The whole of recorded history, the whole of recorded human achievement, appears to be one which is intrinsically linked with conflict. Even the beauty and glory of Nature hides the forces of destruction and survival. Civilisation itself is the result of conflict. The tribes of yore are now the superpowers of today. Any other time which may have existed, which may have been different, is shrouded in myth and fable. Yet all civilisations have tales of a time of plenty and peace, a time of harmony and oneness with nature. Are they merely the fanciful projections of ‘uncivilised’ tribes to make sense of an inimical existence?
Existence is a mystery. We are born, live for a span and die. Stories of creation, of the Gods, of before and after life, may help some of us to make sense of this conundrum and try to throw light, perhaps give clues or answers. They depended on a simpler psychology. One based on belief, personal knowledge perhaps. With the coming of the scientific mind, humanity prided itself that it moved away from superstition and found the light of reason. Yet we have moved relatively little in our time on this planet from our forefathers, in any truly civilised sense. On the contrary, we are able to destroy in a way they would not comprehend. Perhaps our ancestors were far more enlightened than we know. Today, we are as greedy, as selfish, as violent and destructive as ever. We talk of peace and love and kill one another in our thousands. There are wars everywhere. There is injustice and corruption on a global scale. The educated and liberal classes are unable to provide answers for society’s ills and the likelihood of more destruction and chaos is an ever-present threat.
This is the stuff of stories, of drama, of entertainment, of escapism. We may disguise this truth with concepts and opinions of what it is to be human and the need to search for meaning, discover our origins through art, science, literature and the imagination, yet for millennia we have not come close to doing so. We may speak of the human spirit, how it overcomes all adversities and is boundless. If this is the case, why are we constantly on the brink of catastrophe? Why do we have to wait until disaster is upon us before we behave in a selfless and altruistic manner? With all the past and present ills, it seems our capacity for ever more violence, gore, horror, as a way of life and entertainment, knows no bounds.
Why is this? Why do we entertain ourselves when fellow human beings are dying needlessly, through wars, starvation, disease and what has this to do with stories?
Is it perhaps because we feel helpless in the face of such complex and seemingly overwhelming problems and difficulties? Or is it that basically, and of course with exceptions, we are intrinsically selfish, greedy and fearful? Are these two options far too simplistic, too naive? Maybe those in charge, the learned professors and scientists, the politicians and leaders, the money men, perhaps all of us, are quite happy, or at least not unhappy with our lot, compared to the rest of the suffering world, and feel that while things are pretty awful elsewhere, as long as I’m relatively alright then why rock the boat?
But, oh dear… Now the planet is threatened. Now the war is coming close, coming home with terrorism, with social upheaval all over the planet and soon there will be no escape for poor little me. Poor little me will have to make a stand or be walked over.
‘What has this to do with stories?’
They say there are only so many stories. I suggest there is only one. The story of humanity. The story of our origins, of who we are, what we are and why we are. This story is the pinnacle of all others and all else flows from this in a downward gradation of complexity, forgetfulness and ignorance. We have forgotten our origins. This ignorance is perhaps the mythical ‘Fall’ into existence and the Human Race our search for the missing part of our psyche which has led us into ever greater complexity.
‘For God’s sake, what’s this idiot saying? All the wonderful literature, the art, the science and progress, is all that meaningless?’
Your little child is dying. You are given a choice. Press the red button and your child survives but all literature vanishes, press the green one and the opposite happens. Of course, there will be those that say that this is nonsense. Perhaps it is. How about if you are given the same choice, but the child is not yours? You don’t even know them. They are thousands of miles away. Again, there might be a couple of enlightened souls willing to sacrifice their child for the greater good. Apparently, there was exactly such a person in biblical times, but we all know those times are irrational, non-sensical and based on a personal belief. Or there might be others who would not sacrifice the life of anyone, child or not.
We do. Daily. It’s happening now and has happened since we lost something. Something so insane that we can’t hope to speak of it. Yet in an ironic and utterly glorious way that’s all that art, science and literature do on a profound level. We seek our origins. We seek answers to death, to life. To existence. We seek to prolong our health, our span. We seek to elevate our minds with stories of wonder and beauty. We seek to know everything, everything from the smallest atomic particle, (which we know but cannot see… sounds a bit like blind faith) to Dark matter and beyond. We seek to share with stories, to commune, to throw light upon our joys and suffering. We need to feel one with each other, to look at life and death and try to understand who we are, what we are and why.
So, if there were no conflict, would there be any stories worth telling? No, of course not, but perhaps that’s not the point. Perhaps in a world without conflict we would be the story, the ultimate story that needed no intermediary, no explanation, exposition, criticism. A world without conflict is one of love. Not my love, or your love, my son, my country. A world without conflict would be paradise.
All rubbish. Come on! Tell us a story.