You can't have one without another.
To know light, you must know darkness. To feel love, tenderness, and caring, you have to experience hate, suffering, and lack in some form. For every single thing or person on this earth, somewhere out there exists a perfect unequal.
But where people go wrong most of the time is by focusing on the absolute and seemingly perpetual negative extremes.
With so much going on, I'll even go as far as saying most people taking a defensive stance are doing so for valid reasons. Everything from the personal conflict they willingly invite into their lives, to the unwelcome chaos they sometimes unknowingly waltz into. It's no surprise that the guards are up, fear and doubt are abundant, and people are becoming less involved with others.
If you're anything like me, you'll know what I'm about to say about that… So I'll play the Devil's advocate.
A 'Peaceful' World
As peace-loving people, we're thoroughly distressed by the evils of chaos. To illustrate, I'll use one of the ugliest extremes of chaos as we know it: war.
No one in their right mind wakes up one day and decides to wage war thinking it'll be all fun and games. For example, most of you have already seen or heard about the “special military operation” in Ukraine led by Russia’s leader. (Not its people.) I’m not going to sit here and claim to be an expert in geopolitics, but I’ll speak about what I do know and that is this: you would think that global condemnation, economic free-fall and needless civilian deaths would be enough to dissuade a person in a position of power from taking such an extreme action.
Unfortunately, even the prospect of that didn’t stop the chaos from happening.
Even more unfortunate, war has always been existed and will continue to exist for as long as we do. It won't always show up in the way you imagine it with bombs, tanks, and ranks of young men and women fighting for a cause.
Some of the lesser battles we fight come in the form of famine, disease, and natural disasters to name a few examples of what is introduced when there's no peace in those areas of our life. Conflict and ‘wars’ so to speak aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. No wonder many people go to great lengths to avoid conflict at all costs.
So what happens when we attempt to live in a world without conflict? We all think we want a peaceful existence.
Imagine for a moment that we erased all man-made conflict on the planet. Everything and everyone would all get along, and nothing would be disturbed ever again. There would be no more “crime” on the streets, no more disagreements between friends, and we would all be free in the sense of having basically no opposition.
But, when this comes to fruition, we notice that something is not quite right, because it's not natural. This is because both peace and conflict are needed to bring a sense of balance and accomplishment to certain situations.
By asking for total peace, there would be no real need for solutions. People would deal with things as they are and not bother to seek out any help or change, eliminating the need for others to intervene. The “spice” of life would virtually be gone. What kind of life would that be?
The Spectrum of Chaos
Turning back to the extremes of war. Some conflict is more bearable than others. You wouldn’t compare a paper cut with cutting a finger off entirely. Arguing with your spouse is different than arguing with a stranger because different things are at stake; different levels of pain and discomfort are present. Therefore, if you know how to deal with your conflictual relationships, then you also understand how to create peaceful ones.
Such is the balance that conflict can bring when it’s encountered in manageable amounts. Maybe I speak for myself here, but I feel there's a certain need for controlled chaos. It's the uncontrolled chaos - such as wars we don't wage for ourselves - that we have a problem with.
Just like you can't sustain endless peace, you can't sustain endless war and conflict either. It's not possible to remain in constant extremes without destroying yourself completely. At some point, war must end; even on the rare occasion that it's somehow justified.
But it’s not a matter of just getting rid of all the chaos in the world and calling it a day… We need to accept it as it comes and deal with it in productive ways.
In order to deal with it, we need people who are comfortable with the horrors of war and enduring them to promote the safety and peace of those who aren't. That’s why we have firefighters, soldiers, police officers, nurses, doctors, etc. More often than not, they have a natural sense of dealing with chaos more effectively than the average person.
It doesn’t matter where you look, conflict is everywhere — from the micro-level between cells in your body to the macro level of war and economic meltdown. But just because we cannot escape conflict doesn't mean we can't do anything about it. Managing conflicts and channeling them into productive actions can be a good thing.
For example, it's known that wars make economies boom and new jobs are created as a result of expenditure on military campaigns. Taking this perspective, however, gets tough when you begin to look at the price of peace with a bird’s eye view.
What will it take? Who does it benefit? How do we get there? How do we stay there?
Peace isn’t impossible, but I’m beginning to think it’s fleeting. That’s why I don’t think people want “peace”, at least not forever or in its absolute form. I think what they really want is harmony.
The Paradox of Peace
Just like the old adage that one man's trash is another man's treasure, one's slice of Heaven may very well be another one’s Hell.
We all pray for peace, but peace without compromise is a formula for complete disaster and dullness. A life without challenge and conflict wouldn’t promote growth or excitement. Iron sharpens iron, and muscles atrophy when you don’t put them under stress and work them out. You can't inhale and hold your breath forever, and you certainly can't live totally without it either. This is all a form of conflict.
To be truly at peace, you’d have to be okay with letting things be as they are.
That would mean letting people do as they please to secure their happiness and vice versa. That would mean you not interfering with anyone’s idea of “peace” in any way. If some one desires to be alone in the room for an entire day because it brings them peace, you have to be okay with not trying to drag them out to eat lunch with you.
If someone finds peace in playing with fire or doing things that you otherwise would find dangerous, being at peace would mean you standing by, unaffected, unbiased, and motionless.
The paradox of peace is that even if we somehow realistically allowed absolute peace to exist, then absolute chaos must also exist. But we already know what the ‘absolutes’ can bring, don’t we?
If absolute chaos can be represented by war, then absolute peace might be represented by dullness and stagnation.
Too much of anything is not a good thing.
I think living in harmony gives us a chance to establish enough rules to reach mutual understanding and appreciation, but not too many so as to cause people to sacrifice more than what they have to gain. I think harmony is easier to maintain than total peace or total chaos could ever be; like a well-oil machine that needs a check-up every so often.
Maybe with this in mind, you can now begin to look at conflict from a different light. Don’t just wish it all away, but learn its ins and outs. Study the traps that are set by the extremes of total chaos and total peace in order to learn how to escape if you get caught in them.
Lastly, I’ve learned that not every battle is won with swords and shields. Sometimes the battles are won in advance by not accepting them in the first place.
Doing this can bring about peace, but in a world where the perfectly imperfect exist (us) and where you can’t have one with another as a counterweight, you must be grateful for both the conflict and the peace, if you can.
When you’re blessed with the gift of peace, take it for what it is. If conflict knocks at your door, go ahead and answer it but don’t let it stay over for dinner.
Having the patience to learn from all sides, showing gratitude for the wisdom they grant you, and exercising the courage to embrace their uncertainties will shape your character into an indomitable force.
Adding a bit of discipline to your sharpened sense of judgment, you can then alchemize peace and conflict into harmony which is ultimately more manageable. The best of both worlds.
Who knows, maybe that’s where the real journey starts...
Read more: The Art of Patience, Gratitude & Courage