People who interact with me in my classes and through email often will hear/read me say, “Transist. Transform. Transcend.”

Carl G. Jung in his depth psychology recommended that people learn to embrace what they have repressed. In this sense, resisting an aspect of our own self only makes the issue all the more pressing, or persistent. In terms of psychology then, resistance adds fuel to the fire, making us fevered to the point of delusion, acting-out in unexpected ways.

Like so many insights having to do with exploring our psychological make-up, the concept does not fully translate outward to nature nor in the same way for society. While I come up with work arounds to resist certain natural limitations, they persist only in the sense that such boundaries cannot be nullified without changing the very structure of the universe.

On the other hand, the social structures I resist often do change–at least superficially. Where natural things persist until the work-around fails, the deepest layers of cultural tradition–sometimes systematic structures put in place generations before by those seeking to direct/control public resources–become insistent: i.e. persistence often shows-forth as an insistence on the value of the status quo ante.

Perhaps this is a performance between people mimicking what happens within the aspects of our selves. Certainly those who benefit from how things “have always been this way,” want to mimic the power of nature.

When Heracles took on the labor of destroying the Lernaean Hydra, he quickly discovered that every head he chopped off allowed two more to grow back. Only when he worked in concord with Iolaus–who burned the stumps before they could generate more trouble–was the hero able to complete this labor.

If I take this as an archetype of the kinds of struggles I meet in my life, it is not that of the natural sort. The monster does not represent the problems arising from the kinds of material patterns encountered on earth as my place in the cosmos. Rather, the creature abides from mythology as a warning to the kinds of pollution created by human attempts to impose order onto nature. To reiterate: The more such structures are resisted, the more they become insistent–to such a degree that they appear to double-up. There must be a conjoined effort to overcome them rather than an individual exertion to beat them at their own game or a (re)activist alliance that merely keeps them at bay until the weakest link in the connection falters.

This would be choosing transistance over resistance.

The word first came to me when I was asked to give a paper for a Star Wars conference at the University of North Texas in 2019. Because the theme dealt with the concept of the Resistance in Episodes VII – IX of the final trilogy in the Skywalker Saga, I asked myself and my colleagues, why the switch in terminology? Could Rebels and Rebellion not still work?

Of course, the sociopolitical conditions were distinct. In episodes IV through VI, the former Republic had been replaced by the Galactic Empire. There were stretches of the Galaxy far far away that had never joined the old Republic. And episodes I through III dealt with something akin to a formal civil war: the planets seeking to leave the political system as well as their leaders under Count Dooku were called Separatists. 

In J. J. Abrams’ setup, followed by Rian Johnson as well as diverse materials produced by Disney/ Lucasfilms, the New Republic was still–over 20 years on–rebuilding itself, some systems refusing to rejoin. Season 03 of The Mandolorian does an excellent job in teasing this reality out as does a novel about Leia Organa’s first work as a young politician in the New Republic, Star Wars: Bloodline. Many of the planetary and corporate groupings had continued the facade of the empire, being called the Imperial Remnant. These would become the core systems for the First Order. 

Rather than being Rebels or Separatists, the people seeking to undermine the first order were therefore guerrillas deployed to create a resisting phalanx.

In my meditations for my presentation, I realized that the new films had made patent a very latent truth–not just about the Star Wars universe but about our own sociopolitical situation: Resistance is futile.[1]

On the one hand, “I resist X” can mean that I am actively engaged in this effort of not succumbing to X. On the other, this can mean, “I did a thing that should block X.” Unlike resisting nature where the laws must persist if reality is somewhat orderly, our expectation of offering resistance to other people (or my worst inclinations) carries hope of actual transformation of material circumstances. Since nature itself persists as the course of its unfolding, we might expect that persistence is the way of even human structures since we are ourselves natural beings.

Yet that is not the persistence usually witnessed.

Rather, to resist another person seems to multiply such persistence into obstinate insistence that everything is F.I.N.E.[2] the way it is. So I am saying that what we resist not only persist but becomes insistent to the point of obstinacy. And that kind of reaction to resistance circumscribes the current era of “culture wars” waged by, for, and against the many marginalized who actually make up the majority of people in the 21st century.[3] 

How resistance results in an insistent reactivity is why I describe an alternative for my students and young friends: transisting human obstinance.

Many may have heard of transistors. The term was coined by a semiconductor engineer, J. R. Pierce, in 1947. It is a portmanteau joining transfer with resistor. Transference ferries something beyond its initial location.[4] Combined with the resistor, it denotes carrying a particular current of energy over an area to accomplish a predetermined action. 

I form transist–with some nod to Pierce’s technoscience–as a term derived directly from Latin SISTERE.[5] It denotes “standing-beyond” the reactionary dynamics that make resisting an excuse for obstinately insisting things must stay the same. It also implies over-standing as opposed to the “understanding” always being asked for by those involved in guarding the status quo ante. Such “understanding” is usually enough breathing room to let those with historic privilege ever so nicely stand-on the throat of those seeking to fully realize their human liberty.

