Monday, August 30, 2010

Violence, part 3: Its usefulness

Defined as two or more objects attempting to exist in the same space at the same time, it is fairly easy to see why violence is bound to occur.  One of the laws of our physical universe is that two objects cannot exist in the same space at the same time.  Therefore, even if two objects both came to the same space honestly, there will be conflict between them if they reach it at the same time.

Supernovas and volcanoes are among the many things found in nature that are undeniably violent, but most of nature appears to be in harmony with itself.  While I agree that the universe is harmonious to a large extent, I believe that when you look hard at it, you find that the universe's harmony comes not from a lack of violence, but from spectacular reactions to violence.  The example of photons hitting our retinas from the last installment demonstrates that even things existing for only a few million years can develop ways of using the violence pervasive throughout the universe in a way that is beneficial.

In fact, all of our senses rely on violence to detect the world around us.  We only perceive things that either directly or indirectly visit violence upon our bodies.  There are things in the physical universe that are unable to visit violence upon us--most strikingly dark matter, the substance that appears to compose the large majority of our universe.  It is invisible to us because it passes through us and everything we perceive as if we were in a ghost world.  Because it does no violence to us, our bodies were not able to evolve a detection system for it.

It likely didn't take long for humans and their massive brains to take a more proactive role in figuring out the uses of violence.  While we all have the image of the caveman bashing in a neighbor's head with a club, our ancestors were also able to utilize violence to create some of the most important of human inventions, such as fire and the wheel.  More toward our purposes, humanity also took advantage of violence that occurs outside the physical realm--in the universe of emotions and ideas.  From threats of deliberate physical violence that make one obedient to brain-teasing riddles that make one more intelligent, humanity has existed with a multitude of violent expressions along a wide spectrum of degrees for literally as long as it can remember.

And as we are seeing in this world of violence that is growing ever more complex, we would be mistaken to shun all violence as necessarily "bad."  Violence indeed is responsible for all of the hurtful things that happen to people, but it is also responsible for nearly all of the great things in the universe, as well.  In the next installment, I want to set up a rough taxonomy of violence to make it easier to discuss not only its various roles in our everyday lives, but also where it fits into our most precious works of art.  

1 comment:

Ava Avane Dawn said...

Awesome posts, keep them up! :)