This morning I started doing my own peace and conflict studies before tea, before I was awake. I’d startled myself when I realized that the word “conflict” shelters “con” — a warm and fuzzy prefix meaning “together” or “with.” I had the sudden bright idea that there was a unifying element lurking at the word’s root, that the enemies were not enemies at all but two players joined by a hinge, taking two parts of an open door. And it all was lying in plain sight, in the words, and we just have to perform them properly, the way language, which maps it out, tells us it was meant to be.
A quick check of etymology told me yes and no. Yes, two wrestlers move their heavy feet to circle around each other but no, they weren’t usually doing it for fun. More often they would do the Proto-Indo-European thing that we all sometimes need to do — BHLIG! That’s strike in ancient talk, a word that should be in a comic book bubble so perfectly it is termed. Later it becomes “fligere”, strike, armed and military conflict.
As companion to conflict, the other across the hinge, I meditated on peace. Peace is also an action word. Before the Latin pax there was the Proto-Indo-European “pag” or “pak,” meaning a cord or as a verb, to fasten. Lasso me, bind me, fix me in agreement — engage me in an act of making pact that is, in fact, performing peace. It attempts to hold, to bind, to secure peace as a continual human effort to fashion and fasten ties. Through words, we have a performance of language again.
With that done, I pour myself another cup of tea.