You are defined by your enemies

In a recent post, Scott Adams, the author of the Dilbert comic strip wrote this little gem:

Our brains did not evolve to give us truth. Our brains simply evolved to give us little movies that we treat as truth.

Now here is a passage from the Bhagavad Gita:

One believes he is the slayer, another believes he is the slain. Both are ignorant; there is neither slayer nor slain. You were never born; you will never die. You have never changed; you can never change. Unborn, eternal, immutable, immemorial, you do not die when the body dies. Realizing that which is indestructible, eternal, unborn, and unchanging, how can you slay or cause another to slay?

Both Scott Adams, a 21st century cartoonist, and the author of an ancient Hindu spiritual text, have come across an important point. What we think of an independent self, a self that goes through life thinking it makes decisions and has opinions on things and experiences emotions, is a myth.

Scott Adams describes it as the movie in your head in which you are the central character. You are the protagonist and you give narrative form to the things that happen to you in your life. You’re not even that original in writing the script. You borrow from bits and pieces of other scripts. For a while you are the character of the college student. Then you are the jaded office worker. Later you are a loving husband and father, or a bitter lonely person.

The movie itself is not the problem. The problem is when you don’t realize it’s a movie. In an actual movie, this is a good thing. It means the movie has captured you, and you feel what the characters feel.

In the movie in your head, you can become seriously depressed or angry or bitter because your character, aka, you, is not succeeding. He/you keeps screwing up or keeps getting foiled by the antagonist. He/you can’t seem to get to that happy ending.

But if you realize your life is a movie, you can learn to enjoy it. You know that a movie becomes boring if there is not plot, and a plot requires that things happen to the protagonist. They can be both and good and bad. There will be other characters that help make the protagonist who he is. Some of these other characters will be friends of the protagonist But even more important are the enemies, the ones that allow the protagonist to experience suffering, and to later demonstrate courage and heroism.

Without good enemies, the hero is nothing.

In your own life, if you can learn to become detached (but not disengaged), you can learn to appreciate your own enemies, whether they are people or circumstances or just bad luck. They shape who you are. You can’t be the rogue entrepreneur without a stodgy bureaucrat throwing paperwork at you. You can’t be the practical, reasonable friend without the short-sighted and impulsive companion.

Learn to love the enemies in your own movie. You wouldn’t be anything without them.

Image via wisdomiswithin