New Page -- 9 September 2003
Conflict has all of the ingredients of a fundamentally essential human condition. It's what humans do. It is likewise the motivating force in all human activity. As a species we are as unlikely to do away with conflict -- or to "find peace" -- as we are to do away with our human circulatory system or brain -- even when doing away with the brain in certain humans would be a vast improvement for the rest of us! In fact, it is genuinely difficult to imagine a species in which conflict is not part and parcel of that species' existence.
In the long term, peace is boring, and not conducive to growth, evolution or motivation to do anything.
[A related experiment is to devise a melody of a few notes and then play these same notes in the same fashion over and over again. At first, the melody may be pleasant. But then it will grow tedious, and eventually maddening. Repetition without change or modification becomes the equivalent of Chinese Water Torture, wherein a simple drop of water falling on someone's forehead can at first be refreshing, but which then becomes one of the more notorious tortures of human history. A lack of diversity in peace would be similarly trying, i.e., the "same old, same old" is deadly.]
The distinction between being in conflict and at peace is in itself a conflict. This applies to our inner conflicts as well as any and all external conflicts. Intensity of sexual encounters often depends upon some form of initial (or continuing) conflict of one variety or another. There need not be any physical acts of violence -- mental sparring and challenges will often suffice (albeit such mental activity almost certainly has physical consequences within our bodies as a result -- particularly in the sexual bit).
Conflict is related to resistance. Without resistance, there is generally no progress, or perhaps more accurately, no movement. Without something to push against or something to act as reaction mass, our systems of propulsion do not function. [There is an exception which will be discussed shortly.] If one is on a perfectly smooth surface, for example, one has no means to move. This is most obvious when one is on a sheet of ice with no means to obtain traction and thereby move.
The need for conflict ranks right up there with the instinct of survival, and these two basics of the human condition are likely to be intimately intertwined. The appearance of conflict in our lives turns on the spigot for survival hormones to be released and for adrenaline to be pumped throughout the body. The need for the survival reflex to be maintained and kept at maximum operating efficiency is provided by conflict. Without conflict, our survival instinct would wither away -- just as in the lack of brain usage causing Alzheimer's disease. It's the old "use it or lose it."
Coincident with our need for conflict is our groping toward peace or resolution. Peace may in fact be highly over-rated. Those opposed to War Wars -- or wars of any strife (pardon the pun) -- are essentially in conflict with those who are "ready when you are". Peace marches (a military term) are all about going to war against those who want a war of a different -- and inevitably more entertaining -- sort.
Our desire for peace may in fact be less about finding peace -- once and for all -- than about requiring a pit stop where we renew ourselves, re-energize our motors, change our treads/threads (pardon the pun), and prepare to head back out into the conflict. The "instinct for peace" may simply be the recognition of a conflict weariness and the need for recovery in order to prosecute the conflict at maximum efficiency.
The reality is that plots without conflict make for very poor novels, short stories, and movies. They are in all respects, unreadable and unwatchable. There is just no reason to bother with such storylines. They're boring. In the Art of Writing, the very nature of a plot is conflict, climax (of the conflict) and resolution. No conflict, no plot, no interest.
Resolution, like peace, is often essential in plots. Not always -- as noted by the cliff hangers of movies in recent years (from Matrix to Lord of the Rings) -- but predominant. But even in cliff hangers, there typically "needs" to be a temporary resolution.
This need for resolution -- again the once and for all mentality -- is closely related to peace and may be similarly over-rated. Deferring a resolution of any conflict is often a sign of wisdom. Living with uncertainty is an enviable talent. Not rushing into a "peace at any cost", or ignoring bad timing, or just going with the flow is often far preferable than settling things once and for all. In fact, the "settling" is more akin to death -- that concept in which the human being is apparently no longer concerned with the progress or outcome of any conflict in which they were involved.
The universal nature of conflict is also suggested by the laws of Connective Physics. If we consider, for example, the mathematical equations of the Fifth Element, we might be intrigued by the very language used. The equations utilize five distinct terms: Input, Potential or Capacitance, Resistance, Inductance, and Control (the latter term being derived from Arthur Young's description of the third order differential).
v Input is on one side of the equation and represents any external influence into an otherwise allegedly-closed system. It represents the motivating force, the imposition of any change agent, the cause of causality. The emphasis should be on the implied change to the system by anything outside the system. In the human being, it's all those other clowns wanting to interact with you -- inevitably in some form of conflict, dialogue of slightly or grossly variant opinions, or sheer one-ups-man-ship.
vv Potential or Capacitance is the only term not related to change, but instead to the system's ability to absorb, tolerate, or even provide the wherewithal for change. An Input can -- under some circumstances -- initially do nothing more than be absorbed by the capacitance of a system. Under other circumstances, the Potential or Capacitance can be "discharged" back into the system, in effect alternating between "charging" and "discharging". There is no reliance here upon movement or even time. It's a condition of being. It's the ability to tolerate or deal with conflict.
