Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Quest For Conflict

When I talk about time as an erosion of false truths, it relates to a larger "quest for conflict." Negroes might call it "beef." David Mamet might call it "drama." Whatever name you give it in your cellphone, it appears to be a fundamental part of the human condition (everybody raise the "W" in the air for that wiki knowledge son. In the '06, you don't need a brain, all you need is an internet connection.).

See my family, friends, lovers, enemies, blog-commenters, all look the same in my portfolio. My relationships have a formula: R=Time(x). Relationship equal time invested (times) X. Where x = the person. And while I enjoy the quirky facade of social deviance that boiling your relationships down to a formula provides me, it's not really that complicated; your relationship with a person is a function of the time you spend with them. So if you spend no time with your mother, it doesn't matter that she's your "mother," you still have essentially the same relationship with her as that person you play eye-tag with on the train to work. And the best friend you talk to every day is more "family" than either of them.

The trick, however, is that "time" is not measured in seconds, minutes, decades. It is measured via experience, through learning, through an "erosion of false truths," through conflict. Conflict is the glue, the flour, the franchise player, the daily special/soup-du-jour of a relationship. Without conflict we stagnate. It is through beef that we facilitate change. It is through drama we facilitate growth? (it might be counter-intuitive to suggest all change = growth, change can be negative - cancer, bankruptcy, being abandoned by your parents, alzheimer's, these things may be a product of change, but wouldn't typically represent "growth." But that's just imposing a morality. Maybe cancer can be growth/positive? Morality is not under scrutiny today though, so I'll just keep the "change-as-growth" idea as a question for now.)

We may initially bond with people due to shared sensibilities and common interests, but the relationship itself is formed by finding out the differences. After all when two people connect, the only thing you can really take for granted is that there are two different people involved, so MAYBE you will agree on some things, but you DEFINITELY know you won't on others. No one is the same, right? So it makes sense that ferreting out the nature of those differences, and what it means to each party is most important. I may meet some guys on Sunday watching football, but if they don't get down with punching little girls in the face Mon-Fri, then that may be where the relationship ends. Because, you know, that's a big part of my life.

So we find out these differences, and thus the nature of our relationships through conflict. You beef, and the relationship either develops from there, or it doesn't. And each episode of "Beef" could be seen as a measurement of time. Maybe time, and subsequently change, isn't constant. It is episodic. Kind of like how some people remain in stasis until they see the next episode of Entourage, or Lost, or The Wire. Our relationships, and subsequently us, remain in stasis until these many big and small episodes of conflict occur. If you have a new friend, and you meet three times a week, have a couple drinks, but keep everything friendly and polite, the relationship won't grow, no matter how often you meet. The person will always be "this guy I have drinks with," until you reveal that you think they have bad breath, and a certain awkwardness around women. Then you have the foundation for some conflict, and a need for a new drinking buddy. Or maybe, just maybe, a new friendship after he explains his medical condition, and how he's a late bloomer who never talked to girls until late last year.

I blame Judeo-Christian morality values for a lot of things. And this is another one. I think we fear conflict because we've learned that being nice to people and polite is what constitutes a relationship, and more importantly, gets you into that VIP Club Heaven when you die. Conflict = war = [d]evil = no entrance.

I understand the golden rule. We don’t want to hurt people. No one deserves to be cast out from the pack. There’s a place in the sun for everyone. And conflict is often complicated. It’s difficult to clash, and still feel there can be a healthy relationship post-beef. So it’s safer to be nice. Don’t hurt the feelings, and no need to worry, and we all move on ... to the people we can beef with.

It's also a product of feeling comfortable with the status-quo. You beef to facilitate change, and if everything's all good, then there's no need to seek out conflict, even if everyone knows it's there. This might be why the average negro in America has a stronger "will to beef" than the average caucasian. All the fuel for independent or underground artists/agents of change. The premise for all "safe" mainstream media - tv, movies, music, magazines, etc - is that there is no need to rock the boat, so they suppress stories/ideas that are too provocative. Even though stories of conflict are always the most entertaining. You can take any two celebrities, or politicians, or institutions, or whatever and put FEUD between them and the story is immediately compelling. Reality shows have prospered because they know how to showcase conflict. But somehow in our day-to-day conflict still comes off as a monster. I say conflict needs a new PR person.

Because conflict isn't bad, but how we handle it is sometimes questionable. Thus when we want to break off a relationship with someone we have to decide if we can handle honest communication or, more likely, revert to evasive "slow fade" techniques.

But the slow fade is dishonest. And pain is not what conflict and beef is about. Conflict is about the aftermath. What screenwriters might call the "inciting incident" doesn’t matter. Conflict makes one aware that honesty is a means to an end. It does not exist in and of itself. You have your truth, and I have mine, and it works on behalf of our own agenda.

Hmmm, I feel I'm starting to push the envelope for digestible length in a blog-post.


The point is if we acknowledge quibbles, debates, disagreements, wars, [a]war[d]s(?), politics, sports, and silent treatments as key ingredients to a healthy and happy life, then ....

I don't know. But knowing is half the battle. And sharing is caring.

Oh and also, we examine something we hold to be true, challenge it, and find something truer. This is how we learn. And in that process is the passage of real time. In the challenge. And without the challenge, the conflict, time stands still.


  1. That wasn't too long. I've been thinking about this stuff for weeks. Years.
    My relatives are not my family. My parents have always refused to acknowledge conflict. Now I hardly ackowledge them. Last 5 years have been crazy and they played dead as usual. No experiences shared. They never learned my doctors names much less tried to help me. Can your equation work in negative numbers?

  2. Anonymous10/03/2006

    awesome TAN. you're funny, but I really like your philosophical posts. they seem to come from an everyman perspective, it belies the whole black/white game you play and speaks to the, as you mention, the human condition.

    keep it coming.

  3. many good points you make TAN. we do avoid conflict, and conflict is often good for us. but not always right? there have to be some times when letting things go, or avoiding confrontation is good. what about a mugger sticking you up? are we supposed to engage in that conflict?

  4. I still prefer the slow fade. conflict is annoying if you no longer have interest in the person.

    and stop punching little girls in the face TAN!

  5. Anonymous10/04/2006

    Choatey(sarah) - the slow fade doesn't always work and it takes too long. I've tried it. Finally I had to tell a friend that I really didn't want to be their friend anymore. I told him it wasn't about him - it was about me- when really I thought it was about him. But now that I thought about it, it really is about me. Him and me we didn't get along. I was tip-toeing around too many issues, and he was constantly picking intellectual debates that I was in no mood to fight. In short he was a tool. So I told him so. Best thing I ever did. Ever. If a person really is a jerk all you're doing them is a disservice by not telling them that they're a jerk.

  6. slow fade is silly. you should be direct. slow fade affects your life and theirs over time. just get it done.

    nice post though TAN. the ideas on time require more "time" for reflection.


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