So, a notion has been rolling around in my head the last few weeks – and it’s not a new notion, it’s not something that hasn’t been discussed before by people a hell of a lot smarter than me – but here it is:
We will never have peace on this planet. Never.
Why do I say that? Because our whole existence (and I’m speaking about us humans here) revolves around conflict. Why do I believe that? What prompted me to write this?
There’s a new Star Wars movie coming out later this year. Even the title of the franchise should give you a clue as to why I chose to post about this. I read a rumor about the plot of the film today and the rumor post contains the following line – “The real war then begins and the fight for the control of planets and territory begins, causing a conflict the storytellers hope will lead to countless Star Wars tales for years to come.”
OK, before I begin, let me state right off the bat that I don’t have a solution to the issue of us as a species never having peace, and by peace I mean a state of being were it is no longer necessary to manufacture or use weapons of any kind. According to the rumor about the film, the manufacture, sale and use of weapons is central to the core of the film’s story – and it’s this industry that is churning away like gangbusters on this planet. I guess I could site sources talking about how many weapons are made every day or how many get shipped here and there but that’s not really what I’m trying to address.
This is my thought: We will never have peace because conflict is something that is embedded and entwined and such an integral part of our everyday vocabulary that you cannot go a day without expressing it in one form or another. Now, that may seem simplistic and too broad for some – for example, my mother, when I expressed the notion that conflict was such a prominent concept in our language and mode of expression, poo-poohed the whole thing, saying it was ‘just the way things are.’
Part of the reason I think she said that was because, it’s a muddy concept. Words are easily twisted and confused, especially when you give voice to them as opposed to writing them down. Our communication relies not just on the words we use, but on our inflection, tone and other visual clues that give the listener or receiver an indication of what our meaning is.
Think about how many times a day or a week you use a “conflict” term to describe an event or situation in conversation.
“I had to fight to get out of bed this morning.”
“Man, it was an uphill battle to get the boss to see reason on that issue.”
“I had to beat that math problem into submission.”
And a dozen other examples. Every part of our culture has conflict as its central theme – or, it can be thought about in that way, or you can, not think about it at all. Depending on how much of headache you want to give yourself.
I am a self-professed pacifist. I avoid conflict when it arises, sometimes – a lot of times – to my detriment. There are a number of situations I probably should have “fought” my way through, rather than retreating from them. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t fought for things before or steeped myself in the concept or culture of struggle and conflict.
I remember being fascinated by movies or TV shows, comic books or toys that glorified war. I had G.I. Joes growing up (the ones based on human soldiers or military types – not the ‘soldier superhero’ they have become). I played with green army men in the garden, or plastic knights and archers, fantasizing or re-creating massive battles for a castle stronghold. All of the books I read involved some form of violence or struggle – the basic story that’s been told from time beyond time – good vs. evil, light vs. dark, our side triumphing over their side.
Perhaps it’s so steeped in our collective experience because we come into the world in a violent manner. It’s a struggle to be born. And sometimes the birth of a new life comes at the expense of another life.
And, if we are to believe that our minds retain that memory, it’s no wonder we grow up with the notion that everything is a struggle – and it is. On a very real level we struggle everyday just to get through it.
But why should it be so? Is it possible that we create this culture or concept through our thinking about it that way? Or accepting it that way?
We create our future, to paraphrase. Why then to we perpetuate the culture of conflict?
Why do we need to set up a franchise along the notion that “a conflict the storytellers hope will lead to countless Star Wars tales for years to come”?
Of course, what I’m talking about is not ever going to change – it can’t. We are creatures of a planet that breeds life forms that feed upon one another. Nature, red in tooth and claw as Tennyson observed so much more eloquently than I, is the order of the day.
Of course I am somewhat of a hypocrite when it comes to the subject of conflict and the “culture of violence” that pervades society. I mean, I’m a writer. I write fiction and I write fiction that involves characters that fight or struggle or battle.
So, I am adding to the volume of noise and creativity that thrives on the notion of violence and struggle.
If we were to ever achieve a culture of peace – what would happen? What would become of us? Would we be considered human at all?
These are the type of questions that keep me up at night. That intrigue and confound me. If I were a true Buddhist I would understand that this concern I have over the concept of violence being so entrenched in our culture and language is simply a delusion – a delusion of self-grasping ignorance and attachment, whereby I have mistakenly attributed my emotional experience to external conditions – those external conditions being of course the flood of information that seems to be centered around or concerned with violence and death and war.
If I were a true Buddhist I would also understand that what appears to be external conditions (this preoccupation with violence, the language we use, the images we are confronted with day in and day out) are not external at all; the nature of our “reality” depends upon our experience of it.
In other words, in this reality we do not find happiness; we create it. If we’ve ever felt joy, we can know for certain that we have the seed and the capacity to cultivate it.
Of course, the only way I can accept the notion of world peace, is to simply live my life as though it already exists – by rejecting the notion of violence as the norm, and cultivate an atmosphere of peace and serenity around myself.
Will that mean I won’t go see the new Avengers movie this May? (May1st baby!) Hell no. 🙂
As I said – hypocrite.
I seek peace in my life, but seek conflict in my entertainment and creativity. Violence and struggle leads to insight and revelation – as long as the violence and struggle is in the mind, conflict is necessary to our lives, though we fight to suppress it (see what I did there? :))
Perhaps that is why we cannot ever have peace – because once we achieve it we find ourselves consciously or unconsciously seeking that which allowed us to achieve it in the first place. We need struggle it seems, in one form or another. Even the most enlightened minds must constantly strive to achieve a state of grace and peace.
It’s a vicious circle of thought, no?
Anyway, that’s my rambling nonsense for the day – if you have an opinion or insight, leave a comment, or maybe just reflect on it at some point and let me know what you think.
Ok, now I have to get back to writing my story – which involves some element of violence. *sigh*