Every writer and every teacher of writers and every reader of every writer who ever had a teacher, knows that without conflict there is no drama. The question that occupies me this afternoon is whether or not we are so wired to understanding life through the lens of drama that as individuals living in society we require it in order to make sense of our lives and even, perhaps to recognize that we are alive.
My cat naps comfortably on the bed. But even she waits for moments to “attack” me; to turn my petting into a challenge; to play at fighting. Passion and repose. And then, passion again. If not the passion of love, then that of anger. Maybe all the drama of adolescence is practice, like spring training or the exhibition football games of August. How else are we to manifest the hormonal energy driving us into adulthood? Aren’t all games themselves simply controlled conflict, organized non-lethal confrontations. Are monopoly, poker, bridge, anything more than friendly confrontations; opportunities to win or lose; to adrenalise our moment, to feel ourselves engaged and alive?
If that is so, then what’s my problem? Perhaps, after all, it is not with conflict but with violence: the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual attempt to destroy that without which I could not feel fully alive. Isn’t it, after all, absent the high minded claims offered by each contestant, something akin to shooting my partner on the see saw because whenever he gets up high, it’s just because he made me go down low? Shouldn’t we step back from time to time to recognize our adversaries as partners, to understand that our conflicts are the inevitable bridges that unite opposites and provide the only opportunity for the kind of synergistic discovery that brings us the resolution required to take us to the next divide? Isn’t it simply old school thesis, antithesis, synthesis played out in our daily life? Isn’t that what all this drama is about?
But some of us cannot manage our adrenalin. We are in fact driven daily by our anger and use the opportunity that conflict provides not to engage about the issue but to find relief from our anger. We scream, we rage, we vent, and sometimes we attack. We convert our sense of victimization into that of an avenger. We murder, and claim it as justice.
This is a precarious time for us, and we need to proceed with some clarity. Calls for violence must be met with laws insisting on civility; casual access to weapons must be restrained. Laws that permit the owner of a gun to carry it visibly neglect the inherent intimidation of such a display. Weapons at meetings and public gatherings are meant to silence debate. Laws that permit that behavior must be repealed. No citizen has the right to threaten bodily harm to another, and the presence of a weapon in and of itself, constitutes just that threat. In keeping with all that I’ve written above, I am interested in hearing where I may be mistaken.