This old post from the end of 2010 has been on my mind, as I got caught up in all this conflict on Facebook around the presidential election. I'm struggling to find the balance of engaging authentically and not projecting my own opinions in a hurtful way. My conclusion: I have no freakin idea. For now, I think the place for me is off Facebook, so my personal account is on pause at least until this crazy election is over.
"conflict is essential to the development and growth of man and society. it leads either to the construction or destruction of an entire group or state. . . if there is no conflict - internal or external - there can be no growth."
-sun tzu, the art of war
thinking about this quote brought a conversation from many years ago to mind. at the time, i was an idealistic new college graduate in my 20s and was tutoring high school and middle school students. one particular student challenged me when i talked about peace as an important ideal. he defended war, and he called it a completely natural thing. "war is even something that happens within our bodies," he told me. that teenager so eloquently left me flustered.
then, just this week, my body went into a state of full revolt against a virus or something i ate, and i remembered that student's words. a war was going on in my body, and on some level, i was grateful that the battle was being fought.
i agree with the art of war on this one: conflict is essential for growth. there is something about conflict that is necessary for our evolution, and even for our well-being. to deny conflict is often to deny truth, and to me, peace that's faking it, isn't peace at all. many times, i've had experiences when i can feel anger, resentment, or judgment coming from someone, but the peace mask keeps it neatly hidden. to me, this mask isn't true peace.
true peace is in having the courage to stand up, be true, and deal with a conflict if it exists. when i think of a wise martial artist, or even my body defending itself from something perceived as harmful, those images don't hit my sense of violence. the use of force as defense can actually be a way of creating a state of harmony, balance, and eventual peace.
now, a couple days later, my body is at peace again. there were moments bowing before my toilet that i honestly wondered if i would feel normal again. the sense of overwhelming chaos and out of control nausea was all i could see or feel at that time. but then a day or two later, balance was reestablished, and it was reestablished rather quickly simply because my body was willing to stand up, defend, and deal with the problem.
i see the truest and strongest form of peace just like that. peace isn't necessarily the person that's always smiling and friendly, never with an unkind word to say. peace is the one that has the courage to speak the truth. peace is the one that doesn't cower when conflict enters the room. peace is the one that stands up, and if truth is in saying what someone else might not want to hear, true peace is secure enough to speak anyway.
there may seem to be a contradiction between this and my last post, but the deepest truth about peace seems hidden in this paradox. peace is courageous, but not a vigilante always looking to destroy injustice on the outside. peace is the willingness to look within first. peace isn't fueled by anger or righteousness; its fuel is Truth and Love. all actions that are driven by the purest sources of this fuel, even ones that might seem externally violent, can be actions of peace.
this peace i talk about isn't the opposite of conflict; it is just big enough to encompass conflict. within this state of Peace, there is room for all that rich conflict that leads to our greatest lessons and growth.