So the other day I was woken up at 5am by a bunch of neighbors who wanted to kill each other. As they had been drinking all night long, this came not really to my surprise. It’s always the same game: Sooner or later, someone has a shot of rum too much and starts freaking out. It’s probably one of Murphy’s Laws, if only the group is large enough and there’s enough alcohol available. So a few dozen people staggered around, gathering next to the main adversaries, screaming at each other, hitting members of the opposing group with what they had at their fingertips: Bottles, fists, motorcycle helmets. Minutes later, even the police arrived and took a smoke to observe the developing story.
The result? Some lightly injured guys on both sides, a bunch of crying women, and an unfortunately large group of disturbed children. A puzzled group of neighbors, including your friendly anarchist next door. Also, a broken fridge, some bottles of spilled rum, and a big fat drama making everybody feel quite uncomfortable.
During the following days, the quarrel became a main topic of discussion among the barrio. Everybody had some new rumors about what really happened, everybody was “shocked”, everybody was wondering if this city would ever become as peaceful again as it once was. People were worried about leaving their doors open and their dogs on the streets, just in case one of the rivals would hire a hitman.
What do we learn from this? First of all, in this case, there was a reason for concern. Many people, but especially Colombian males, can get really pissed off if they feel their diginity was violated. Overreactions are a daily occurance. The good thing that morning was that nobody had a gun. It’s much harder to kill somebody with a knife or a broken bottle, and even the dullest drunk feels a little awkward once he notices that he is about to kill his brother-in-law, and his whole family plus a few dozen neighbors are watching him.
Secondly, humans love drama. We love drama so much that we will not be satisfied until blood is flowing, the family is shattered, and the situation becomes really complicated. But what’s more, if things aren’t bad enough for themselves already, we’ll make something up. We’ll enjoy the grapevine and the rumors, and participate actively in them, just to keep the ball running. Why? Who knows. There’s certainly some evolutionary explanation for it. But what seems to be sure is that at least half of the drama we create has it’s deeper roots in resistance. What I was reminded of, when seeing not only this incident, but the long tail of buzz that followed, was a passage of The War of Art by Steven Pressfield: “The working artist will not tolerate trouble in her life because she knows trouble prevents her from doing her work.”
It was one of (many) statements in the book that really opened my mind. What Pressfield says, in other words, is this: The working artist does not care about the drama that’s created around her as long as it’s nothing more than drama. She will leave the grapevine alone, turn around, and do her work. Because the working artist knows that these kinds of occurances happen on a daily basis, even in our closest surroundings. Today it’s our neighbor that claims he wants to kill his brother-in-law – and the whole neighborhood is raving about it. Tomorrow it’s our cousin who just lost a year at school. The day after that it’s our mother breaking our favorite coffee cup, or our spouse getting a bad haircut from that bitch that always attended her badly at the coiffeur. And if we really don’t manage to find enough drama in our own life, we will happily jump on the bandwagon of telenovelas, reality shows, or sporting events.
Coincidentally, Germany today lost a football world cup game against Serbia. Millions of fellow countrymen were devastated and could hardly motivate themselves to switch off the TV afterwards. As for me, it didn’t hold me back from writing this post even for a second. And it’s not as if I were an especially focused worker. But: The relevance of these things is practially zero. If we start to take them too seriously, we are just giving into resistance, allowing it to take power. Instead of having any practical use, exaggerated drama in our personal life only sucks our energy and prevents us from doing our thing.
Yesterday, the adversaries from the fight that morning were sitting together in the corner-shop, having a few beers, laughing. Trouble, it seems, had vanished. Instead of killing each other, they had just decided to leave drama aside and behave like adults again. I suppose they also stopped drinking early enough yesterday. The next time drama is going to take over your life, be prepared to take control. Be the director. Stopping the drama in its first act and moving on with your life is overcoming resistance and getting your stuff done.
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