Fighting Conflict


 

When I told her that she might live to be 100…

…I received, in reply, an emphatic, “No!

“No!  I couldn’t bear to live that long.”

This co-worker was in her fifties, and though she’d enjoyed a pretty good life so far, she didn’t want another fifty.

I was surprised because, generally speaking, we humans want to hang around as long as we possibly can.  Yet I understood her response…

Though this woman was energetic, was effusive, was good-natured…

…she was also often agitated, irritated, frustrated…

…just as I am often frustrated, just as I am often in conflict.

In conflict with myself.  In conflict with the world.  In conflict with a world of conflict that mirrors the conflict I feel within.

It’s a dilemma, a dilemma for the whole human race.

How can we live in a world of conflict without cutting off our nerve endings or becoming positively goofy with unfounded optimism?

I do know one way…

…the way of Robinson Crusoe.

I’m talking about the actual Crusoe, Alexander Selkirk, not the character from the Daniel Defoe novel.

Unruly as a youth, Selkirk escaped to the sea, but apparently, brought his temper with him…

After he quarreled with his captain about the seaworthiness of their ship (time proved him right), he was left behind on a small, deserted island a hundred miles off the coast of Chile.

Though lonely and remorseful at first, Selkirk gradually adapted to life on the island.

He hunted and foraged for his food, kept the rats off at night with the help of some feral cats, danced with kid goats, and read from the Bible.

Then, after four years and four months, to his great joy, he was rescued by a passing ship.

Selkirk returned to his hometown in Scotland, but had difficulty readjusting to life in society.  In times of desperation, he retreated to a small cave outside town.

He soon went back to sea, and died four years later, in 1721, most likely from the yellow fever that had felled so many of his shipmates.

I don’t know exactly why Selkirk said his years on the island had been the happiest of his life…

…but I can guess.

I’ve found such peace in solitude.  In a quiet forest, on a rock by a stream, no one can contradict you.  No one can “captain” you.  No one but you yourself…

Fortunately, I’m usually able to I get past my own self-criticism and find a restful place within…

…a place in which I become a different person, a better person.

Then I return to the world and the conflict starts anew.

Some people seem to feed off conflict.  But based on my own experience, I say: conflict can devour.  And so I fight to keep from being eaten alive.

But to fight conflict, I must jump into the fray, which means I can’t remain on the island.

Even so, I know I must also, at times, retreat to that monk life.  Just as Alexander Selkirk did…

After doing battle, I’ll take my brief sweet leave, lick my wounds, in my own lone wolf cave…

…then go back out to the challenge.

I guess I’m more competitive than I know.  I don’t like losing—especially when I lose to my own smaller nature…

For that reason, I’m going for 100, if I can get there with my faculties mostly intact…

…because I just can’t give up the fight.

© 2012, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry

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About Michael Patton

I am a poet, novelist, essayist, cartoonist, graphic artist, peace miller, new mythologist, and fledgling world citizen.... I grew up in Northwest Arkansas and have lived and worked all over the United States.... I'm self-taught, for the most part--which is like searching for the right door in the dark. It's an on-going process.... I don't want to write MY story, I want OUR story, so that's what I'm studying: the human story: past, present, future, in its many aspects--including the spiritual. I'm proceeding at a slow crawl.... I don't see the inner world and outer world as separate. By learning about myself, I learn about others, I learn about my world.... Conversely, as I struggle to understand what I see OUT THERE, I learn about myself.... But to be clear: I don't claim any special understanding. I'm still purblind, still only half-awake.... After frustrating experience with the publisher of my first novel, I've published on my own, beginning with e-books, with plans to move into print and audio. Even video.... Along with a second novel, I've now published eight books of poetry. Each poetry book focuses on a theme. For instance, the collection GLORIOUS TEDIOUS TRANSFORMATION is about the slow difficult wonderful process of change.... In that book, as with all my work, I try to be accessible to a general audience, while also striving to achieve a certain literary quality.
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