A Rendezvous with Resistance
We recently visited my brother-in-law and his family for Christmas. They’d just moved into a new house, in a new state, for a new job, with a new kid, yet despite all the chaos, they graciously welcomed many guests into their home for the holidays.
I snuck in with those guests when no one was looking.
Their new house is, overall, a fantastic venue, but my wife and I were most impressed by the induction cooktop stove. Don’t get me wrong: there’s something wonderfully primal about cooking over an open flame. But after using my in-laws’ top-o’-the-line range a couple times, I must admit that induction stoves have advantages. The stove was efficient and relatively safe, and with its completely smooth cooking surface, clean-up was a piece of cake.
Induction stoves work by moving electrical currents through pots, pans, and skillets. The iron or steel in the cookware resists the electricity and, as a result, the cookware gets hotter.
Of course, electricity isn’t the only traveler that encounters resistance as it moves through stuff. We meet opposition too, as we journey through life. We frequently find ourselves in difficult situations, and existence itself is very toilsome.
In the summer of 2008, I’d just graduated from university, and one evening while journaling I wrote with excitement that I was about to move forward into what would be the Spring of my life. I felt that the world was my oyster, and that anything was possible.
Including, it turned out, colonoscopies!
In September of that year I developed some troubling symptoms, and I soon learned that I have Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). IBD flare-ups are very demoralizing. By December, I’d lost twenty pounds, but my mental map of the neighborhood had gained a layer: the coordinates and key attributes of every public restroom.
As my family and I learned about the disease and researched potential treatments, we discovered that many people have experienced relief by adhering to a particular food regimen. I decided to follow it too. The regimen helps, but it is hard. It requires fanatical, never-ending avoidance of entire categories of food. No added sugar, no starches, no soy, no lactose, and no grains. Pour one out for my beer-drinking days.
Here I am, trying my darnedest to build what seems like it would be a full human life with family and friends and brewskis, but my broken body is a barrier. My body resists me. I resist myself.
You surely meet difficulties too as you go about the business of living.
Sometimes, as in my experience with IBD, you resist yourself.
You contract illnesses, and you’re vulnerable to disease
You lack abilities that others possess
You have an increasingly bald head and increasingly hairy ears
You and your faculties grow weaker with disuse
You have difficult-to-meet needs and wants
You have cognitive biases that keep you from making rational decisions
You have personality flaws
You can't control yourself or your thoughts
You’re a knucklehead
Sometimes, other people resist you.
They hurt you
They wrong you
They get in your way
They may kill you
They hold you to account
They cost you
They contend with you
They take from you; thieves break in and steal
They make no room for you on the sidewalk
Sometimes, the world resists you.
It moves toward disorder
It may kill you if the people don’t get to you first
It works against you
It traps you
It punishes you for your bad decisions
It is not remotely fair
It takes from you; moth and rust destroy
It lies to you, selling you what profits you not
We humans have many names for the resistance we meet in life: ‘hardship', 'struggle', ‘adversity’, ‘Chicago Bears fandom’, ’oppression’, and so on. Going forward, I’ll use all of these terms interchangeably, but I’ll default to using the word ‘struggle’.
Whatever you call it, I'm sure you’ll agree with me that it is unpleasant, sometimes downright terrible.
What is it about our struggles, even our prospective struggles, that makes them so upsetting (aside from the unfortunate fact that, contrary to what happens to pots and pans atop those slick induction stoves, our struggles are unlikely to make any of us any hotter)?
In this post we’ve simply acknowledged what’s already very familiar, given it a name. We’ve noted that struggle is universal, and we’ve seen a handful of the many forms struggle appears to take.
Struggleism is no pity party, though. As we continue to plumb the depths of our struggles’ nastiness, we’ll begin to see cracks in the notion that nastiness is all there is to struggle.
: Old-school lightbulbs make use of electrical resistance too. Electricity passes into the bulb and through a filament, and the filament resists the electricity, getting so hot it glows. Electrical resistance is not completely unlike what happens when you rub your hands together to warm them. The palm and fingers of one hand oppose the palm and fingers of the other hand, and both hands heat up.
: The surest way to project sophistication is to drop the article from the word ‘university’ (and say things like “I went away to university” or “I was at university”) and to add the definite article to the word ‘congress’. For example, I might say, “When, oh when will the congress impeach and remove this fool?”
: The astute reader will have noticed I'd forgotten that, in order to get from summer to spring, one must first weather fall and winter.
: Public water closet deserts are a menace.
: The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD).
: Whatever you’re pouring out is likely made from grain or has added sugar, so it’s cool, I wouldn’t have been able to drink it anyway.
: And, by the way, you resist other people.
: And, to be fair, you contribute to the way the world resists other people.