When we think of victory, inherent words come to mind:
Winner. Opposition. Versus. Against. Loss. Conqueor.
But is victory simply being better than someone or something else? Do we consider ourselves the winner only if there is a loser? Do we stand high only if we stand over someone or something?
This may sound a bit dull, but Chen Stormstout says something interesting during his introduction to the Mists of Pandaria expansion in World of Warcraft (bare with me here, I promise it’s worth it). Here’s what he says:
To ask why we fight
Is to ask why leaves fall.
It is in their nature.
Perhaps there is a better question.
Why do we fight?
To protect Home and Family.
To Preserve Balance.
and bring Harmony.
For my kind, the trust question is:
What is worth fighting for?
If you shed the Warcraft vibe and read that for what it is, you can see some interesting highlights there. The contrast here is how we view conflict and, ultimately, victory. Many view conflict and victory as the means and destination, respectively. Some view it as rebellion, or defiance. Retribution. Assertion of dominance.
Whatever your viewpoint on conflict and victory, we can’t deny that the role these things play in the nature of all things is clear. Life blossoms in all of its majesty from conflict. It is at our deepest level, in every cell in our bodies. The most basic and truest rule that all life that we know is to preserve itself and to resist death.
And so as human beings, with complex minds ultimately derived from this basic function, we have tied the nature of all things on our deepest levels to this concept. Socially, victory is to thrive and defeat is to falter. Before we find our states, the natural response of most kids and teenagers is to aggressively engage in a battle of dominance with their social peers. Think back to high school; consider what the word ‘drama’ means in the modern world. Look at politics, both nationally and at your office or place of work. Look at the way people interact with each other versus how they interact in private.
It all boils down to the same instinct: survival. To be socially accepted is to be part of the pack that survives and to survive is the ultimate objective.
Because we are complex individuals that think and see the world, through the ideology of awareness, we can analyze this and peer inward.
Consider the quote above again after thinking about this concept. Perhaps we fight for survival — and this can and has driven many wars (think: war over resources, politics, religion, way of life, or philosophy, ultimately boils down to wanting the survival of something to persevere or overtake the survival of something else).
So, is victory survival? If we survive in an aspect (or all aspects) of our life, have we become victorious?
Let’s talk about the word equilibrium. Here, we’ll use this word to define the very center of balance. When a scale no longer tips in any direction, it has found equilibrium. When something is truly dead and no longer transitions from a state to another state — when it sits completely idle and motionless at every possible level or scale, we’ll call that equilibrium. We can call this true death. We can call it true center. We can call it the point that something reaches when the aggregate of all of its actions and reactions finally lull to the point where no action or reaction ever exist within the boundaries of the thing we’re talking about. When the universe reaches this, it’s called Heat Death — where the universe “has diminished to a state of no thermodynamic free energy and therefore can no longer sustain processes that increase entropy (including computation and life).”
Inevitably, survival won’t perpetuate forever. At best, we can prolong it for a time before we descend into equilibrium. Perhaps knowing this is why we have developed such a keen awareness of the world — to find a way to transcend this! Or because some deep part of us knows that, while survival is our prime directive, we cannot escape the fundamental balance of nature. The fundamental truth that all of the universe wants balance and harmony and violations of this are always corrected.
In a way, the truest fundamental truth of the universe — which life is a participant in — is the nature of balance. Existence is the culmination of both the balancing laws and the violation of those laws working as one. Light and dark. Good and bad. Positive and negative. Without one, the other wouldn’t exist. It would all settle into a calm, dead silence, and perhaps this, too, would still maintain this duality — being both life and death, true harmony and balance, and the utter lack of it. Unity in its truest sense.
Does that mean that ‘victory’ is the defiance of this true equilibrium? Does ‘survival’ mean we’re combating our descent into the very harmony and balance that we know must exist in all things? Are we all rebels and resistance? Are we all defiant?
Consider this: When we see dark things happen — crime, chaos, destruction — we dislike it. Our very nature is to dislike these things proportionately to the magnitude of our perception of it. If a man dies of old age, our response is different, both in scale and intensity, than if a thousand people die in a fire, or that man dies violently.
This may mark our innate survival prime directive and perhaps it is this that fuels our reactions. But is it because we view death as our descending into equilibrium, and those who die have ‘lost’ the ‘fight’ against this? Is it because we fear our own fight will fail too? (Spoilers: it will).
