Tuesday, April 29, 2014


My latest piece "War and Peace is a State of Mind" is about the eternal recurrence of conflict and harmony, and how the murky recesses of the individual and collective consciousness reflect the state of the world. It was a complicated one and the research as well as the creative process of putting all the bits together inspired some deep-felt emotions and frequent bouts of tears. It was interesting to listen to historical documents about the Second World War in a very focused way - when you see these things on TV they just pass by so quickly, and don't usually cause a deeper emotional connection with the way things really were back then. The rhetoric used varies a great deal, it's sometimes aggressive warmongering, sometimes triumphant propaganda, sometimes woeful but determined statements - and then there's the neutral voice too, in order to complete the spectrum. The explosion of the atom bomb has a profound effect on me. I decided to stick to parts of WW II and the Cold War because of the wealth of documents that are now part of our collective consciousness, and also because introducing more modern wars would simply have been overwhelming with confusing results. I hope some of what I felt will come through to the listeners.

In case you wonder, the theme in the beginning is not from an ice cream van, but a theme (the Swedish Rapsodhy) that is said to have been used as the interval signal for a German language numbers station during the Cold War. The idea of weird codes being transmitted through the air is somehow alluring and creepy, but also quite a strong metaphor for the murky world of the collective consciousness (or even unconsciousness).

In my last post, I explained what liminal means and suggested that war is usually seen as a liminal experience, i.e. "out of the ordinary". I was interested in exploring this assumption further, not least as it was an excuse to equate the external event with ongoings in the human psyche. I realise that a lot of people will have no idea what I'm talking about when I bring in some Taoist philosophy, but I will attempt to explain myself nonetheless. My sleep, or lack thereof, is a disaster and I'm finding that a possible cause could be an neuroinflammation in the brain, that is an over activation of microglia... I'm very worried about my upcoming sleep study and whether there is any help to be had. I have been able to escape my worries by drowning myself in work when I can focus, as this sound project has been quite exciting to me. However, thinking is very hard for me these days and my inability to sleep naturally and my increasingly adverse reaction to medication doesn't help. I still hope I can make some kind of sense.

According to a Taoist way of looking at reality, polarities are fundamentally interconnected and not in conflict with each other - the conflict lies within the human mind. Life has a cyclical quality, as polarities (yin and yang) shift from one to another. One can't exist without the other. War can only exist as a counterpart to peace, and vice versa. 

We think of war as liminal, i.e. “out of the ordinary”, but this is not quite true if we look at war and conflict in its broadest sense (and I think it's really only liminal in some ways were there is real change involved). Conflict is as frequent as the lack of it. This might be easier to see if in your mind, you exchange "conflict" and "war" with other forms of disorder and chaos. Life is a wave movement that alternates various forms of chaos with forms of order and stability (there is a tipping point where everything is in good balance, but it doesn't last as nature has to take its course). The way of nature is inescapable, it's our attitude towards the facts of life that we should worry about more.

To humans, war is normally terrifying but in the long run, a lack of action can also get tedious. People also get complacent when everything is a bit "too easy". This is as much an external reality, as an internal one. I think it's really important to remember that one mirrors the other. A dissatisfied and agitated mind will cause havoc in real life, but warmongering can also arouse other people's secret aggressions and make people lose their inner control. To change the world you do have to address the human psyche first. The point, however is, that you can't do that by fighting and repressing your urges. That's violence against the self, which in ironically just perpetuates the idea of violence. The more you resist something the more it will keep coming back. That's why resisting war isn't the answer either. In fact, our "fight and flight" mechanism isn't serving us very well anymore - more and more people are succumbing to stress related diseases. We are luckily evolving, and are thus able to find new and creative ways of dealing with perceived threat. We need to rethink our propensity for stressful situations in which we are hunting or being hunted. How can we lead our lives in a more emotionally mature and less simplistic way? That is surely our future!

However, the point I really want to make is that by resisting conflict while advocating peace in a warrior like way we are shooting ourselves in the leg. History already shows that holding onto peace (or status quo as it often means in practice) too forcefully will lead to all manners of suppression and ultimately civil unrest. Even "fighting for peace" is a warrior's stand, and perhaps humanity needs to reinvent its warriors (in fact some of them are now "diplomats"). 

To realise the nature of this semantic tension in our minds is surely a way of dealing with the urge to exert aggression towards one another. If you postulate that polarities are irrevocably interlinked like two sides of a coin, then by reinventing the idea we have about conflict and how to solve it through war, we automatically reinvent our idea of peace, and vice versa. That to me is evolution, but it's up to us how quickly we are willing to allow for change.

The way the world runs the wars at present is patriarchal (note the lack of women in the piece, as I simply couldn't find any other than ones in numbers stations), but thanks to evolution, expressions of disagreement and power eventually change over time. In the end, the concept "war and peace" is no doubt less about what it represents to us in our minds than how we may reinvent these concepts and seek less destructive ways of dealing with challenges within ourselves and in relation to the rest of the world.

I have written some more about eternal recurrence in this blog post.

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