In “The Lion King,” after Mufasa, the King, died, his son Simba was forced to run away and hide in the jungle. Eventually he totally adapted to a much different place and to a carefree life (“Hakuna Matata”). In reality, he became a different creature. And there, in that alien place, Mufasa returned in spirit in order to call his son to remember his royal roots; “Simba, remember who you are. You are my son…”
When people find themselves in a difficult place, they often think that their condition is very complex, strange, daunting and hopeless. But that is almost never true. More often, they only need to remember who they are. When they do, they can just walk out of the jungle of their false identity.
However, remembering is more than mental assent. Remembering who we are also requires that we fight the inertia that tries to destroy us.
Consider this old story.
A wild duck once flew very high with his flock on the springtime return to northern Europe. But he grew tired and dropped down into a Danish barnyard. He ate corn with the barnyard ducks and enjoyed their company into the night. Although he intended to stay and rest for a short time, the hours turned into days and weeks. After a while he decided to spend the summer in the barnyard.
Then one autumn day he heard the familiar honk of the wild ducks flying south. That sound awakened his true identity. He was not born for the barnyard; he was created for high altitude. His heart reached for the sky. With rapid and loud flapping of his wings he tried to get airborne, but only rose as high as the fence. The barnyard had civilized him; he was fat, soft and weak. Although he knew who he was, he could not return to the sky. For a few years, he held onto the fiction that he would join them “next year.”
Anyone can fall like a rock from his or her true nature. A crisis, a distraction, or a deception can make anyone forget.
Being true to who you are is natural, but never easy. For a duck to fly, it must keep exerting the muscles that allow it to mount the wind. Settling is deadly. In other words, “who you are” is not the same as “what you have become.”
In his book, The War of Art (Grand Central Publishing, 2002), Steven Pressfield examines what he calls “resistance” – that mysterious force that fights our true nature and calling. It is what pulls wild ducks from high flight into the barnyard. According to Pressfield, “Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole…Resistance is always lying…” (Page 9)
“Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill. Its target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, the unique and priceless gift we were put on earth to give…Resistance means death. When we fight it, we are in a war to the death.” (Page 15)
Our identity is a high altitude reality. But it is dropped into a realm that resists it. For example, it has been estimated that for every book that gets written, more than 6,000 were started and never finished. Something tenaciously fights to disable or destroy the gift.
Perhaps the best way to fight resistance is to seal off the barnyard’s allure of instant gratification – the Internet, TV, food, alcohol, etc. They lie. They promise affirmation and joy, but lead only to death.
Remember who you are. You have been designed for a place far above that lower orbit of bare minimums. And now is the historic moment; the barnyard gate is wide open. Even if you cannot yet fly, you can walk. Sometimes, just walking away is the down payment to flight.