“Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict.”
I joined a poetry class because a new acquaintance invited me to. I mostly joined so I could get to know this person better. I was captivated the first day by the deep wisdom my professor shared. To me, it was like being at church. Every word he spoke found fertile soil in my heart. There were times where I felt myself overcome with beauty. The beauty I found in this class contrasted with the conflicts I was witnessing at work, in society, and almost everywhere.
One Friday, as I listened to my teacher recite one of our poems, I wondered: What if I approached conflict like writing a poem?
What if everyone did?
Most of the time, conflict is reactive: people tend to do and say things before they’ve had a chance to process their emotions, or to understand the totality of the conflict.
But I learned in my poetry class about carefully choosing words not because they need to rhyme or have a specific number of syllables, but because they need to be precise and beautiful. Poets are intentional about how to best deliver the message; how to best uncover the mystery of life so that others can experience it. Silences matter, too; part of the message is to pause, to wait, to leave space to breathe before the next line. There’s also the rhythm; a poem is a song and songs can touch on difficult subjects, too, but the rhythm, the melody matters.
Since that moment, I‘ve been wondering: What if, the next time I find myself in the midst of conflict, I can slow down and imagine I am about to write a poem? Then, conflict resolution or transformation would turn into a craft, a laboratory where beauty is created. There would be a slowing down that would help me connect with what I’m feeling so I can find the right words to share that experience, and a silence to let me listen to the poem of the Other.
Compassionate One, May we remember to slow down when we find ourselves having difficult conversations. May we remember to treat those moments of conflict as an opportunity to create, with one another, a deeper understanding, and something new where tension is now present.