearing the room of argument” as Bono is fond of saying–by both pushing others away and encouraging only the like-minded to stick around. A room emptied of argument arrests the creative energy needed for the lasting works of art, politics and love that will change the world.
It’s because of the power and pervasiveness of it that I am starting The Chronicles of Resistance here for not just me, but for anyone who can contribute an entry. I bet I’m not the only one.
Andrew, The Proprietor, and I met in Xenia, Ohio. I was his driver. He invited me into The Rabbit Room and I’m happy to be here and am encouraged by what’s going on. (Greetings, fellow warren-dwellers.) I’ll write on other things too under different headings, but for these chronicles, I wonder: How is resistance helping or hindering you in your acts of worship, fellowship, art, family and life? And if you haven’t thought about it lately, just keep trying to not think about it.