The Glorious Conflict
“Does anybody want to fight?”
The ridiculous question hung in the air, as each of us looked at each other, verifiying the that we weren’t alone in seeing its absurdity. Our belief was confirmed as we all looked bemused at JP’s question. Then David lept up.
“I got boxing gloves!” He declared. Clear excitement written on his face, David also looked hesitant, like a kid who is told they are going to Disney, but aren’t sure if its real. Fortunately for him, JP matched his enthusiasm as he too rose to his feet and told David to go get the gloves.
Now everyone began to chime in with laughter and concerns:
“Is this happening?”
“Dude. David’s military. JP is gonna get whooped!”
“Why not guys?”
“This is WILD.”
Nathan turned and looked at me for support. “Come on man! This is a bad idea. You know it is! David is going to break his nose or something. You are making me be the voice of reason here and it isn’t a good look on me!”
This was an absolute role reversal for Nathan and I. Nathan is the bold adventurous one. I try to think things through first, which results in Nathan having a way better time time than me. As I started to respond to Nathan, JP stopped me.
“Dude. Come on. You know what’s in my heart.”
JP and I had spent a solid three weeks together trapped in a tight Honda Civic, as we traveled roughly 6,000 miles out west. Through out that time, we talked about politics, faith, How I Met Your Mother, the future, and every song we had every heard of. We ran out of topics. Somewhere along the way, he shared his view on competition. Or the glorious conflict as he called it…
“Each one of us is born into competition. ‘Fight or Die’ is the constant call of this fallen world. Body, mind, or spirit: the same applies. Unfortunately, more and more choose to kneel to the Hourglass, or to the Crown, or the Deception. Who stands?
Among this world still stands the few who know that battle is continuous. That competition rules our every breath. That Time does nothing but take, and all to be gain in this life must be won back. The Warriors face all things as an opportunity to show the Glass, the Crown, the Lie, that they do not back down and in doing so raise the standard to which their fellow Warriors rally.
The competition never ends, and to this the Warrior never surrenders.”
I looked at Nathan. “He needs this.”
You see what was in JP’s heart wasn’t violence or love of pain. It was human nature. A nature that has existed for as long as man has created great bodies of literature. Great writers and lovers of literature have differentiated the conflicts to distinguish them from one another.
Man vs. Society: The movie V for Vendetta comes to mind. A society so scared of each other that they give all their rights and freedoms to their government. But one man speaks defiantly to an entire nation: “So if you've seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you, then I would suggest you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked. But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me one year from tonight, outside the gates of Parliament, and together we shall give them a fifth of November that shall never, ever be forgot.” In the heart of man, there is conflict against conformity. Against the very people who make up our community.
Man vs. Machine: Anyone who hasn’t seen I, Robot should make every effort to view it as soon as possible. Aside from being super quotable, the main character Detective Spooner is the embodiment of man’s natural distrust of machines. In the end, his distrust of the machines proves to be the reason he is the only one that can stop them. In the heart of man, there is conflict against our own inventions. They serve us, but they also represent the possibility of being controlled.
Man vs. Nature: The 2015 film Everest is the retelling of the true story of an expedition that climbed Mt. Everest in 1996, and were struck by an unforeseen blizzard the likes of which few have seen. As characters are being introduced and the plot is being set, the guides asks the group why they are climbing Everest. After the knee-jerk response/homage to George Mallory (who died on Everest in 1924) of “Because it’s there!” one man responds, “I'm climbing Mount Everest... because I can... because to be able to climb that high and see that kind of beauty that nobody ever sees, it'd be a crime not to.” In the heart of man, there is conflict against the bonds of nature that attempt to limit our efforts.
Man vs. Man: The Prestige. A story of two magicians so determined to outwit/out perform the other that they destroy one another: physically, emotionally, and psychologically. The ego of both man claims that THEY are the greatest magician. Such a claim cannot be made by two men without a violent resolution. In the heart of man, there is conflict against our fellow men who challenge and thwart us.
Man vs. Self: If you hate musicals, you should suck it up and still go see Les Miserables. A story of redemption, Jean Valjean, a former prisoner, pretends to be a normal citizen. He works his way up in society and eventually becomes a wealthy businessman. When the police arrest a man they think to be him (with a probable fatal punishment), Jean Valjean is torn. While the scene in which he wrestles with what to do is only a few minutes in the movie, the book depicts this internal struggle over the course of an entire chapter. When I consider the inner battle of a man, I think of this scene. In the heart of man, there is conflict against itself: self-preservation vs. morality, indulgence vs. self-discipline, and logic vs. passion.
Now there are a few other types of conflicts, but for the sake of this blog let’s limit ourselves to these five. Each conflict does not stand alone, however. I could give you examples of each conflict type in every film listed above. They are not mutually exclusive.
As we watched David and JP strap on the gloves, step outside, and set the time for the round, I knew it wasn’t just a conflict of Man vs. Man (JP vs. David). It was also a Man vs. Self conflict. JP had always felt that he could hold his own in a fight. That he would not flee, but rise to the occasion. But until that moment he couldn’t have been sure. You see the only way a man or woman can confidently say that they are a fighter…Is if they have been a fight. It’s ridiculously straight forward, but it’s all to easy to overlook in these days.
People talk about wanting to start a business. Or get into shape. Create a social movement. Make a difference. But when there is push back they are surprised. When they have to fill out paper work and tax forms, the appeal of being a business owner is gone. When they stayed up too late and just want to sleep, the importance of conquering themselves and getting to the gym gets lost. When the call to become better as a society falls on lost ears and logical counter-arguments give them pause, they falter. But this conflict is what gives weight to these things.
If your business is super easy to manage, it needs to be doing more.
If you leave a workout thinking, “That was easy.” You did it wrong.
If everyone is pleased with your social movement, it’s probably because you aren’t thinking big enough.
Conflict shapes us. It molds us and refines us. Yes, it’s painful most of the time. But whether you are fighting a society, a machine, nature, a man, or yourself, when you come out the other side, you arise stronger. What you have achieved, you have earned through the glorious conflict.