Monday, November 28, 2016

The Problem with Conflict

“Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.”  Proverbs 26:30

We live in a magic world, but it is also a world of conflict.  If you are observant, you will discover that there is no lack of either one.  Now I am a person who tries to avoid conflict and promote peace.  There are millions of others like me who do their best to make the world a decent place in which to live.  We long for the “Kingdom of Summer” described by Stephen Lawhead in his book Taliesin. 

            “I have seen a land shining with goodness where each man protects his brother’s dignity as readily as his own, where war and want have ceased and all races live under the same law of love and honor.”

I assume this is the desire of every human heart.  We all want peace.  But if that is our ultimate goal – a world without conflict – then why is conflict the main character in our stories?  In a sense, writers are the talebearers that stir up strife.  Why is that?  On the one hand, we sing about peace, but on the other hand, we write about conflict.  Judging by all the books, articles, seminars, lectures, and courses on conflict, it appears that we cannot survive without it.

Well, here is a conflict for you.  I do not want to write about conflict – at least, not in the way I see it presented.  The conflict that I prefer in stories is like a math problem in that (1) it has established parameters (2) it obeys the laws of logic (3) the process to deal with it is a learning experience (4) the resolution of the conflict makes logical sense (5) the journey through the conflict is just as satisfying as reaching its conclusion.
To borrow from George Polya’s problem-solving process:
1.     The conflict is understandable in terms of its source, its effects, and its nature.
2.     There is a plan to deal with the conflict in which several options are available.
3.     The conflict is addressed; theories may be tested and either accepted or rejected.
4.     The conflict is resolved satisfactorily.
5.     The process for resolving the conflict is discussed and evaluated for future applications.

For me, the most important aspect of a conflict is the “why.”  There a must be a reason beyond “something happened” and it must be subtle.  I prefer conflict to be complex rather than complicated – a distinction many writers fail to apply or do not understand.  Complicated is one-dimensional; complex is multi-dimensional.

The conflict I prefer is that which guides a person from one stage of faith to another, one that fosters emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth.  But judging from lists of best-selling books and book reviews, I don’t think this type of conflict is popular.  Instead, it’s all drama, drama, drama, and unresolved issues.  That is not for me.  Life holds enough drama and issues without my reading about it or adding to it.
As for me, I will add no wood to the fire so that in my own world strife ceases. I will continue searching for the rare gems of writing that make the journey through conflict interesting and satisfying.

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