There’s a scene in one of the Hunger Games films, Catching Fire, where Haymitch give Katniss the following advice before the Quarter Quell begins: “Remember who the real enemy is.”
Here’s how Katniss calls those words to mind according to the book:
Enemy. Enemy. The word is tugging at a recent memory. Pulling it into the present. The look on Haymitch’s face. ‘Katniss, when you’re in the arena…’ The scowl, the misgiving. ‘What?’ I hear my own voice tighten as I bristle at some unspoken accusation. ‘You just remember who the enemy is.’ Haymitch says. ‘That’s all.’
Haymitch’s last words of advice to me. Why would I need reminding? I have always known who the enemy is. Who starves and tortures and kills us in the arena. Who will soon kill everyone I love.
My bow drops as his meaning registers. Yes, I know who the enemy is…I let the arrow fly, see it hit its mark and vanish, pulling the thread of gold behind it” (378).
Haymitch gives her this advice because he wants her to realize that all of her apparent enemies are only small-scale manifestations of a much larger enemy: The Capital. If she could find a way to defeat that more fundamental enemy, her other enemies would become irrelevant.
I think this is also true of the enemies that pose a threat to our personal growth. We seem to have so many: the jobs we hate, the people who treat us like crap, the trolls who harass us, the family members who annoy us, the friends who let us down, Republicans, Democrats, or whoever else falls into the category of “People who aren’t as enlightened, intelligent, rational, and moral as we are.” But all of these enemies are just small-scale manifestations of a more fundamental enemy: Resistance with a capital “R.”
In the War of Art, Steven Pressfield says the following about Resistance:
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever resolved on a diet, a course of yoga, a meditation practice? Have you ever felt a call to embark upon a spiritual practice, dedicate yourself to a humanitarian calling, commit your life to the service of others? Have you ever wanted to be a mother, a doctor, an advocate for the weak and helpless; to run for office, crusade for the planet, campaign for world peace or to preserve the environment? Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.
Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease and erectile dysfunction. To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.
Look in your own heart. Unless I’m crazy, right now a still small voice is piping up, telling you as it has ten thousand times, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you. And unless I’m crazy, you’re no closer to taking action on it than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn’t real? Resistance will bury you.
You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it overstatement but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.
Here’s my question to all of the folks who are worried to death about who’s going to be elected president or who’s going to be working the night shift or who’s going to say the next offensive thing: What would happen to your life, what would happen to the world if you dared to face your own resistance? If instead of complaining about all the foolish and fraudelent people in the world, you asked yourself “What am I going to do about it?”
What if you spent less time bemoaning the existence of crappy realities and more time challenging yourself to get up, get out, and do something practical about the things that anger you and stir your passion? It’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of feeling righteous because you’re taking shots at everything and everyone that seems to be evil. It’s harder to look in the mirror and ask yourself “Am I doing everything in my power to be the change I want to see in the world?”
Remember who the real enemy is: It’s your own resistance. And you can do a lot more about that enemy than you can do about any of the villainous characters you see on the news.