Be Attentive to the Opponents You Set Out to Defeat

I dreamed a strange dream last night. What’s even stranger, perhaps, is that I woke up in the middle of the night and the first thing that came to mind was a possible interpretation.

In attempt to extract the meaning, I’ll share it here.

I was sitting in a lawn chair in a backyard surrounded by family and friends at a celebration of sorts. In one hand I held a glass of wine and in the other a garden hoe – prepared to ward off snakes that had been spotted.

The first snakes I encountered were small. Easy to exterminate with one hand and a swift swing of the rake. But with each snake I addressed, the subsequent snakes grew larger and faster. Eventually, a rather large and swift snake appeared. As I swung at it one-handed, it lunged at me forcing retreat. I realized I stood no chance against my foe while defending myself one-handed.

There are a couple layers of meaning I’d like to address.

First, let’s talk about snakes β€“ the opponents of your friends and family, threats to your way of life, enemies which would devour you, challenges which may poison us if left unaddressed.

I’m choosing the word opponent here, because it’s the word that woke me up last night. I don’t mean competitor as people we’re attempting to beat at some contest. The word opponent stood out to me vividly in my half-sleep state as ‘the problems which we choose to wage war against.’

Those challenges could be anything – from small personal development challenges to large cultural issues. Anything from attempting to get better with money or relationships to attempting to resist totalitarianism.

Threats that start small may grow in size if not entirely eliminated, or left unaddressed. This is my takeaway about the increasing size and speed of snakes.

If you don’t address issues, they grow into more formidable opponents.

Ok, so here’s the big one – the issue of fighting one-handed.

I’ve been thinking a lot about symbology lately. Earlier this year, I finished Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules of Living and Beyond Order. Now I’m reading Maps of Meaning. So I’ve spent a fair amount of time recently thinking about the “snakes” (primordial threats) that lurk around the corners, and extracting meaning from our every day stories. Not to mention thinking generally about “rules for living”.

The issue of fighting one-handed is something I’ve been dwelling on lately. Not in those specific terms. But it’s come up in attempts to improve my own life, and in conversations with others who are trying to make progress along a certain dimension.

A common theme I’ve encountered is how ineffective “we” (humans, generally speaking), tend to be at making progress in our own lives when we don’t take the problems we’re attempting to solve seriously enough.

Your opponent becomes more dangerous when you don’t respect it.

Take any big or small issue in your life. When you shirk things off altogether, or only make half-assed attempts to set the world in order, resolution evades you.

The only effective way to meet your opponents on the battle field is with your full attention and full proclivities in tact.

If you want to protect your garden, don’t fight snakes one-handed.