Tag Archives: conflit

The tyranny of harmony

I’m currently reading Martin Shaw’s Snowy Tower (and very much enjoying it) in which he talks about the tyranny of harmony. It’s an idea that stands serious consideration. Achieving inner peace is a goal in many religions – all well and good. I imagine inner peace is an excellent thing to possess that probably makes you a much easier sort of human to be around. I’m a long, long way from achieving it. I pray and meditate and try to cultivate the right kind of thinking, and try to avoid psychological violence as well as being physically non-aggressive. Inner peace? Miles away.

However, being a publicly spiritual person, I do feel a degree of pressure to come across as being really spiritual, especially when some of my peers seem to be so much more together and enlightened than I am. So, fake it until you make it, right? Do everything a person who has achieved inner peace would do, and you’ll look the part and get closer to your goal as well. Win. Right?


The surface appearance of peace is not the same as holding it within you, and there are some shortcuts to creating that impression. Cultivate apathy or run with your innate laziness and the ‘not my circus, not my monkeys’ outlook and you can be very peaceful about every challenge and problem you encounter. Be nice, fit in, go along with what everyone else is saying, avoid conflict, suppress any problematic emotions, smile beatifically and pretend that it’s all groovy.

What you get to be at this point is not spiritually enlightened, but complicit in every wrong thing that, in your silence and conflict-avoidance, you let continue unchallenged. I have at times dabbled in this kind of peacemaking, and I’ve seen plenty of it. This kind of ‘nice’ very precisely lets bigots into power, turns a blind eye to abuse and smiles serenely in the face of injustice. This, I think, is part of what ‘the tyranny of harmony’ means.

We are full of conflicts. Our biology and life cycles pretty much make that inevitable, and there is more thinking I want to do around how we relate to this conflictedness, but that’s for another day.

I am seriously wondering whether inner harmony is all it’s cracked up to be, whether it is the right thing to strive for (for me) and what the implications of striving are. I know, that I have deliberately sought to suppress emotions that do not fit this intent. I have put more work into seeming calm than into being calm, and as I continue to struggle with anxiety issues, I’m clearly not winning this one.

Perhaps I just don’t have what it takes to be filled with light and inner peace. If that is so, I need a different way of working that allows me to function a bit better and that gives me a way forward rather than a nagging sense of inadequacy. I know that I am no longer interested in cultivating a surface appearance at the expense of what lies beneath. What does that give me? It gives me back my conflicts, my fears, passions, desires and obsessions as something I might be able to work with as part of my path, rather than things to try and get rid of.

Time to take a deep breath, and start dismantling everything I have experimented with thinking, and trying something different.