The title above is very deep. It challenges us to think deeply. It is the summary of our existence in this world. It is the summary of all fields of learning. To say that the title is deep without taking into consideration all the definitions behind the word conflict is to ridiculously contradict oneself. Conflict disguises itself in other words. Some of the nouns that are conflicts, but wearing different cloaks are: friction, desire, and motion. The word motion implies ‘not in a rest position’. For this reason, we can say that ALL the verbs in our dictionary mean conflict. A verb is defined as an ‘action word’. There is no action that does not engender a conflict of some sort. When you are looking at something, the muscles of your eyes respond to the light stimuli by either expanding or contracting. You hear a sound or listen to something and your eardrums vibrate according to the frequency of the sound. You sit down and certain muscles in your body contracts. From this we can see that motion is the life force of all verbs, no motion, no verb, no stories, no reading. Newton’s First Law of Motion states that everybody continues in its state of rest, or uniform motion in a straight line, unless compelled to change that state by forces impressed on it.
Examining this law further takes us to inertia, which means the reluctance of a body to move when it is at rest, and the reluctance of a body to stop when it is in motion. So, one can see the conflict between being and being forced not to be. If the force is big enough to cause the object to move, the force wins, and a story is told or written. See the force of the engine causing vehicles to move, even to defy gravity.
Conflict: A Spiral
The average person thinks that a conflict is only some disagreement between people, or war, but conflict is a spiral. It has its degrees or levels. It is a complex spiral. It is a spiral of different colours, different heights, quality, agenda, characteristics and life span. Yet these different spirals combine to form one huge spiral, as huge as existence itself. Spirals experience change; some spirals are born, some die, some grow weak, some grow stronger.
Conflict started from Creation
To consider this topic, let us put fundamentalist religious beliefs aside, and consider from an intellectual point of view. Be equidistant from the narration of creation in the Christian Bible and the theory of the Big Bang and evolution by natural selection, and you will see that all converge to one point: conflict. No story to tell if Adam and Eve had not disobeyed God, no story to tell if there had not been the Big Bang and no story to tell if there had not been evolution by natural selection. In physics, there is the rest position; the whole of existence would have been similar to rest position.
Conflict has more Good Sides than Bad Sides
The closest noun to conflict is friction. As high school students just beginning to study physics, we were distraught at the very mention of the word ‘friction’, in that friction opposes motion, causes wear and tear and some energy to be wasted. The casual thinker views conflict the way we viewed friction, because they think that conflict is all about wars, quarrels and rancorous attitudes. However, further studies revealed that in fact friction is the basis of life. We cannot walk without friction. We cannot hold anything without friction. We cannot even eat without friction. And the list goes on. It has already been mentioned that all verbs are frictions of some sort. The corollary is: No conflict, no life, no story to tell, no story to write.
Which of the Shakespearean plays do you like best? You say The Tempest. Prospero’s position as the Duke of Milan was usurped by his brother. Here was a conflict, and he exiled himself in an enchanted island where he was served by an air spirit called Ariel. He ordered Ariel to cause the tempest which caused his brother’s boat to be ‘troubled’ and brought ashore to the island on which he was living. This conflict furnished a very interesting story and a good read.
Just as designers of machines or some structures consider the ways to reduce friction or to avoid highly damaging friction, we try to avoid conflicts that are catastrophic. In life, extremes are disastrous. No conflict or very little conflict makes life boring and limits our creativity, while ‘high’ conflicts cause great destruction; it causes economic stagnation; it leaves no room for intellectual development and accomplishment. We learn from reasonable conflicts, even how to avoid disastrous conflicts. The Second World War started less than thirty years after the First World War, because the world had not learned enough or prepared well to avoid World War Two. It is now more than seventy years after the World War Two, and World War Three has not happened. Conventional wisdom shows that lessons from the two wars have helped to prevent another World War, at least till this time. Even the Armageddon prophesised for the year 2000 has not happened. Lessons learnt from the conflicts of the past may have helped to prevent this. The Japanese attacked the Pearl Habour, and the American retaliated by dropping an atomic bomb, which is considered to be a toy in comparison to nuclear weapons possessed by some countries today. Since then, people have learnt that nuclear warfare is not a joke. Western powers do not consider attempting confrontation or regime change in a country possessing nuclear weapon.
It is good to understand all the ramifications of conflicts, good conflicts and bad conflicts, in order to have the correct ‘dosage’ of conflicts for specific purposes. Then we will be able to live a worthwhile life, and our children or progenitors will tell and write stories.
In my opinion, we cannot eliminate conflicts in order to achieve a utopian world. Conflicts consist of very delicate layers. If one layer is removed, life on earth crumbles. Let me explain this by using friction. We cannot make our roads frictionless so that vehicles can move effortlessly. This will lead to incalculable disasters. That is, our vehicles cannot be stopped. Our vehicles cannot negotiate corners, and we will move in a straight line to hell. Instead we have invented wheeled transport so that we can let friction be and travel as fast and efficiently as we can.
Likewise, we cannot eliminate the force of gravity simply because we want to lift ourselves effortlessly to the Olympian heights. If this were to happen, the whole world would be a confusion of floating objects. So, the world of matters compels us to learn how to manipulate conflicts and adapt them to our benefits. Eliminating conflicts makes room for only one story: DISORDER.
Young, D. H., University Physics (8th edition), Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, New York, 1992.