Near the end of the film Finding Nemo, just as Nemo has been rescued, Dori and a large school of silver fish are caught by a fishermen’s net. The large net is attached to a crank, which begins to draw the fish out of the water. The fish scramble in different directions in the net. They fight against one another. Nemo, small enough to swim in and out of the net, swims into the net as his frantic father looks on. Nemo starts instructing all of the fish to swim together and swim down! Dori begin singing “just keep swimming.” They resist the force of the net with their own power and eventually the crank starts to shudder and then, break. The fish are freed into the ocean.
This is the time of year when many of us will set an intention or resolution for the year. Studies tell us that many of our resolutions will be a distant memory by March. I’ve made my share of resolutions and can testify to the ephemeral nature of nearly each one. I begin with the sincerest of intentions, but the truth is, it is hard doing it alone. No matter how I try, if my resolution plan includes me working at it solo, I can guarantee it will not happen. I will not eat that cookie. I will not eat that cookie. Well, maybe, just one cookie. Oh, I ate too many cookies!
The truth is, resistance alone is extraordinarily difficult. It is not impossible, but nearly so. Most of the great figures we know in history were not stand-alones even though we have often heard their stories just as solo-heroes. Their resistance came from a large community that supported them. Consider Rosa Parks who famously sat down on that bus on December 1st, 1955. She resisted the injustices of segregation, but she did not do so alone. Parks was not the first to resist, but her action was chosen with care to create a legal case for desegregation. For years prior to December 1st, she organized and worked with the NAACP.
Resistance together is a spiritual force. Resistance alone can be bold and beautiful, but also isolating and deflating. When we resist in community, we participate in building a vision for the world that exceeds our particular desires toward a common hunger and hope. Like the fish swimming to break the net, resistance in community allows us to do things that were impossible alone.
This month we will consider the light and shadow sides of resistance. What does it mean to be a people ready to resist? How do we know when we swim for the common good and when we are just swimming against the current?
With resolution, resistance, and reflection,