Doug Taylor and Rabbi Morton Moskowitz

"Look at that! I haven't seen one of those in years."
I was pointing to a "Make Peace, Not War" bumper sticker on a worn-out Volkswagen that looked like it had survived Woodstock... several times. My friend, the King of Rational Thought, and I were on a walk, enjoying one of the last warm, sunny afternoons before the inevitable chill of fall.
"Interesting," he said thoughtfully. "Tell me, what's wrong with that?"
"You mean the car? Well, let's see. The paint's rusted through, the suspension is shot on the right side, the---"
"Not the car," he laughed, "the bumper sticker."
"It's on crooked?"
"All right," he said, "let's try it another way. What does it mean to 'make peace'?"
"That's easy," I replied. "It means being peaceful with everyone. You know. Not starting fights, not making trouble, not hassling anyone, stuff like that."
"You just listed three negatives," he said. "I didn't ask what making peace isn't. I asked what making peace is."
I started to speak, then realized I didn't have a clear answer.
"It's almost an oxymoron," said the King of Rational Thought, sensing my dilemma. "The term 'make peace' implies that peace is a positive thing. But it isn't. It's a negative thing. Peace is the absence of conflicts. The issue is not to make peace. The issue is to remove conflicts. Of course, that means you have to figure out what your conflicts are and how to get rid of them."
We passed the lighthouse and headed north.
"But isn't that just semantics?" I said. "Peace means there aren't any conflicts. That seems pretty obvious."
"Ah, but there's a big difference between the idea of 'making peace' and the idea of removing conflicts," he replied. "'Making peace' is a nice, fluffy emotional term that almost everyone will say they agree with. But it doesn't lead to action that produces peace. Removing conflicts, on the other hand, is a solid, rational activity. You can take active steps to remove conflicts. Besides, need I remind you that I just asked you what making peace meant and you didn't have an answer?"
"Ok, I hear you," I said, not very pleased with myself. "So what's the root cause of conflicts?"
"It's like this," he said. "Whenever there's a conflict, there has to be a flaw. Either you're in conflict with yourself, or you're in conflict with external reality. Think about it. Every conflict you have is that way. The external conflicts occur because you're not living in line with reality. The internal conflicts usually occur for two reasons. Either you're unwilling to accept external reality, or the animal part of you is in conflict with your conscience."
"Incidentally," he said as we turned east, heading back to our cars, "that's why animals don't have conflicts. Their instincts are in line with nature."
"Can we get rid of our conflicts?" I was hoping for a magic answer. I certainly had plenty of conflicts to try it out on.
"Absolutely," he replied, "but it's not a magic answer."
I glanced sharply at him. How did he know---
"To solve external conflicts," he continued, "you need to study reality and accept it. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to right wrongs or make the world a better place. But you must do so realistically. To solve internal conflicts, you have to face the fight going on within you, make a realistic assessment of the various sides, and then act accordingly. And you can't skip a step. Making a decision about something before you've completed a rational analysis of the problem may result in some action, but it won't bring you peace."
We reached our cars. I was busy thinking about a few of my own conflicts that could stand some serious analysis. And then a question popped into my mind.
"Do you suppose the owner of that Volkswagen with the bumper sticker is at peace?"
"I don't know," said the King of Rational Thought, as he started his engine, "but you can probably find out by watching him when he returns to his car."
"His left front tire is flat."