On Conflict and Freedom

comments 17
Course Ideas / Reflections

I have come to an important realization I think. And it’s not to say that I didn’t sort of know this already, but there’s a difference in knowing something and really knowing it.

We’ve all seen these dichotomies: the zone defense or man-to-man, materialism or spiritualism, unrestrained capitalism or comprehensive socialism, cardio or strength training, STEM or liberal arts, the Right or the Left… And we all have at least one or two thoughts on these things. If you’re like me, though, you’re not reducible to a multiple choice form, particularly one with only two answers. The truth is that we’re all unique, and even when we do align on some big picture issue, the motivations behind our choices are often distinct. Even when we agree, it’s often for different reasons.

But we live in the age of convincing. We always have, of course. There is nothing unique about the fact that in the present historical moment we are berating one another right, left and center over the ways that we think, feel, and encounter the world and one another. The failure on our part is not in thinking there’s a right answer, but in thinking there’s only one right answer. And this is the knowledge to which I’m returning.

Wherever we’re each at in our exploration of who we are, is the right answer for each of us. It’s a hard pill to swallow, because some people are in a place of self-exploration that requires the people around them to suffer. Something ought to be done about that, we think. But what’s really tricky here is that before we get all the way down the chains of causation that lead to the accruing and exercising of power over others in a manifest way, we pass this little place called the need to be right, and what we seldom realize is that the need to be right comes at the expense of others, too. You’re on my side, or you’re one of them. All our difficulties stem from this, from our inability to wrap the cloak of inclusion around everyone.

The crux of the matter for me is whether we’re living in a world that is simply happening to us, or one that responds to the movement of who we are being, and who we are becoming. This might be restated as suggesting that we either live in a zero-sum game, or we live in an open-ended movement of creation. My opinion is that we live in the latter, but when I forget this, and act as if I live in the former, then antagonisms necessarily develop.

In the zero-sum version of reality it is necessary to assert one’s particular views with the degree of force that is acceptable to one’s conscience, because this is the means by which the desired outcomes are obtained. We’ve set some boundaries on the sorts of force that civilized humans are able to bring to bear upon one another, but within those boundaries we are quite tenacious. And having boundaries doesn’t change the fundamental condition under which we labor. That condition is one of limited views in conflict.

Part of my discovery is that there simply is no wholeness in conflict. When I slip into the zero-sum version of reality, I am myself conflicted, sliced in two, and ineffectual. In the interactive version of reality—the version in which we are all related, in which the countless dialogues between the individual and the Whole somehow yield the multi-dimensional fabric of daily life, a curated experience of being supplied to each one of us—there is a unique sort of freedom on offer. It is the freedom of comprehending that reality is working.

The tremendous difficulty in accepting this freedom is that it implies a tacit complicity with all the evils of the world. There’s this idea that if certain things that obtain in our world were resolved, then things would be pretty good. It hinges upon the notion that if we could somehow convince those people out there who are doing screwed-up, awful things, or even just innocently deluded things—which if you think about it, amounts to the same thing—then we could get things on track. And in a zero-sum reality, this is perfectly correct.

But when one offers the benefit of the doubt to reality itself, and allows for the fact that reality is working, then one begins to understand that our efforts to change other people is identical to having our cake and eating it, too.  In other words, a world in which we remain precisely who we think we are on every level, but without the collective difficulties we face, may not be a possible world. The difficulties may simply be symptomatic of our incomplete understanding of who we are. They are simply the feedback—as immutable as the effects of gravity on a bouncing ball—the effect of the cause, which is our ignorance.

The acknowledgment that reality is working simply takes the edge off. It doesn’t mean to suggest that the difficulties we see are not worth tackling, but it frees us to express who we are without getting everyone else on board first. And I think it is this freedom—the possibility of offering the gift of who we are on behalf of everyone, and expressing the clarity of our hearts without becoming mired in the need to correct or push down another, that will ultimately transform this experience for everyone. Because this type of movement is undivided, and whole, and true.