vvv Resistance is the classic opposition, obstruction, defiance, or impedance of movement. In mechanical systems, it is viscosity or friction. In electromagnetics, it is resistance to current or the flow of electrical charge. In all cases, it has the effect of causing energy to flow from the system to the outside world. The analogy in human terms is equally appropriate in that what we resist causes an energy drain on us by the very act of resistance. Philosopher Eric Hoffer's book, The Ordeal of Change, was in large part about the human preference to avoid Resistance. Humans don't like to change, and to avoid change, to resist it, they are required to give up energy. It's the difference between lazily (i.e., expending no energy) floating down the river and paddling furiously upstream. Resistance can be conflict avoidance, where the very act of avoidance constitutes a conflict in and of itself. "That which you resist, persists." At the human level, resistance diminishes some part of the self.
vvvv Inductance enters the picture as the second order differential and is related to the acceleration (as opposed to the velocity in the Resistance term). Inductance is not just about change, but changing at a variable rate. Falling is such a change, because even in falling the body increases in speed until it hits a resistance -- often the ground! Thud! In fact, the Biblical Fall from Grace might be considered to be part of the inductance term. Inductance is also related to Capacitance in that an increase in inductance -- in a closed system -- implies a decrease in capacitance and vice versa. This is also the interplay between kinetic (movement) energy and potential (no movement) energy. In mathematical terms, inductance and capacitance have the same algebraic form, but differ in sign. In the human condition, inductance is involved with the constant and variable changes in our lives, and the resolution of directional forces into a composite direction of our momentary destinies.
vvvvv The Fifth Element, referred herein as "Control" is the new kid on the block. Ignored in traditional physics, it is in fact the Joker in the Deck. Mathematically, it has the same form as the Resistance term, but has an opposite sign. (These two terms are therefore like the Inductance and Capacitance terms and their propensity to share energy in a give and take relationship.) The importance of the Control term cannot be overemphasized in that it may easily be construed to be the Anti-Resistance term. Accordingly, if Resistance involves the unidirectional flow of energy from the system to the universe, the Control term involves the unidirectional flow of energy from the universe to the system. [There is also, as it turns out mathematically, no limit to the amount of energy available from the universe and its contribution to the system -- aka the human being.] The Control term, the third order differential term, is the rate of change of acceleration. In the human being it is the radical change of pace which connects us with the rest of the universe.
The latter point is in all aspects the most significant. The greater the human ability to roll with the punches, to go with the flow, and to change directions/destinies at a split second's notice, the more the connection with the universe manifests itself in our little permeable, so-called closed systems known as the human form. The ability to change one's mind on a dime -- an ability in plentiful supply in the female of the species -- and to strike off in a radically new direction is highly conducive to plugging one's energy system into the universal outlet. [To beat the analogy to death, we might note that the only circuit breakers attached to the universal outlet are those in our ability to choose.]
Changing direction and/or speed is the essence of propulsion. As previously pointed out, without something to push against or something to act as reaction mass our systems of propulsion do not function. But as also mentioned above, there is a notable exception. This exception is termed Inertial Propulsion, an aspect of the Connective Physics, and does not require reaction mass. In theory it utilizes the mass of the universe in order to achieve a propulsive thrust. The key in this theorized form of propulsion is a radical and continuous change in the Input term, a conflict of variables.
Laughter is another quintessential radical change of pace. It is the sudden reversal, the abruptly surprising change, and the abrupt realizations that make jokes and humor live beyond their means. It is also the unique and clever resolution of real or imaginary (but plausible) conflict. The combination of these humor elements are those elements which make humor a connecting link between the human and the universe in which s/he resides. Humor might thus be considered to be essential to the human condition.
Conflict is likewise a necessary ingredient. Conflict provides both the dramatic and comedic changes which connect us universally. The response or reaction to Conflict is within the human ability to Control, to connect via the Fifth Element to the universe --and in doing so receive the universal energy input. Conflict and control also provide the means to modify our movement, to accelerate and proceed in other directions and/or at different speeds. It is the basis of Inertial Propulsion (mentioned above). Conflict is thus essential to our connectedness, and our ability to survive in physical form.
What is this vast input of energy you might ask? What is its nature? Love is the most likely candidate. Conflict generates change in the human condition, and depending upon the individual human's ability to manifest an abrupt change of pace, conflict provides for the connection to universal love, energy, and "Blue Light Specials." Conflict generated, connective love is thus what moves us! [pardon the puns]
There is a phrase which at first sounds contradictory, but which in reality has much to recommend it. This phrase is: Harmony through Conflict. This is far more than a musical analogy, and involves the counterpoint, the interplay, and the interweaving of different melodies, of different instruments to achieve a symphony. A constructive form of conflict, it is a desirable agenda for the individual. Like music, it is "the greatest gift of the gods".
Perhaps then, what is needed is a giant jam session of all the world's music to settle, once and far all, the differences of opinion that rankle nations large and small. Such a plan might reduce destructive conflict -- a good thing -- and increase constructive conflict -- aka, harmony. As Swami Beyondananda is prone to say -- it's not something he's likely to say in rising to the occasion: Peace on it!
BTW, to inflict something on someone is generally considered to be not a good thing. Inasmuch as con implies a contrary or opposite connotation, then conflict could be construed as the opposite of inflict, and thus a good thing. Accordingly, we will inflict no more discussion on the subject of conflict. For the moment.
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