I love this startling chapter “The Unlived Life,” from Steven Pressfield’s great book, “The War of Art.”
The rest of this post is a quote from this prescient chapter:
“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? 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.
One night I was layin’ down,
I heard Papa talkin’ to Mama.
I heard Papa say, to let that boy boogie-woogie.
‘Cause it’s in him
and it’s got to come out.
—John Lee Hooker, ‘Boogie Chillen.”
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. If you believe in God (and I do) you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius.
Every sun casts a shadow, and genius’s shadow is resistance. As powerful as is our soul’s call to realization, so potent are the forces of resistance arrayed against it. We are not alone if we are mowed down by Resistance. Millions of good men and women have bitten the dust before us.
Have you heard this story? Woman learns she has cancer, six months to live. Within days she quits her job, resumes the dream of studying classical Greek she gave up to raise a family. Women’s friends think she’s crazy; she herself has never been happier. There’s a postscript. Woman’s cancer goes into remission.
Is that what it takes? Do we have to stare death in the face to make us stand up and confront Resistance? Does Resistance have to cripple and disfigure our lives before we wake up to its existence?
How many of us have become drunks and drug addicts, developed tumours and neuroses, succumbed to painkillers, gossip and compulsive cell-phone use simply because we don’t do that thing that our hearts, our inner genius, is calling us to? Resistance defeats us.
If tomorrow morning, by some stroke of magic, every dazed and benighted soul woke up with the power to take the first step toward pursuing his or her dreams, every shrink in the directory would be out of business. Prisons would stand empty. The alcohol and tobacco industries would collapse, along with the junk food, cosmetic surgery, and infotainment businesses, not to mention pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and the medical profession from top to bottom. Domestic violence would become extinct, as would addiction, obesity, migraines and road rage.
Look into your 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 are you 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.”