  1. It’s nice to see you back on WP offering up your unique insights and machinations Michael. Thanks for the reminder that we’re each in the perfect place for ourself, but not necessarily others.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. dear michael, this post takes me back to when the world
    made more sense, when feeling good was easier
    & there seemed to be much less suffering & confusion.
    thank you for comforting my simple reality
    with a well thought out encouragement
    to care for myself, deeply. to set my heart free of disturbances.
    to forgive & reconcile inside, & outwards towards humanity.
    by using insight & compassion upon my small self i’m potentially
    a better neighbor and citizen. perhaps able to sit
    on the water peacefully in a sea of turmoil;
    hopefully able to help stabilize
    the precariously rocking boat,
    that others will fair better in this moment,
    maybe even survive the storms ahead.
    wishing you and yours happiness
    there on your side
    of the country 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • A beautiful reply, David. You’re most welcome, and thank you for adding the wisdom of your own voice to this quiet thought. It’s kind of a balancing act, and each encounter can bring so much to bear upon us–the desire to love and be loved, to know and be known, to please and be pleased, to bless and be blessed, to acknowledge and be acknowledged, to accept and be accepted–that it’s a wonder we have any clear ideas whatsoever. Ha! We’re like a chemical stew of humanites passing these little ions of need and desire and love back and forth… Tough to see the forest for the trees…

      With Love

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good post, Michael, which for me seemed in large part an argument for relativism. It’s not very fashionable in these days of polarising absolutes and obeisance to empiricism. As with many people, the more I explored the psychology of Buddhism, understood Zen-nature, understood the nature of thought (and in consequence belief), the more of a relativist I became. It’s not that all views then become equally valid, but that they remain in the category of conceptual constructs, of models about the world as against feeling and merging into the beingness of the world. I guess it’s something like the distinction you make in your opening, about the difference between understanding something intellectually and knowing something in your bones, so to speak, by direct experience, by total immersion in the thingness and thisness of that something: it’s haecceity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really like what you said, Hariod, about how our views are largely about the world as opposed to being unified with the beingness of the world. I think that’s it in a nutshell. To set aside conceptual understandings in favor of the immersion seems vital to me. Does that mean we do not design traffic systems that get more people where they wish to go with less difficulty? Probably not. We should still do that, right? But at the same time, our conceptual constructs of the traffic system may not be as efficacious as we think, when compared to what might be accomplished by a crowd of mindful travelers. I think, in fact, that in cultures–or micro-cultures perhaps–that have nourished this sort of mindfulness, (for lack of a better word), a lot of “little moves” over time lead to the sort of beauty that is so simple it’s profound. The sort of beauty, form and function integrated in a wholeness that illumines us. This is what we yearn for I think, and we simply can’t reach it through conceptual maneuvering alone…

      Good to hear your voice again, H!
      With Love

      Liked by 1 person

    • Lee Roetcisoender says

      Greetings Hariod,

      Reality is working, and an underlying component of that architecture is relativism, where the only equality, justice and morality is what we as human beings make up along the way. Corresponding to Parmenides’ Reality/Appearance distinction, Nagarjuna’s Two Truths Doctrine and Kant’s Noumena and Phenomena ontology, it becomes self evident that our universe, everything within it including ourselves is a metaphorically living, breathing work of art, aka expression. (See my post below). None of this is about us, we, every discrete system that make up the choreography of dance in this magnificent work of art are conditions, and all of those conditions lead to other possibilities. The majesty of the expression is beyond the capacity of words to describe.

      Our world of appearances (A) is real, nevertheless, that real-ness is contextual. Haecceity may be defined as the total immersion in the thing-ness and this-ness which is representative of our experience as an expression, nevertheless, the convergent consensus point is the next evolutionary ontological level of experience where Reality (R) is manifest within us, for there is but One.

      Be @ Peace

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Lee Roetcisoender says

    In agreement with your short essay, I am compelled to post a couple of paragraphs from my book* because they seem fitting.

