I’m reading a book called The War of Art this month. It’s a book by Steven Pressfield. In it, he illuminates this concept he developed called Resistance, which he portrays as an entity or presence we all have within each of us that seeks to reduce us and limit us.
There is a particular section in his book that has stuck in my mind. It’s titled Resistance and Fundamentalism. He elaborates on a dichotomy he claims between the Artist and the Fundamentalist.
“The artist is grounded in freedom. He is not afraid of it. He is lucky. He was born in the right place. He has a core of self-confidence, of hope for the future. He believes in progress and evolution. His faith is that humankind is advancing however haltingly and imperfectly, toward a better world.
The fundamentalist entertains no such notion. In his view, humanity has fallen from a higher state… Fundamentalism is the philosophy of the powerless, the conquered, the displaced, and the dispossessed…
What is this despair? It is the despair of freedom. The dislocation and emasculation experienced by the individual cut free from the familiar and comforting structures of the tribe and the clan, the village and the family.”
He goes on to talk about how the Artist and the Fundamentalist differ. While both kinds of individuals experience Resistance, they react to them differently.
The Artist looks ahead of him to uncharted waters, to the future, and expects change to occur. The Artist believes that humanity will always prevail and grow. We must flourish and be ready to adapt at all times.
The Fundamentalist looks to the past, to methods already used, regardless of their possible antiquation. The Fundamentalist seeks to return to a “better time” where the rosy memories of nostalgic imagined bliss exist. To this person, we must purify ourselves, for we have regressed and if we don’t, the future will be bleak, if not dystopian.
I Am the Artist
I often think people do get stuck in the fundamentalist mindset, as he describes it to be. I see this in politics frequently. It’s evident in certain activisms. “We must return to the way we did this specific thing because the way we do it now is inferior” they implore. But I do not see the world like them. By the standards of Pressfield, I am an artist more often than not.
I believe that the world is indeed in a constantly improving state. Life is getting better and we live in an age of abundance. I welcome the change of the future. I’m not afraid of how things will not stay the same. It’s the people who act towards the future who create it, mold it, and shape it more in their favor and benefit. Perhaps those fundamentalists are looking for change in the wrong places. Perhaps they need to look to themselves instead on relying on others too much.
Living free is not easy, but it does incentivize growth. If we are to live completely free, then we must master ourselves first in order to master our world. Those who wish to retreat and go back are not going to promote progress. They will stagnate it by default. They cannot live freely, the strength required is too much a burden for them. Pressfield ends the section poignantly with “those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.”
All of this isn’t to say that we can’t learn from the past or history isn’t important. That would be inaccurate and detrimental to think. We can keep those things in mind while also realizing that progress is constantly being made. We shouldn’t assume things are somehow getting worse just because we watch too much news or choose to focus on the bad things in life.
Know that things are getting better. Be optimistic, try to create and produce, be creative, and don’t stop. One day, our future will be someone else’s history and they will construct more progress. Whether we choose to act and create until then is up to us.
Are you going to contribute to the future?