“To be aware of a single shortcoming within oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in someone else.” – Dalai Lama
Yourself. That’s the kicker, the punchline, of this article. The answer if yourself. You are the enemy.
People like enemies. There is a saying, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Watch any human behavior lecture about our tendency and capacity to identify enemies and it won’t be 5 minutes in before you being shown pictures of charismatic political leaders riling up a populace to march across a border or annihilate an ethnic group.
I’m so confident that there’s a book written on the subject that I won’t bother to quote a source when I tell you that for millennia, (which is longer than you or I will be around) humans have been making enemies of each other.
Manchester United Football team rivalries, BAM enemy. Beautiful babe hittin’ on your husband at the soirée BAM enemy. New startup company undercutting your fur hat empire BAM enemy. Your grandma makes you eat Brussels sprouts for dinner and won’t let you sleep with your lego robot BAM enemy.
Money BAM enemy. Diet cheesecake BAM enemy.
Our enemies become more serious:
- Terrorists. Big Pharma. Hedge Fund Managers. Lawyers and Doctors. The Mafia and Police.
Sometimes we give our enemies nicknames:
- Jap, Nazi, Vietcong, Red, Russkie, Fritz, Ivan, Jerry, Kraut, Limey (And don’t go thinking other countries are not without their wartime nicknames for your home country either)
Sometimes things become enemies:
- Not enough sleep, Our electronic devices, Alcohol, Loneliness.
Sometimes it seems half the world has enemies:
- The Left, The Right, Non-believers, Fundamentalists.
What’s more, it can feel so “good” to hate. To clench your fists, to grind your teeth, to write that complaint letter about the spoiled cheese. To boil over in animosity as you plot your unabashed revenge. To vociferate, “They suck”, “Those Idiots”, “Burn in hell you pigs”. And to screech during AP Physics, “Laquisha, you skank! I know you put gum in my locker!”
We can lose ourselves in our vitriol and anger, and we can feel relieved and closer knit to our group associations when we do.
All of this makes me wonder, what if we need our aggression? What if it’s a primal part of being a human being? To need something or someone to fight against.
How preferable it would be to end wars since, they have a way of, shall we say, ending human life. So what takes their place?
Sports perhaps? Would they be enough for some? Even if the outcome wasn’t gladiatorial, it doesn’t satisfy me. (Perhaps because I’m not that into sports, and also I find the people who have their mood upset, swear and curse, all because some group wearing a color different than the other didn’t move a ball around on some court or field enough to be, shall we put it mildly, silly) Besides, it doesn’t have to be athletic competition; It could just be the neighborhood/national spelling bee, or Oscar ceremony. Either way, it still holds that these may not be enough to satisfy our bloodlust. And I’m not advocating the elimination of competition or hierarchies of competence.
As we saw, there’s no shortage of enemies to create. For goodness sake, you could demonize your little brother for drinking all the orange juice at breakfast before you arrived.
So how do we eliminate the declaration of an enemy so that we can have a more peaceful world? So that people will stop feeling so alone, and hated. So children can no longer be afraid of warzone bombings. So trade may flourish, and goodwill abound. How?
Well, I have an answer, and you know what it is. I told you right at the beginning of this post.
You see, we don’t need any of those enemies. You need no cause to spite, or clan to rally against, no other human heart to direct your willpower against.
I have an enemy far more influential, and what’s more, this war that has been waging since the dawn of humanity, so you can join the fight without wait. I’ve found an enemy which is capable of the worst crimes you’ve ever heard of, whose constant influential creep is unrelenting. Each and every battle you win will have a direct impact on all manner of your life: Your wellbeing, your patience, your generosity, your fortitude, and wisdom. The walls you can build against this enemy are never tall enough, the supplies and ammunition never fully stocked. Every ounce of your being can be poured into this fight, and you can fight on and on and on till your very last dying breath.
The enemy is yourself