    “Justice, equality and morals are not qualities, properties or characteristics which can be assigned to the underlying the form of any expression. Every artist is aware of the inherent nature of expression. The underlying form of expression consists of diversity and contrast, both within the texture, form and content. This axiom is self-evident, unveiling itself across the entire spectrum of art, whether it be a painting, a sculpture, a drawing, music, dance, or the syntax of poem and prose. The diversity of asymmetry not equality, the contrast of inequity not justice, the opposition of immorality, not morality are the fundamental building blocks of expression. In a world of justice, music would consist of a single analogue of sound for fear of being prejudice. In a world of morality, a painted work of art would consist of a single hue of color void of diversity or contrast, both in the texture, form and content for fear of being immoral. In a world of equality, dance would consist of a singular analogue of body position for the fear of inequity. In a world of morality, a sculpture made of stone would be the hewn marble untouched by human hands for the fear of being immoral. In a world of justice, a drawing would consist of a single line following an infinite plane into infinity for fear of bigotry. In a world of equality, the syntax of poem and prose would consist of a single letter in a never-ending sentence for fear of partisanship.
    The architecture of expression is a mean between two competing extremes. One extreme is presented as a mystical whole, which consists of no internal distinctions and thus no parts. It consists of a oneness without plurality. At the other extreme lies chaos, which is sheer plurality without relationship of any kind. Since chaos has no oneness, it cannot be correctly stated to consist of parts since there is no whole of which the many are the parts. There is only chaos. Expression is the venue which provides the platform where structure has the oneness of the mystical whole as well as the plurality of chaos. Expression reflects the one of the many and the many in the one as character determinate and unified. Within expression, the individual parts of which the structure is formed are easily distinguished from each other because of contrast. These opposing contrasts may differ in quality, in any position or any order which abstracts from quality such as space and/or time. This is illustrated in a painting. In a painting, colored shapes are distinguished by their varying positions within space. The colors may be of the same quality, such as the repeated use of the color red, or the painting may consist of different qualities, in which case the parts are distinguished in both the position of space as well as the quality as such. This same correlation can be drawn to explain the relationship of our phenomenal world consisting of a multiplicity of individual parts which differ from one another in both quality and space, all of which coalesce into a whole. Like all works of art that are incomplete, our universes, the expanse of space observed through the Hubble telescope and the inner universe of human consciousness is a work in progress.”

    * The Immortal Principle: A Reference Point

    Thank you in advance for tolerating the liberty I have taken Michael

    Liked by 2 people

    • No problem whatsoever, Lee! I enjoyed this excerpt from your work very much, though I surmise it appears within a context that is probably helpful in understanding your usage of various terms. Once one appreciates the appearance-reality distinction of which you have written here before, then it becomes necessary to contemplate which arena your terms refer to, but I think it is reasonably straightforward.

      The equality to which you refer, for instance–which would reduce dance to but a single pose–is the equality of appearance, which is a mistaken sort of equality once we comprehend the true nature of equality as understood in what you describe as the convergent consensus point. (Assuming I understand your meaning correctly.) Our misplaced investment in appearance–misplaced for it comes at the expense of Reality itself–turns the meaning of these terms inside-out and upside-down. Equality at the convergent consensus point, for instance, I take as an equality that obtains regardless of any appearance. So long as we prioritize appearance, however, we are forced to conclude equality is something we can only approach asymptotically, rather than a given that itself underwrites the diversity of creative expression.

      And to cut to the chase, in this piece the acknowledgment that reality is working is at least in part the acknowledgment that appearance does not, and cannot, distort the fundamental content of ourselves. And our difficulties stem from our ignorance of this conclusion. For in our ignorance we remain enslaved to outcomes we cannot control, though we are destined to try…

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lee! They are greatly enjoyed.


      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lee Roetcisoender says

    “For in our ignorance we remain enslaved to outcomes we cannot control, though we are destined to try…”

    I agree Michael, for the lack of control is our greatest angst. Unfortunately, because human beings are discrete systems control is the proprietary objective of our primary experience; in fact, a primordial “sensation” of control is integral to the identity of the self-model. It’s an isolated context obviously, because our very existence is dependent upon control to one degree or another. Control is not a dirty little word, control only becomes problematic when one tries to implement the stratagem beyond the boundaries of our determinate characters as discrete systems.

