What if All Conflict Ceased to Exist?

Posted: February 15, 2013 in Philosophy

Yesterday all the problems of the world, of the human condition, were resolved. There are no wars. Crime no longer exists. Republicans and Democrats agree on all matters. Life is just the way we want it to be.

Where does that leave us?

I assume that you, like all people, are trying to resolve a few problems in your personal life, business or relationships with others. That seems to be the norm. But let us assume that all of those troubles are now resolved.  You now possess an understanding that permits you to be at peace with conflicts you could not resolve, and those conflicts in your life that once were such a bother, have now been resolved to your satisfaction.

Where does that leave you?

What would a life absence of conflict be like? I need not list examples of conflicts. A single lifetime seems to be a continuous stream of conflicts and resolutions.  Now that the problems are all solved, what do you imagine that life would be like?

If we are trying to solve problems so we are problem free, what kind of life are we really trying to create for ourselves, others and the world?

It is hard to imagine becoming a victim of a crime. Can you imagine a life without crime? It is hard to imagine what it is like to go without food. Can you imagine a life where everyone has access to basic necessities?

These are not easy questions.  We remain engaged in trying to eliminate personal and social problems, for a reason – but why? If we are not willing to think about what our life might be like in the absence of these things, why do we work so hard to try to eliminate them? Are we working to create a life we are unwilling to imagine?

Life is a Stream

The philosopher Schopenhauer likened life to a stream. When the stream proceeds unimpeded, the water is calm, the speed is swift, the air is quiet, and time passes without notice. However, when a tree limb falls into the water, when the elevation changes and creates a waterfall, when any force interferes with the peaceful flow of the stream, time becomes significant. The very definition and character of a stream is measured by the things which tend to impede it.

A life without challenges would be peaceful. It would also be very boring. Maybe that is why we do not care to imagine what a trouble-free life would be like.

Managing the Conflict

If it is necessary that life will always consist of episodes of conflicts and resolutions. We have the option of managing those conflicts in a way that does not detract our level of satisfaction with our life. Some think of work as a drudgery.  Others whistle while they do similar work. The difference is attitude.

In an objective sense, conflict is necessary and good. We define its quality subjectively however. We measure conflict in terms of how it opposes our will, and opposition to our will is valued as a bad quality which detracts from our desire to be conflict free.

Finding the Right Perspective

We tell ourselves to “Keep a perspective”, or to “Deal with it,” or “Live and let live,” and other truisms which give us a hint that conflict can be managed without becoming a victim of the conflict. It suggests that we can be in a conflict without being affected by the conflict. When the tree limb impedes our progress, redirects our desires, delays our satisfactions, we have the capacity to remain in control of how we regard those uninvited conflicts. If an occasional waterfall is a necessary event, one that guarantees that our life will gain meaning, then we can adopt our skills to account for that inevitability.

We are not resolving conflict in order to eliminate its presence.  Instead, we resolve conflict because conflict is necessary. What is not necessary is to become adversely affected by conflict. Instead of imagining a life without conflict, imagine a life where we are each better able to live peacefully in a world of conflict.

We need not wait for the future for that to occur. We can enjoy that life right now.  We understand that conflicts will happen to us. How the force of conflict affects us is one thing. How we allow ourselves to be affected remains within our control. The peaceful stream is within each of us. There are limits to what we can do, especially when conflict is severe, but it is my guess that it might be beneficial to focus on learning new coping strategies instead of wishing that conflicts would simply go away.

  1. Mike Etter says:

    I like to incorporate problems into my very being. Now, obviously I’m not talking about problems involving violence or problems that may be potentially life-threatening. The kinds of problems that I mean to describe are mostly logistical, or little snafus that occasion daily living, interruptions in reaching destinations where each one might wish to find his or herself.

    When you transform those perceived inconveniences from intrusions that are seemingly alien to the established plan that you’ve organized for achieving some goal into an element intrinsic and necessary to the plan itself, you’re able to more readily appreciate the actuality of process and what it takes to meet the goals set for yourself.

    It’s an idea many philosophers have touched on, in a variety of forms, my particularly favorite branding and articulation coming from Martin Heidegger.

    Interesting article, friend. Enjoyed.

    • Kent Moore says:

      I’m hearing ENTP in this response. Likes diversity, challenges, sees bigger picture (systemic process), future oriented, open-ended. Glad you liked the article. When you write about philosophy, you never know what kind of response you might get – if any! I appreciate that you took the time to share your thoughts. I’ll give Heidegger a look. Thanks again.