I’ve been thinking a lot about defiance lately. Actually, because I’m very much a contrarian at heart, I’m always thinking about ways to defy. That’s what contrarians do; they defy conventional wisdom (among other things). (By the way, it seems pretty clear that we need a lot more contrarians in the world.)
I guess you could also say that I’m part of the resistance against Trump and Trumpism. This is another manifestation of my defiant nature. I know that immigrants—I’m married to an immigrant and have been one myself—contribute so much to the places they move to, making those locales more vibrant and interesting. I believe, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation, that we are all members of one family called “the human family.” I believe the rich and powerful have used their wealth and influence to rig the system in their favor and that those in the middle and working classes need to work collectively to wrest control away from the elites in order to achieve real socio-economic justice. I push back against the rise of white nationalism and white supremacy and against any political figure, faction, or party that would give oxygen to such hateful ideologies and movements. As an educator, I know that I play an important role in speaking out and creating awareness among those who may not be paying enough attention to the ugly rise of xenophobia and intolerance. If believing in these things and in taking such actions makes me a troublemaker or resister, then so be it. I proudly proclaim myself to be DEFIANT.
My interest in defiance is also being piqued by my reading of Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage, a work of nonfiction, authored by Jeff Benedict. Though I’m only a little way into the book right now, I know that Benedict tells the story of Susette Kelo’s fight to keep her New London, Connecticut, home even though wealthy property developers used the power of eminent domain to confiscate her place after a years-long struggle in the courts and elsewhere. It seems perfectly clear that we need more Susette Kelos in the world.
Up to this point, I’ve been talking about big acts of resistance. There are, however, smaller ways of pushing back against those things that deserve pushback. (By “smaller” I certainly do not mean “less meaningful.”) In fact, I’d like to argue that napping is a very powerful and life-affirming form of defiance.
Most of us have been raised to believe that inactivity can be seen as an indicator of laziness. We are taught that “idle hands are the devil’s tools” (or some version thereof). Those of us raised in capitalist societies learn early on that success is measured by material gain and that wealth is acquired through ambition and industry and so we judge our value, as humans, on whether or not we are living in such a way that promotes “prosperity.” Many have bought into this idea so thoroughly that they’ve become workaholics or developed other forms of mental illness. Others suffer from something called “Hurry Sickness.” (I encourage everyone to read the article I’ve linked to, especially the sections on the symptoms of this malady and the ways to cure it.)
During the last two weekends, my wife and have taken wonderfully long naps. During these blissful escapes, we actively resisted the urge to be productive. Withdrawing from the world of action and industry was like lifting a yoke from our backs. By the way, most nights I’m a fitful sleeper, and I take my frequent insomnia as a sign of how deeply the world has its talons embedded in my flesh. Often, during restless nights, I find that I’m not willing to (or capable of) letting go of those preoccupations that took root in my mind during the daytime. So it takes a powerful willfulness to escape the pull of consciousness. Napping is a powerful way to assert one’s desire to simply be—to exist.
Not surprisingly, we woke up from these naps feeling deeply rested, even renewed to the point of being reborn. This sense of being rejuvenated was accompanied by a profound sense of well-being—a feeling of being spiritually reconstituted and reoriented.
I look forward to reading your responses to my piece.