Camp News & Blog

How to Find Your Arch-Enemy

We enjoyed a great Autumn at Camp Weequahic this year. Over 150 returning camp families showed up to enjoy a ‘socially distanced’ day at camp with a lot of friends. We also had a blast showing Weequahic off to many potential campers and parents as well. It was even instructive for me as I learned how to find your arch-enemy.

On of those tours had 9-year-old boy who shared my love of comics. At one point in our conversation he asked me, ‘Cole, who is your arch-enemy?’

My first thought was ‘wow, I’ve never been asked that.’

After I thought through a couple of possibilities – my younger brother, the director at Camp Westmont, and a few others I settled on one that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is my arch-enemy. (And, no, it’s not Ross – I love that guy!)

What is an ‘Arch-Enemy?’

Fiction is really good at setting up heroes with an arch-enemy. Sherlock often foiled Moriarty. Darth Vader plagued Luke Skywalker. Harry Potter battled Lord Voldemort over and over.

It even happens in real life: Aaron Burr hounded and then killed Alexander Hamilton. Every NFL fan (save those living in and around Boston) despises Coach Belichick. SEC fans feel the same about his college-image in Nick Saban.

Heroes and arch-enemies are linked. In most cases, one fights for good while the other for evil. Always at cross purposes, they rage away at one another, even when they do not ‘share the stage’ so to speak.

However, when you look closely, all of these pairs share a number of similarities. Sherlock and Moriarty were the cleverest men of their age. Luke and Vader, both disciples of and empowered by the force, are actually – gasp – son and father.) Harry and Voldermort are powerful magicians, linked by a ‘soul-bond’ of magical origination. The coaches love the game of football as much if not more than the fans of opposing teams.

An arch-enemy is defined as ‘a person who is extremely hostile or opposed to someone or something.’ This certainly describes the pairs listed above. But, it also describes an even more important and powerful arch-enemy for each hero.

Your Most Powerful Arch-Enemy is…

So, I left you hanging in the intro, didn’t I? How do you find your arch-enemy? After I thought about it for about two seconds, I answered:

Myself.

I hear you saying ‘No way, Cole! It’s got to be someone else.’ It’s not, though. All I have to do is look in the mirror.

Of course, this is not always true. However, I can’t count the times in my life when I’ve told myself ‘you can’t’ or ‘you shouldn’t’ or ‘they’ll laugh’ or ‘no, seriously, that fifth and sixth cookie will make you feel better.’

Does that ring true for you, too?

There are two scenes in Star Wars that illustrate this point perfectly. During their ‘becoming’, both Luke and Rey battle a foe in a secret place. Vader charges out of the darkness, light saber ready to attack Luke. An unknown assailant approaches Rey with a lightsaber bo staff. Luke wins a short battle but, in looking at his fallen foe, the face underneath Vader’s mask is Luke’s own. Rey realizes she’s fighting herself as well.

How About You?

Campers, odds are your arch-enemy is yourself. AND THAT’S OK! It’s actually more important to realize that fact than just about anything else. When you become aware of the situation, you can step back, observe what you are ‘hearing’ in your head and decide whether or not to follow the message.

Whether it is battling the fear of doing the right thing, putting in the extra effort when no one is looking, or overcoming some self-set limits, you’ll have to battle yourself a good bit. This won’t change through your years. The sooner you realize it, the sooner you can become aware of the fight and make your ‘enemy’ smaller and weaker over time.

Just make sure to treat your enemy – yourself – kindly. Believe it or not, ‘they’ are just trying to do what they think is right. You, though, get to decide whether or not to listen.

Your choice!

Heroes Choose

If you’ve read a great story, watched a good movie or seen just about any cartoon worth watching, you’ve seen the hero have a dip. Simba ran away from his responsibility. Rey pulled in on herself. Katniss got really, really angry.

This dip doesn’t just happen in stories. When you read the works and letters of Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and many more, you find doubt and fear and despair at times.

You can go back as far as you want in the stories of our past: Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Moses, and more all showed a negative attitude more than once.

How did they get through these dips? Did they just grin and bear it, believe it was really happening? No. They dealt with it and moved on. And, they normally had some help.

Choose Your Attitude

Heroes have a hard path in front of them. It’s full of challenges, bumps, bruises, and more. While some are reluctant at first, heroes ultimately lean into the challenge ahead in order to accomplish their mission, their purpose.

In order to take the first steps, they first choose how they’ll react to these challenges. Will they quake and run? Maybe. But, ultimately, the make a stand and put all they have learned into action. They know difficult moments are coming their way and decide to take them on anyway.

You can’t do so without choosing your attitude, choosing how you are going to respond. Does this guarantee success? Heck no. But that is not the point. It makes me think of something Dr. Viktor Frankl said:

Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.

Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say! – success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.

Sometimes, though, it’s hard to keep your ‘head up’ when battling against constant opposition. In those moments, you need a friend… and a good one at that.  

Choose Your Friends

St. Francis of Assisi has been quoted saying:

All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.

