Conflict is Important

I think that conflict is a vital part of human experience, and that any spiritual framework must account for its importance. Through the lens of my polytheism, I understand the world as full of beings who are constantly experiencing and producing their own complicated, intersecting and overlapping truths. I do not see in the world a single source of transcendent truth, but instead a vast network of truth production. Our individual claims to truth, then, are contingent on the claims of the beings that surround us. Our experiences, our lives, are colored, influenced, and changed by all the others whom we inhabit the world with.

It is inevitable that we will encounter truth claims that are incompatible with each other. We must be careful not to dismiss such incompatibilities as only apparent, as though some perspective large enough or distant enough could dissolve them. When we deem conflicting truths to be merely apparent, we dismiss the lived experience that produced them. We end up insisting that to someone else, someone far enough away and sufficiently disinterested, the conflict disappears. We must avoid using this theoretical perspective of some distant being to disengage with the actual conflicts in front of us. We must not disregard the real experiences of beings we do not understand, or do not agree with.

Our very being in the world is predicated on being in the world with others.  We recognize ourselves through contrast with those around us, and understand others through their distinctness from us. We relate to each other and the world both through our shared, overlapping, communal experiences, and our discrete, individual and unique, personal experiences. The richness of our relationships, of our being in the world together, blossoms from the interactions of our private, personal experiences, and the experiences that we share communally.

Truth is threatened when we dismiss the views of others simply because they do not accord with our expectations. If we understand ourselves at least in part through relation, then we damage ourselves when we disregard the experiences of others. Our world is diminished. We restrict our own potential. Conflict challenges us to change our understanding. When we encounter viewpoints and truth claims incompatible with our own, we are presented with the opportunity to expand our world. Our limitations make us dependent on the viewpoints of others to help us understand our world; conflicts are a necessary part of our coming to terms with the complexity of our own lives.

We learn about ourselves and our relation to the world through conflict, and conflict teaches us about the views and experiences of others. Conflict is necessary and unavoidable. We should see conflicts as opportunities to come closer to the world, to learn more about ourselves and others. Conflicts show us, in sharpening detail, the complexities of the network of relationships that make up our lives, and presents us with an opportunity to test our understanding of the world. It challenges us with the possibility that our understanding is inaccurate.

However, even if we recognize, embrace and allow ourselves to be transformed by conflict, we do not automatically resolve the underlying problem. Our own personal transformation is simply not enough. We must also be motivated to act. Conflicts are resolved only when we ourselves resolve to take action. Our actions, then, change the world, and the conditions of the conflict. I do not mean, however, to oversimplify. This process is complicated and often tremendously difficult. The work may be larger than we alone can manage, and yet we must do our best. The decisions we make and the actions we take in the face of conflict reveal us to the world. We shape the world as the world shapes us.

The choices we make and the positions we take are not trivial, they are expressions of our personal relationship to the world and to the beings that compose it. As we move to resolve conflicts, we express our orientation to the world, we declare ourselves. By addressing conflict we resolve ourselves in relation to the world, we become ourselves more fully. Our choices and our actions shape us as we work to shape the world.

The process feeds upon itself. I see this process as fundamental to human experience, and so it is fundamental to my understanding of Polytheism. Polytheism moves us to recognize the complex network that we are each a part of, and it places our actions and our choices into that greater context. Our freedom to choose and act ripples outward through the network, and we ourselves are constantly affected by the choices and actions of others. Personal freedom is both ensured by and contingent upon the freedom of others.

Conflict highlights and reinforces the profundity of our personal freedom. The choices we make and the actions we take are contextualized in the greater network. As we work to resolve conflict, by whatever means we elect, we change the world and we change ourselves. We have the freedom and the power to transform our world, and in so doing we are caught up in the transformation all together. We cannot escape.

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Artist, Pagan, Philosopher, Theologian, Queer Theorist, Apocalypticist, Potential Lunatic I write at

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