    It’s not easy being a participant in a living, dynamic work of art. Simply because there is no such thing as a divine law which governs the relationships of the participants, only the objective reality of value which stands alone at the center of power within each discrete system. There are no rules one can obey to escape these dynamics, and the entire expression is radically indeterminate, wild and untamed. If one can get past themselves, this work of art, of which we are all participants is a brilliant masterpiece…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well said, and agree, Lee. I have often felt that life itself was the highest form of art, and should we find the grace to get past ourselves, as you say, that we will discover we are giving expression to the truly profound–a timeless, overflowing cornucopia of all that we are, which of course simply cannot be defined. Ha! Such a pleasure to recognize we are all in the Dreaming. The eternal masterpiece.



  6. Lee Roetcisoender says

    I posted this on selfawarepatterns.com in response to questions regarding the possibility of an ultimate reality. The quotations are comments from another blogger, comments without the quotations are my own. Since my short career as a blogger is quickly coming to and end, I thought you might be interested:

    “If the ultimate reality is something utterly different from that, it doesn’t change our manifest reality, even if the manifest one is caused or emerges from the deeper one.”

    The only thing that changes is the knowledge that both materialism and idealism are false. That in itself is huge, a revelation which could reshape culture as we know it.

    “The question is if this ultimate reality impinges on our perceptions and models in any way.”

    The ultimate reality does not just impinge on our perceptions, it’s centric to causation, which means it is centric to who and what we are as conscious discrete systems. In other words, it is the driving force of causation which results in the novelty of motion and form, a model which supersedes the need for this notion called law.

    “In other words, is there any way to test it?”

    Absolutely! It’s called scientific observations reinforced by the empirical evidence of personal experience. We already possess the overwhelming, indisputable evidence, all one has to do is jettison materialism and idealism as the reference point and re-examine the evidence in a new light. Here’s the overwhelming obstacle to the re-examination of that evidence: this new understanding will not result in more control; in fact, it actually highlights how little control we actually have. In a paradigm predicated upon control, neither materialists nor idealists will be happy with the true nature of reality because there is no promise of salvation at the end of that tunnel. That’s the bad news.

    Materialism cannot account for mind, and idealism cannot account for the why of materialism. A model grounded in transcendental idealism revision 1.0 can account for both. Materialism is the venue for mind, and mind which is underwritten by materialism is a condition on the possibility of reality. That’s the good news, good luck…

    If I ever decide to publish my work, I will be sure to let you know Michael. Good luck and be at peace my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you ever do publish, I’d love to read it, Lee. I definitely resonate with the ideas you’ve shared here and agree completely that neither materialism nor idealism quite satisfy. Whatever it is, it’s not to be pinned down… and I think we’ve only just begun to comprehend its breadth and depth… if at all…

      Best wishes for your future endeavors, Lee. It’s been a pleasure to have a few exchanges here. Be at peace as well…



  7. What a great reflection, Michael. ” it frees us to express who we are without getting everyone else on board first. ” The obsessive need to have others on our side can become disconnected from fact, truth, understanding, and empathy. And the tribalism certainly has manifested in devastating ways. My approach to weeding through choices is to consider what is “kind.” It hasn’t led me wrong yet. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you, Diana. It’s a good approach you have there, for sure. I’m inclined in that direction myself. In thinking about this, trust seems a necessary ingredient. It’s the catalyst that makes the kindness genuine, and I think that’s why I wrote about such an expansive view as the notion that the universe is working. Because that knowing really puts the heart back into our actions I think. It is funny–isn’t it–? how far a little insight can carry us? A little dash of knowing, and everything changes. But it’s not the knowing of a particular view, it’s the knowing of wholeness. When we know wholeness, we are free…

    Thank you for dropping by!



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