Peace as conflict: The eternal catalyst and elixir of human existence
Appearance or the coming into existence of any organism is essentially defined by conflict. The conflict of will, to do or not to do, to let be or not let be. The conflict of action with its attending struggles; the ambivalence of attraction, risks of choice and the giving of consent, copulation and gestation, anatomical reconfiguration, the drama of labor and homo epiphany, the first defiant cries of revolt and revulsion. Who ever asked to be born? (Tan fe wa?)
Properly analyzed (and understood) conflict is essentially a systemic ontological process that defines us as a species that is always becoming; that which we are yet to become determining that we take the next step which does not in any way end the quest but rather widens the path that we could possibly take and tread because (we are what we are not and not what we are) of who we are and what we are.
Each generation in its seriousness has always found a clever way to call this existential cyclical curse or distempered growth, progress or even success. Yet ironically in all of this, man’s living forward emphatically, by whatever name it is called, marks the beginning of his dying process for, to live is to die in slow motion; a revolting fact which ultimately makes being born or coming into existence (which is always a harm) an unwarranted pointless preoccupation.
Existing itself or what we call living or human life is also a struggle that is marked by conflict. Conflict of interests, of desires, emotions, motives, preferences, of lives marked by choices, values dictated by ideologies and a litany of ethos that colors the dictates by which we live every day, our culture. Even while change occurs every minute, endorsing the fact that time changes and so too the way that we do things, (as analogue becomes digital and nanometrics takes centre stage, as artificial intelligence keeps wiping off Homo sapiens as something significant as it undermines his integrity; cyber interference keeps rising, electric driverless cars are here and robots on the assembly floors starkly defines a future world where human resource management policies take a tumble, fundamentalists and fanatical zealots among us still take off slices that they encase in iron, unchanging, unyielding and unbending: the birth place of tradition; insisting that as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end.
But conflict in its true essence nevertheless remains positive; the dynamics of its dialectical rhythm ever forcing the old order to yield place to the new. A new life is born as the new season replaces the old. Above all, there is a feeling of peace, joy, happiness. Winter turns to spring, dry season steps aside for the rains to soothe us and cool the atmosphere. These changes in some cultures are often marked by festivities of worship, dancing, eating and drinking.
Of peace in particular, individually and corporately, it is the season when we flourish, make plans, actualize our dreams, foster growth and make sustainable projections. A time when we make forecasts and draw up strategies. But peace times however are always fleeting as the nature of peace itself essentially narrates. Peace is always forever fleeing from itself as if it cannot bear to be with itself; always elusive and ungrabable, unable to look itself in the face and at least accommodate and appreciate aesthetically her own configurations. And because peace is so elusive, humans are condemned to continually search for it, work towards it, work for it, fight for it, wage wars and, as human history attests, kill for it.
When finally the wars are however over and the guns eventually stop their boom boom noise, when the internal storming seas are at last settled one might ask if we have now found peace and if so, where is it and what is its measure? The language of conversation speaks and refers to a fragile peace that must be negotiated, managed and nurtured. And correctly so after all, self interests run deep, motives and agenda even run deeper and remain inscrutable, forever indefinite in their frantic formlessness. The painful curse with this fraternal frustrating anguish however is that the engine of human existence itself never stops grinding. So it shall ceaselessly, as cursed, continue to grind until man exits or annihilates himself and all animate beingnessness finally evaporates.
The reality of human existence therefore is essentially characterized by conflict. Whatever may be perceived and characterized as peace is just a tiny fleeting transitory crack within contesting conflicts. The human existence is, de facto, conflict in perpetual motion. Ironically though, like it or not, it is still what defines the joy of existence. It is what makes it tick and pulsate with frenetic business of human tenure and civilization. It is vitality; the elixir of human existence, its quintessence, its core. How apt in sober reflection when we frankly declare: the struggle continues!! Ojo iku lojo isimi!!!. (The day we die we rest)
Perhaps it is sheer obdurate foolhardiness then, or some blind stubbornness perhaps or a mere sadistic turn of the human mind that wishes so badly to deny its own essence and pray or wish for peace. How feasible is it really for a leopard to change its spots? When you find peace, that is, believing that you were ever seriously searching for it thinking that someday somehow you will eventually find it and you would be glad you did, what are you going to do with it and for how long shall you have it? When you find it, again assuming that you do, will you even recognize it vividly enough to cherish it since you are as it is forever gyrating to the rhythm of conflict and breathing its fire?
This then perhaps is the sumum bonum (greatest good) which is consequent on an unsettling brutal existential paradox: the fact that generically the human life carries within itself its own negation a.k.a Anikulapo. It is what provides it on the one hand with the ultimate incentive for self-affirmation, self integration and self preservation and on the other guarantees, without any ambiguity, its irreversible extermination or existential hara-kiri.
Let us pray. May the New Year be filled with intense, intricate and engaging complex conflicts. May the species that they bring, as they propel us forward, define better the meaning that we collectively and individually ascribe to human existence. And when we may so suddenly and momentarily encounter that rather boring fleeting moment of peace, may we, if we are sensitive enough to even notice it, use it for whatever it is worth and so live. Amen.
• Professor Wale Olajide delivered this paper at Rotary International Ado–Ekiti
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