This is certainly true. And sometimes… sometimes that flame gutters and flickers. Sometimes that flame needs a little care and support. Two flames can back one another so that when one falters, the other is ready to keep the light shining. All of the heroes from antiquity to the present had someone to support them.

When young Clark Kent was first learning about his powers, he was overwhelmed. All of the sounds and sights of his classroom were bearing down on his super vision and hearing, scaring him badly. His mother arrived and told him to listen only to her voice, to think of her as an island and to swim towards it. Superman was on his way to becoming super.

When Bruce Wayne thought he’d failed completely, Arthur, his trusted mentor and caregiver asked, ‘Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” Batman got up and saved the day.

Campers, you get to choose your friends. Who they are and how they support you will be huge in your life, just like the heroes mentioned above.

And your choices do not end there. You get to choose what you listen to on the radio, read in books, pay attention to online. All of these messages and ideas will have an effect on you.

If you are filling your head and your heart with messages of care and support and kindness, that’s what you’ll most likely shine back into the world around you. If it’s doom and gloom and divisiveness, that’ll be something you perpetuate, too.

When you are challenged, like any hero, you’ll have some down moments. You’ll get some support from those and that which you give your trust and attention.

Choose wisely. Have a great weekend!

Heroes Have Open Hands

We all hold onto things. When we think of heroes holding things, we think of Katniss holding her bow, Luke Skywalker his lightsaber, Hermione her wand.

But that is not all these heroes ‘held’ onto. Katniss held onto her personal responsibility, Luke his doubt, and Hermione her books… to a fault. In order to become the heroes they were, each had to open their hands.

We all hold onto ideas and habits and tools all the time in relation to the world us and the world inside us. The idea of ‘open hands’ is important for all heroes… including you! Here are three reasons why.

Letting Go

Before becoming a hero, a person needs to open their hands and let go of that which is holding them back. Be it a self-conceived notion (‘I’m not good enough’), someone who is holding them back (‘You’ve never supported me and my passion’), a past activity (‘All this screen watching isn’t helping me’), or something physical (‘Time to get rid of this junk!’) – heroes first open their hands to let go, to empty themselves of the past habits or beliefs.

When your hands are full in a physical, mental or emotional way, you’ll be hard pressed to fill them up with what a hero needs.

Filling Up

All heroes (at some point) keep their hands open to that which is next – the teaching, the self-knowledge, the journey and adventure ahead. This is not an easy thing to do, by the way. A lot of time, the learning process is painful.

In the hero’s journey, most of these lessons come at the hand of a wise guide. Harry Potter had Professor Dumbledore (and Hermione quite often). Luke had Obi-wan and Yoda. Katniss had Hamish. All of these mentors helped to guide by asking the right (and tough) questions, reframe what was important, and getting the young budding hero to reach past what they previously thought possible.

In all of these cases, the heroes not only filled their minds and hearts with new knowledge, they also picked up tools to use in the pursuit of their mission.

In the stories, our heroes often pick up a weapon of some sort. While that happens in real-life, too, most heroes pick up other implements. William Wilberforce picked up a pen. So did Anne Frank. Einstein picked up a pencil and calculator and a train schedule. Mrs. Parks picked up her resolve and shared her voice.

But that is not all they do with open hands. Heroes, time and again, reach out to others.

Reaching Out

A hero is not all about him or herself. Heroic action is always taken on behalf of others. This is when all heroes (including you!!) are at their most powerful. In fact, Karol Wojtyla suggested that “it is precisely when one becomes a gift for other that one most fully becomes oneself.” (You may recognize Cardinal Wojtyla by a different name.)

In all of our heroes’ quests, they are for a greater good than treasure or accolades for themselves. Frodo wanted to save his friends and return home to the Shire. Marie Curie wanted to discover something that would help millions. Mother Teresa gave (quite literally) the shoes from her feet to the needy, along with everything else.

It is in the moments when we truly serve others that we find our own contentment and our true measure. In order to serve, you’ve got to reach out first. And, if your hands are ‘full’ with other things, others will have a very hard time gaining a good grasp.

Challenging and Rewarding

Make no mistake, being a hero is no easy task. The term ‘hero’ is reserved for someone who truly goes above and beyond the call of being a human being, or even a ‘good’ one. (I mean ‘good’ in the oldest sense of the word.)

You have to get past the self-possession we all battle and literally put yourself on the line for others. That is what Dr. King did. Same with Mother Teresa. And Lincoln. And Mrs. Parks.

What are some things you want to let go? It’s hard to even know. Self-knowledge is actually pretty difficult because it requires us to stop fooling ourselves. But knowing ourselves, per Aristotle, is the beginning of all wisdom. This is where that sage, mentor, counselor comes in. They can see things in you that you cannot see for yourself. They can help you drop the things that are unimportant or harmful and fill your hands with what you need to reach out to those around you.

Young Hero, open your hands. They are going to be very useful – and needed – going forward.

Have a great weekend!