Resistance is Futile

Lately, I have been reading the book, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. This a phenomenal book for anyone involved in the creative arts. I would actually recommend it to anyone still breathing, as it can applied to any aspect of life.

            The main premise of the book is that we were created to create, and something in this world, Pressfield calls it resistance, doesn’t want us to do so. “Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill. Its target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, the unique, priceless gift that we were put on this earth to give and that no one but us has. Resistance means business. When we fight resistance, it is a war to the death.”

            One thing that I like about the book is that Pressfield speaks a vital truth, without jamming any one particular brand of religion down his reader’s throats. I also like that this book points the finger at resistance (or satan, if you will), and basically declares, “no more”. This book made me realize that resistance isn’t just keeping me from writing a book; it’s keeping me from living. And ultimately, not living will kill you, biology teaches us that that which stagnates, dies.

            Resistance is everywhere; it seeks to destroy beauty and creativity. We face resistance in everything from getting up in the morning, to going to work, to our relationships. Resistance is what kept me for writing for so long. In my case resistance came as the excuse that everyone and their mom wants to get published, and who am I to think that I am good enough to get published. But the dream remained. Resistance can only deter you; it cannot kill the spark that makes you who you are, although it will try.

            Pressfield also says: “The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew everyday”.

            I forget this point a lot, especially when I’m in china. It is so easy to think “okay I defeated resistance yesterday and now we’re all good”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. I have to center myself every morning, put on the armor, and be ready for today’s fight, or else I will get blindsided by something as simple as the lack of courtesy people tend to exhibit on a daily basis here in China (I am from Nebraska, we are raised to say “please”,” thank-you”, and “excuse me”, and to wait our turn). I tend to let little things ruin my day, and until recently I could never figure out why. Resistance. Resistance will try to get you to focus on the small and take your eyes off the larger plan at play.  

            The conclusion that I have come to in all this Is that we have two choices we can make the effort and daily go to war against resistance or we can lay down and die. I believe it was Aristotle who said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war”. This statement is true in our physical lives, but it is profoundly more so in our spiritual lives. If you don’t feel some sort of resistance on a daily basis, and this resistance doesn’t have to be big (like waking up and wanting a divorce, or wanting to commit acts of terror), it can be small and subtle (like not wanting to get out of bed, or being in a bad mood, or wanting to skip your workout), you are already dead inside.

            What it looks likes to fight this battle differs from person to person, for me it has taken a lot of active prayer and the decision to do those things that I don’t want to do. And I think that is the key to winning this fight, not making any deals with our enemy when it comes to the little things.

            In the end it comes down to whether we are more determined to live than our enemy is determined to destroy us. We have to make the most of this time; we have to create in spite of the resistance.

The Wall

I don’t know if you are familiar with what writers block feels like, but more than likely you have felt this similar frustration before. I feel like I hit a wall at high speed. I can’t produce, today nothing seems to flow. I know that life is all about ebb and flow, but I write so sporadically that when I have time to do it, it really sucks when I can’t make things work.

            I feel like this brick wall feeling pops up in other areas of my life, and not just in the writing side. I wrote about resistance a few weeks ago and how it seeks to keep us from creating, I believe that writer’s block is a form of resistance. Bearing in mind that it is resistance, I have learned to try to push through. That is why I am writing now, I can’t give in to resistance.

            A few years ago, when I was living in Changsha, I hit a period where I was experiencing life block. Life block is the real world equivalent of writers block, it is that feeling of being stuck, of going through the motions. I was hanging out with my friend, Lan, a lot, and all we would do when were together, was gripe about our students. When I was at home, all I did was watch movies. In short, I wasn’t producing, I wasn’t moving forward.

            What snapped me out of my life block, was reading the book “Eat, Pray, Love” (make whatever jokes you want, it is a good book), and what makes a successful travel narrative (at that time I was beginning work on “Ni Hao Mr. Buffalo”), and  what I realized, was that people don’t want to read books about people who survive, they want to read about people who thrive. At that point in my time in Hunan, I gone from thriving to surviving, I was ticking the days until I got to home off the calendar, like a grunt awaiting the end of a tour of duty. I wasn’t living like I was living my dream.

            I changed everything in that moment, and I dragged Lan along with me. I started forcing myself to go downtown and try restaurants after work instead of going home and microwaving somethings. I got my first tattoo, and then for kicks I got another one, I Began saying yes to everything, and soon I noticed my life block was gone. I was thriving.

            And so it is with writer’s block, I threw myself into this post and now I am feeling creative again. Sometime the only things it takes to get past a wall is one good, hard push.

Holy Crap

That’s right children; it’s time for old uncle buffalo to rant about his biggest beef with the church today, Christian culture. Well I don’t know if it is a beef with the whole of Christian culture, so much as it is a beef with a huge aspect of it, namely the Christian music, entertainment, and publishing industries.

            I have two problems with these industries (three, if you count the fact that they are considered money-making industries). The first is they are mediocre at best. As I writer, when I hear that someone is published by a Christian publisher, but they are writing fiction instead of something of spiritual value, my response is that you must be a terrible writer. The reason is that if you write fiction, you have tons of people who should be willing and able to publish you. If you write books about Christian spiritually, inspiration, or bible study, you only have a finite number of publishers interested in your work, and I have no problem with these writers, their books are needed. It is the two-bit hack who can’t construct a proper sentence and has no sense of plot, but is published simply because their book has Christian themes, that I have a problem with.

            The written word, the song, the painting is art, it cannot be tainted by religion. What I mean, is that art has to stand alone apart from proscribed meaning. If a piece is good it speaks to the soul. However, what we do in the realm of the Christian arts, is we take the emotion and the feeling and we throw it on any old thing that happens to have a picture of Jesus on it, regardless of whether it is good or not. We say this agrees with my religion so it is good, it doesn’t challenge me and it fits my beliefs so it must be good.

            I grew up in an overly strict Christian household; as a result I listened to a lot of Christian music and read a lot of Christian fiction. And as a result of that, I learned to hate both. Both are born out of an insular attitude of us versus them. It is born of a smug guarantee of grace, that somehow makes cleaner than those around us. We had to create our forms of “art” to keep that cleanness. Unfortunately, our cleanliness doesn’t have a quality standard nor even a standard of what Christian means. In christian music, when I was coming up, there were at two bands, signed to Christian labels, that openly declared themselves to not be Christian. They signed because they weren’t good enough to get a real contract and because real Christians weren’t producing anything that people actually wanted to listen to ( at that time the biggest names in Christian music were Carmen and The Gaithers).

            When I got to college, I started branching out. I listened to anything that sounded good. I remember the first time I heard Jimmy Hendrix, I know then that my youth pastor had been wrong about music. Hendrix was so gifted, that even though he wasn’t singing about God, you felt something in you soul that was almost spiritual. It was then that I decided that I would listen music based only on whether I liked or not and not whether the person who made claimed to follow the same God.

            Now to be fair there is a lot of terrible music out there, and I am not advocating just listening to anything, it for each person to decide how far they should go. Also there is a lot of mass-produced secular crap out there (miley Cyrus, Bieber, one direction, but I will make war on those guys later). What I am completely against here, is the mindless consumption of crap based on a set of theological ideas.

            I get tired of people reading my stuff and pigeon holing me or saying Jon how can you swear in your writing or why did you say that, you’re a Christian writer. I want to set the record straight, I am a Christian who writes, not a Christian writer, what you read from me will never be squeezed through viewpoint of the religious right. It will never be watered down so church ladies can read it. In short what I write is a direct expression of who I am, as art should be.