The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Book Review
The author tells us that we are not truly happy unless we are doing what we are meant to do.
And what stops us is Resistance with a capital “R.”
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”
Resistance is invisible. It comes from within us. It is insidious. It is Universal. It never sleeps. It plays for keeps. It is fueled by fear.
Procrastination is the Most Common Manifestation of Resistance.
The answer to procrastination is to start now, in this moment, to do our work.
Resistance shows up in trouble. It is easy for us to get into trouble….of all sorts. Trouble can show up as illness, addictions, being accident prone, screwing up, chronic lateness, cruelty to others. In fact, anything that calls attention to ourselves is a form of Resistance showing up in the guise of trouble.
Being a “Drama Queen” or being a victim are also Resistance showing up.
Resistance Feels Like Unhappiness.
Left unattended, unhappiness can build to become unendurable. We seek escape through dope, alcohol, tobacco, sex, drugs and rock and roll. Depression, aggression, dysfunction. These are not inevitable parts of life. They are Resistance manifesting in many different disguises.
Pressfield says that freedom is not easy. He points to what Socrates said: “…the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.”
Fear is a Good Thing
Pressfield also says that fear is a good thing. “The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
Wanting to be a star is a sure sign of Resistance. “The professional concentrates on the work and allows rewards to come or not come, whatever they like.”
Combat Resistance by Turning Pro.
A professional works. A professional commits. Full-time. A professional dedicates his life to his work.
Being a professional is not for sissies. Pressfield says a critical part of being pro is learning how to love being miserable. (!)
A pro works at his craft…every day…even and especially when he doesn’t feel like it. A pro is a craftsman, not a prima donna.
A pro loves what he does, but also knows how to keep a sense of distance or proportion. Not being addicted to an outcome, but committed to work, to mastering technique.
A pro does not take failure personally. He knows things change…every day. He endures.
Beyond Resistance: The Higher Realm.
The opposite of Resistance is “…those invisible psychic forces that support and sustain us in our journey toward ourselves.”
Pressfield calls these forces our muses and angels.
Goethe said: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.”
Our angels want to help us. But they can only do so if we are helping ourselves by doing our work.
Pressfield talks about how cancers go into remission when people start on what they were meant to do. “Is it possible…that the disease itself evolved as a consequence of actions taken (or not taken) in our lives? Could our unlived lives have exacted their vengeance upon us in the form of cancer? And if they did, can we cure ourselves, now, by living these lives out?”
So, could it be that life keeps pushing us into living the life we were meant to live, not just for the sake of our own fulfillment and health, but also for the greater good, for the contribution we can make?
Pressfield: “Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.”
The War of Art is a short work. In can be a quick read. It is not necessarily a comfortable read as it throws light in areas we may have preferred to keep dark. It is a powerful work. Recommended.
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