Peace vs. Complacency

Posted on March 23, 2012


Q: Do we need conflict to exist?

A: Our identity as we know it is actually based in conflict. On the most basic level, we know what we are by exclusion, by defining what we are not.

So existence in the fundamentally egoic sense is based on the notion of separation.

Q: Can’t you have separation without conflict?

A: No.

Conflict only disappears when we bring awareness of our essential unity or interconnectedness to full fruition.

The extent to which we cherish and preserve our sense of separation from others and the environment is the extent to which we invite conflict into our lives.

Q: But what about healthy separation?

A: On the level of the mind, there is no such thing. True health is possible only when we accept our interconnectedness with all that is.

On the level of the body, separation from harmful situations is of course necessary for bodily and emotional survival. Attempts to overcome separation on this physical level are prone to pre/trans fallacy – maybe more on that another time.

Also, it is not helpful to join with some at the expense of excluding others – again speaking on the level of the mind. This kind of joining does not heal separation, it merely emphasizes the boundaries of ‘us’ and ‘them’ instead of ‘you’ and ‘me.’

Q: So can you have healthy boundaries with other people and also live in perfect unity with them?

A: Yes.

Spiritual oneness is reflected in the interconnectedness of the physical world, but ultimately has nothing to do with the physical world.

Flower children meditating

Cultural symbols of 'oneness' are strictly optional

In that way, nothing we can say or do on Earth can affect our spiritual oneness.

And yet while living on Earth, we can increase our awareness of spiritual oneness – which is going on at the same time as the conflict and separation of the world. In other words, we can touch the truth of spiritual oneness with our awareness even in the midst of worldly strife. This isn’t just a possibility, it is a prerequisite to achieving peace in this life.

This awareness may or may not translate to the types of behaviours we may associate with spiritual depth or awareness – the behaviours that you may believe a person would adopt if they “believed” in oneness: giving away one’s wealth, adopting traditional religious practices, becoming vegetarian, living in solitude, singing kumbaya,   etc.

In fact,

The only real measure of spiritual depth on Earth is the degree of peace experienced, especially in times of acute egoic challenge.

(Being relaxed amidst the symbols of egoic luxury does not always count – and don’t confuse numbness, avoidance, or complacency with peace).

Q: So you can be aware of spiritual oneness, and still be a banker? Or a CEO? Or even a criminal?

A: We are motivated to seek most of the things  of this world (money, possessions, jobs, activities, relationships) out of the feeling of conflict. Without an investment in separation, we become unwilling to make decisions in life that exacerbate human suffering (which does not necessary take any career choices off the table; there are certainly opportunities for peaceful bankers, CEOs, and even criminals) . But for 99% of people today:

Our lives are an attempt to simultaneously solve and maintain conflict.

Remember that since separation is the critical and not-so-secret ingredient of our egoic identity, we will work industriously to maintain the sense of separation, even though it causes great pain.

Q: If we feel oneness all the time, and at peace, how are we motivated to do anything? Without conflict, do we just become complacent blobs?

A: Quite the opposite:

One who is fully aware of the interconnectedness of things is best able to perceive the actions in life that are in the highest good for everyone.

One who denies this oneness does not believe that there is such an option, and is doomed to fight against the rest of the world to obtain what she needs.

In  this way, peace does not bring inactivity or even passivity, but instead brings more balanced and effective action. Inner peace shows itself as activity that is often less frequent or busy, but more powerful – not in achieving something for the separate self, but in reducing the suffering caused by the illusion of separation.

As an example, a so-called peace activist who is wrathful against his ‘enemy‘ actually depends upon that conflict for his identity. While a part of him certainly wants to see issues resolved, another is invested in maintaining the conflict to preserve his existence.

Israeli Peace ActivistA truly peaceful activist, however, is in a much better position to affect change for the good of all impartially and effectively, allowing himself to be an instrument through which the greater good is accomplished.

This is a much easier identity to live with – the identity of being a vessel for the greatest good, a concept which in itself implies profound interconnectedness.

If there is no oneness, then there could be no single greatest good for all, nothing that could benefit all beings simultaneously. If separation is true, then greatest good is a myth.

Q: How do we know what’s true?

A: Self-inquiry. Ask your heart. Learn unconditional love. Be brave. Consider: how important is it to you to know the true answer here? Then ask.

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