When a star explodes, it is chaos and it’s beheld as incredible from our perspective — be it incredibly beautiful, incredibly brilliant, or incredibly destructive. We use words like ‘dies’ when we describe it. When this happens, the stardust it leaves behind will eventually coalesce into a nebulae and then eventually reform into a star once again over an incredibly long period of time relative to our perspective of existence. So did the star die? Or did it change? Did the star fall into equilibrium? No, it didn’t.
When we die, does what makes us up fall into equilibrium? Just as the star didn’t, neither do we. At least, not at the juncture we call death.
But if that’s true, then why do we fight death so vehemently? I think the answer lies within the conscious state of our minds — our soul — our ego — and our inability to validate its continued existence beyond the transition of our state into another. When we become dust and that becomes flowers, and that becomes trees, and that becomes fruit, and that becomes an animal, and that becomes part of a person, and that becomes someone in some distant time — when we are diced up a million-million times and scattered to the wind — what will remain of us?
Humanity has invented countless ideas and belief systems to help us cope with this fact. Some believe that when it happens, the essence that is truly and uniquely YOU goes elsewhere, while the rest of you is recycled into all of creation to be re purposed. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the various ideologies popular to our societies. Whether you’re a stout believer or a silent observer, we can’t deny that one function of these religious views is to give us some peace with the otherwise loss of our conscious soul.
But this blog post is about victory — why are we talking about all this?
Okay, okay. So we talked about Chen’s view on fighting — and contrasted two popular views: fighting for survival and fighting against falling into equilibrium. We ultimately concluded that the two are one in the same.
But let’s ask ourselves two questions:
1) Is our standard concept of victory possible here?
2) Is this actually victory at all?
Let’s tackle these questions in order. First, is our standard concept of victory possible here? Is Chen’s standard of victory possible? Are they different?
As our standard of victory is generally overcoming something else, standing above it, conquering it, bending it to our will or our desire, I would say no meaningful victory can exist. We all know we can’t fight death.
If we look at Chen’s view on preserving balance and to bring harmony, then I think we’re much closer to the truth, but perhaps implicitly more than matter-of-factually. More on that in a minute.
Our second question, “Is this actually victory at all?” is perhaps best applied to the first concept of ‘victory’ we outlined above. Any victory we can measure in the fight for survival is only ever short term. Inevitably, it becomes a loss, doesn’t it? Everything dies eventually, right?
Unless we redefine what ‘survival’ means. Unless we take the full nature of all things into account and expand our definition to include the truth about balance and harmony — about equilibrium.
If that is the case — and if we define victory as preserving balance and bringing harmony — we’ll see that the truest sense of victory is to simply exist and be the best we can now! As an expression that will inevitably change and grow and be. If we respond to our environment with balance and we maintain harmony among our actions and the actions of those around us, we will be as close to our truest nature as we can possibly be — aligned both in mind, body, and spirit with the very motive of the cosmos and the methodology of existence itself.
Ironically, to be truly victorious, we must surrender our resistance to the nature of things and embrace this principle in our lives. In doing so, we preserve our balance and the balance of all things and align our spirits and souls with the same freedom that nature has shown us it has had all along.
Every war that is fought decides its victor from the leaders who see the flow of their environment and respond with balance and understanding. Every conflict finds conclusion in favor of the force that exists within the balance and harmony of existence. Tactics surround this philosophy. Hand-to-hand or Army-to-Army, we interpret the nature of terrain, of people, of humanity, and of response. We look forward and listen to the flow of battle.
When we farm, we listen to the nature and balance of all things to be successful. Plants grow because we understand the balance life has with its environment; it needs water, food, sunlight, and attention. Life grows when it is balanced in these things. Too much of these things or not enough of these things, and balance wanes and the result is stunted, faltering growth, or even complete loss.
Yet when this happens, balance tells us that the loss or death of these plants will fuel and feed the soil and allow more to grow in their place, once balance is restored.
In all things, we experience this truth. Even in our definition of victory.
So get out there, be victorious in the way only you can. Learn and feel the flow of balance in the things you’re passionate about. Inhale and exhale equally, pace with each foot evenly, and explore both home and far.
Until next time.