Monday, January 15, 2007
On the necessity of conflict
OK, now here is an unpopular position. Life is conflict. Let’s deconstruct that.
So many people long for peace, or at least the absence of war. We wish to avoid the meaningless death of innocents. We ask to spare the children — what could they have possibly done to deserve this?
But what is life? It is evolution. And what is evolution? It is random genetic mutation, manifest into some quantum change, followed by adaptation to the environment, followed by natural selection — a weeding out of the less well-adapted beings, and thereby, a diminution and eventual pruning of some experimental branches, and the strengthening and growth of others. Over eons.
It is conflict that provides this selection process. Now this conflict can take many forms. Consider nature. It can take the form of inter- or intra-species struggle for food. It can take the form of famine or pestilence. It can take the form of natural catastrophes. Sometimes, you can see the selection process working, when an individual is not strong enough to survive. Other times it seems capricious and perhaps even unfair. But that is our ego labeling that which just is.
Consider the absence of conflict. Some see paradise. A return to the Garden of Eden, or the arrival of Heaven on earth. I see death. I see stagnation. I see the corrupting influence of gluttony, sloth, and apathy. Can you really be sure you would continue to advance, either consciously or physiologically if you were not challenged? And what causes this challenge, on a societal scale? Conflict (or competition — they are the same thing). So this "push" forward, if you will, is actually caused by conflict, not by peace.
So do not pray for an end to conflict. Pray for wisdom. Do not pray for avoidance of tragedy. Pray for compassion, love, and gratitude. For when you see conflict and tragedy, know that you see life, in all of its complexity and elegance; its simplicity and its beauty. To wish for a world without conflict is like wishing for a sun that never sets, a sky that never rains, animals that never eat, or humans that never die. Think for a moment and you can imagine the immediate catastrophe that would befall such an earth.
Instead embrace life (small “l”) while discovering Life (big “L”). See the beauty in the flow; the purpose of the process. The give and take. The gain and loss. The hope and fear. The joy and sorrow. Life cannot be another way. We are but humble actors in a grand play, and our progress — our evolution — may come from awakening to the noble truths that surround life as it is. Life is conflict. Life is suffering. (Some wise guy said that about 2500 years ago; we appear to be slow learners; not a good sign for our own evolution ;-) Awaken to that reality. Accept it and detach from your egoic desires. And from that Authentic Self — offer Love and Compassion to all sentient beings. While they struggle to awaken themselves. And yes, while they kill.