As standing beyond the frenzy of reactivity and having learned more than enough to over-stand the status quo as it continuously operates, transisting incorporates a philosophical outlook recovered from within a good deal of the wisdom traditions around the world. While I am most familiar with Platonic, Christian, Buddhist, and Daoist variations, I have also seen the advice given by Cynic, Sufi, Vedanta, Confucian, Yoruba, and Lakota sages. 

To transist is what perennial philosophy knows as training ourselves to be indifferent to the traps of natural, social, and personal conditions over which we have no actual control. Diogenes and the other Cynics as well as the Stoics called this Ataraxy: being-without-disturbance. [6] Another term useful for grasping the advice is Equanimity: calm-spirited.[7]  

I suppose that many would see it as just semantics. But I believe the best choice of words prepares me to respond to the happenings around me, especially in times such as these where every attempt to stand-up against Christofascism[8] and mindless traditionalism gets met with ever more draconian laws,[9] backward policies,[10] “originalist” precedents,[11]and violent reactions.[12] It is the incessant getting placed-back (resistere) by those wanting to keep their place-in (insistere) that reveals to me that most of the actions being taken by even the most well-meaning people are actually reactionary. 

Especially when someone has found their way forward blocked again and again by such hatred, it makes sense to become so frustrated that a person might react in angry desperation. And when parents see that their children are being targeted, who would not stand-up for the kids? But this usually only adds energy to the forces determined to roll-back the world to when white Anglo-Saxon Protestants and hyper-traditionalist Catholics kept most people from exploring let alone expressing their ownmost selves.

What many especially white middle-class Progressives fail to realize is that doing everything according to the rules of conduct originally created by profoundly Conservative actors does not actually accomplish all that much, at least much beyond superficialities. Thus, the real work has to be in the underground networks that will offer a place to transist the status quo when it returns like the Hydra with even more poisonous tricks, biting from every possible direction at once. 

Yes, there must be what anarchists call “dual power.”[13] That is, some have to keep up the struggle in the institutional frameworks that have always benefitted those with historic privileges. I would call this, after Hannah Arendt, the space of the Vita Activa.[14] Nonetheless, there must also be a secondary place for collective life, one that stands-beyond (transistere) the worst elements controlling the levers of active life. This is creative response: the Vita Poetica. Technically, by Arendtian notions, it probably would still be called public life because it is not private (Vita Contemplativa), the place for solitary reflection. Yet the distinction must be made because it is the place that a people wanting to achieve liberation can—and I use this term with some trepidation—conspire to do more than survive under the tyrannical machinations of white supremacist, heteronormative patriarchy. 

Such truly safe-spaces would become dwellings that the well-meaning can practice deconstructing the structures of oppression in their own selves while receiving from and gifting to others support in doing the same. It could help not only in the development of self-realization but also the cultivation of techniques that avoid the reactionary affects adhering to resistance and the individualist effects of talking while doing nothing. 

With an eye toward transisting, we can begin transforming ourselves and the world around us. And moving withward transformation, we can enact transcending the long history of needless suffering arising from confusing the human choices with the will of Nature or of God.  


[1] To shamelessly borrow from Star Trek while riffing on a Star Wars inspiration.

[2] Fucked up, insecure, neurotic, and egotistical.

[3] I am talking about a general structure that I see here In the United States of America, especially in the South like Texas.. I will leave up to others to think if it can be encountered everywhere.

[4] Over-coming, carrying-over.

[5] Anon. Wiktionary. Website. Accessed 04April2023. 

[6] Anon. Wiktionary. Website. Accessed 08April2023. 

[7] Anon. Wiktionary. Website. Accessed 08April2023.

[8] K. O’Connell. (03 Nov 2022). “Christofascism is everyone’s problem.” Book review. The Texas Observer Website. Accessed 08April2023.

[9] S. Patel et al. (06 Apr 2023). “Texas leads in anti-trans bills.” Axios Website. Accessed 08April2023.

[10] K. McGee. (07 Feb 2023). “Gov. Greg Abbott tells state agencies to stop considering diversity in hiring.” Texas Tribune Website. Accessed 08April2023.

[11] M. Mogulescu. (28 Mar 2023). “The Rule of Law Being Eviscerated by Republican Judges.” Common Dreams. Website. Accessed 08April2023.

[12] C. Wiggins. “Neo-Nazi Arrested for Firebombing Church Hosting Drag Queen Story Hour.” The Advocate via Yahoo News.Website. Accessed 08April2023.

[13] T. Trainer. (03 Jan 2020). “Kurdish Rojave: A Social Model for our Future.” Resilience. Website. Accessed 08 April 2023. 

[13] Anon. (n.d.). “The Human Condition.” Wikipedia. Website. Accessed 08 April 2023. 

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