Since ages, people use stories to share experiences, emotions, lessons, culture, and wisdom. Mostly, all religions have their own religious books like Vedas, the Holy Bible, Quran, Tipitaka, Adi Granth, which are in essence a collection of narratives or stories.
Stories reflect how society functioned at a certain point in time. Be it the Stone Age, when man was a hunter and lived in caves, to today, when the whole world is limited to a 5.6” screen. It is through stories that we know different dimensions of human behaviour. As evolutionary scientists argue, “You can take the person out of the Stone Age, not the Stone Age out of the person.” One of these hardcoded characteristics in humans is “conflict”, and it is an integral part of our personal and work lives.
However sad it may sound, stories are not-created-around-happily-ever-after, but they are motivated by conflicts, challenges, and adversities. When Veronica says, “If there’s no conflict, there are no stories worth telling – or reading”, I can’t agree more.
For example, let us consider a very known and old fable, “The Hare and The Tortoise”.
If we re-write the story something like this:
“A long time ago, there were two animals, a hare, and a tortoise. One day, they decided to have a race. The hare was a fast runner and the tortoise was very slow. On the day of the race, at the count of three, both started running. Since the tortoise was slow, he lost the race. The hare won the race. And they lived happily ever after”.
Even though the story ends happily ever after, there is no happiness in it. There is nothing that makes this victory sweet or memorable. As aptly said, “Life is a journey, not the destination” and in this journey, our struggles and achievements make us who we are today.
Conflict in itself is not a negative word or feeling. Rather the world has witnessed conflicts that have changed humankind for good. National American Woman Suffrage Association’s peaceful protests led to the 19th amendment in the USA, granting women the right to vote. Non-violent civil disobedience movements, led by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. led to India’s freedom from the British, equal work rights and the end of segregation respectively.
In the absence of conflicts, history would have never been made. The conflict can be for power, riches, land or equality. But it is the conflict that has shaped our lives.
On an individual level, conflicts may not be something that turns the world around. But it can be a day to day challenge. It can be a simple conflict, such as, should I snooze the alarm for five more minutes or hit the gym. Or it can be a more difficult choice between a burger or a salad for lunch. Then sometimes it can be a life-altering choice like to marry or not or to have kids or not. Whatever they may be, ordinary or extra-ordinary, conflicts exist at every level.
With the way things are getting customized to a niche market, this conflict has grown manifold. Remember those days when milk was only milk, the one that comes from cows or buffalo. Today, milk is just not the same anymore! Go to a grocery store, and you will have skimmed, 2%, 1%, whole, almond, oat, kefir, coconut, rice, soy, and the list goes on. This is just one example. An assorted array of products and services are designed to cater to individual needs. This is the power of conflict.
When steered in the right direction, conflict helps to bring out the best. It helps boost the economy, facilitates innovation, and promotes out-of-the-box thinking and thus making the world a better place.
Rags to riches stories are abundant around us. Names like Howard Schultz, Oprah Winfrey, Shahid Khan, Narendra Modi abd Lakshmi Mittal are just a few of many who make us believe that conflict helps to bring out the best of any person.
I can only say that let these stories of struggle and conflict keep inspiring us and help ourselves row through the rough tides of life more easily.