I punched him in the face, hitting his nose and moist gums with my right knuckle. I was fed up with his taunting while trying hard to bear my headache due to a slight fever. He was stunned, eyes widened, immediately touching his bleeding gums. I barely remember what followed. Perhaps he walked away, while I entered the classroom and buried my head on the desk and I thought I cried. My classmate and I were roughly 10 years old in our third grade. I was lucky he did not bother to get even. That was the closest thing to an aggressive fight I had in childhood. We did not become enemies (not even friends) later in our growing years, but it was to me a sort of beginning on how I made enemies at school, hit them with my verbal punches and occasionally hit me back too.
In my old school days I was bullied and I bullied back but I never got into a serious fight and I never intended one. It was, though, a bitter taste of having enemies, not a nice way to recall a kind of childhood among peers. Those days were precocious for me being in the war zone against school bullies. I was betrayed a few times. I harmed and hurt someone with my words (which I then used as an effective weaponry). I hated adults whom I thought speak a lot of irrationality and nonsense. Before online trolling and ranting, I had those in mind in endless looping feeds, parroting my wrath towards my absent enemies.
I wrote about my insights on enemy about 5 years ago and I explored it in its universal angle. Now I’m revisiting it as I write this, trying to see how my childhood memories, my insights in the last 5 years, my writing and spiritual practice can be woven together. In those years, I am blessed to have more friends and zero enemies (and when I do make one, I strive to turn them into friends in no time). I have quite learned what an enemy is, like it’s a sort of cliché until I, and any of us, get deeper into it and see beyond what the word and concept brings.
…to eventually learn that the enemy is a gift of seeing in me, is always our biggest challenge, the most rewarding when achieved, in practicing compassion, in embodying Love.
I was once addicted to a role-playing video game called Genji: Dawn of Samurai. There is one crucial stage in the game where the protagonist, a warrior named Yoshitsune has to defeat the most challenging of all his enemies. This enemy is neither those evil samurais nor the main villain. His battle would take place in an almost spiritual realm outside the feudal Japan. He must face that enemy – too elusive to hit by his katana, like a butter knife slicing a mercury spill. If he wins, he would earn a powerful charm to lead him to and later defeat the main villain in the story. His enemy, greater than the rest, was a shadowy reflection of himself. Of course, that’s how the game was designed, but an interesting, insightful design nonetheless. It was rare to find a game, especially the western ones, with a protagonist whose most powerful antagonist is him/herself.
In me. I heard this phrase in my mind one day, sometime last year, like a silent eureka. It’s in me, pointing out what Carl Jung describes as the shadow. And it is in all of us, I suppose. Before someone is an enemy to us, we were at least an enemy to someone (and worst, to ourselves). I was that. In my thoughts I assaulted my enemies (including those I made in my mind), with my unheard curses spewing from my toxic mix of hatred and fear. I had concocted my mental revenge when I was hesitant to do the physical or verbal one. What I only knew of my enemies was their negative actions against me. I failed to see their humanity. That changed when I got to learn countless spiritual paradoxes of life especially about the enemy, later summed into two words: IN ME.
I am grateful for not having an enemy but I’m still disheartened by the state of the world that suffers in many of its sickening forms: present-day wars between nations, political deceptions, business rivalries, soap-operas and reality TVs. Our society, I being a part of it, continues to perpetrate the chaotic culture of enmity. That’s too enormous and I’m too small to change that. What I can only do is to know myself as an enemy. That is Sun Tzu’s old military advice: “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” This shadow, this enemy in me that I am ignorant of is the energy that drives all this madness in the world. Enmity is a spiritual wound, regardless what inflicts it. It’s all the same agony between people or between nations.
I once heard in a video interview of Deepak Chopra when he said “We demonize what we do not know.” Yes, we do this. Yes, I do this and I’m not exempted from that little act that happens in the privacy of our minds. Even though we do not speak vulgar words or physically attack, we have made enemies in the level of our thoughts and imagination. We know it’s powerful, and we assume it’s harmless. But they all explode within us. That’s our key, that’s the door where we enter in knowing our enemy – we and our conscious propensity to label others as enemies. That’s where we start, to know and admit that we demonize them, and to strive to lessen it and eventually to stop it. To begin recognizing that those so-called enemies are human beings like us, and that the true enemy is our ignorance and neglect of them. They are lessons we mirror. To know our enemy through ourselves, to know that we are enemy to someone, and to eventually learn that the enemy is a gift of seeing in me, is always our biggest challenge, the most rewarding when achieved, in practicing compassion, in embodying Love.