“Happiness is overrated. There has to be conflict in life.”–Brad Pitt
Happiness is a fleeting state of mind because it comes about as the product of purpose, function, and conflict. If we search for happiness only for happiness’ sake, we will be seeking contentment without effort.
This is true throughout our lives regarding nearly everything we do–including meditation. If I decide to calm the mind by sitting at my shrine and just observing the breath, I’ve already veered away from the inertia of the previous moments. I have at least two differing desires happening in my mind. There is the wish to meditate and there is the urge to think about other stuff. There is the internal struggle between simply sitting and my monkey-mind chattering about all manner of hopes, regrets, resentments, hungers, and whatnot. The struggle to remain focused on the breath is a common, helpful conflict to people who meditate.
This upbeat attitude towards conflict does not overlook the deadly, harmful nature of the extreme nature of war or criminal behavior. Clearly, such conflict should be avoided. However, there is still something about the environment and strategizing of war that encourages inventiveness–albeit at a very high price.
Several common inventions people use each day were invented in the heat of conflict. Napoleon Bonaparte needed an effective way to safely deliver massive quantities of food to his imperial armies. So, the French government staged a contest to hopefully solve the conundrum. Nicolas Appert won the cash for designing a special sealed glass jar that could be mass produced in factories. He used his winnings to build the first canning jar manufacturing factory.
During World War Two, scientists strove to improve radar–already a wartime invention. The result of further research yielded the “cavity magnetron” vacuum tube. Later, in 1945, inventor Percy Spencer was experimenting with a magnetron powered device and realized that the microwave energy melted the chocolate bar in his pocket. This realization led to experiments as to how to heat food with microwave energy. Thanks to him, we now have the common microwave oven.
Official US intelligence agencies were worried about the integrity of military communications during the Cold War with the Soviet Union. The nation’s defense relies upon prompt communications. We would be in a world of hurt if our adversaries could sabotage or destroy telephone lines and destroy broadcast equipment. The Pentagon, NASA, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology began investigating alternate communication technologies. The Pentagon’s “Advanced Research Projects Agency” (ARPA) was tasked with heading the studies. Eventually, a team of scientists developed a complex network called “ARPANET”. What began as a safety communications backup plan against the Soviets, evolved into the Internet.
We do not need to declare war, hot or cold, to benefit from run of the mill, daily conflicts. There will always be some disagreements in life. It seems that there is always some sort of battle between chaos and order. Something or someone is going to push our buttons. We cannot always master ways to win these tussles, but we can mindfully influence our approach, mindset, and outcomes. How we handle conflict is the key to a more fulfilling, peaceful life.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes community activist and political theorist, Saul Alinsky. “Change means movement. Movement means friction. Only in the frictionless vacuum of a nonexistent abstract world can movement or change occur without that abrasive friction of conflict.”