Your nature has been split into two for as long as you can remember. You waver between poles, sometimes addled with substances, self-doubt, and casual malice, sometimes sharp and clear, shining with benevolence. Somewhere between that first unapologetic cigarette out of the pack and the meditation mat, you exist.

You undulate, bare feet firm on the floor, from White Crane Spreads its Wings to Monkey Offers the Fruit, your Tai Chi aligns with the Tao. You know because you are immersed. Not a witness, not a critic, not a taskmaster, but a wave soaring on the ocean. You don’t even think about how badly you long to stay here—for all time—in unity that brings tears to your eyes.

But that other half of you—the sallow thing in the cellar you don’t talk about—sneers at unity with disgust. Under drink, under duress, under another, this nature can stomach that everything in the universe may be one uninterrupted whole. But Passion? Oh, Passion belongs to you. Breathe me. Inhabit me. Push me to my brittle edges and tease me with the leap into unabashed experience. Suckle me with dreams of fire and chrome. Let this body you inhabit burn to cinders. You can’t imagine anything more beautiful.

A quick toke before a run. Three fingers of 12-year in that rocks glass won’t knock you out of keto. Knowing you could (you really could), but knowing intimately the cost from years of experience. The yin and yang of you are merging as they should, after what feels like a lifetime of extremes. These days it’s Buddha over battle. Is this because of age? You’ve thought about this a lot, but you don’t buy it. You’ve slowed a bit and your joints protest, yet inside you, that fierce memory of fire never dims.

Famous tacticians from Sun Tzu to von Clausewitz, will tell you war is costly. Infrastructure, resources, culture and memory, families—destroyed. Irretrievable chaos over banner or fiefdom. Two natures who, for whatever reason, cannot integrate. Clash. Clash and burn. Tanks on the line in Ukraine. Carrier groups in the Pacific. Panic at the disco. And the drums, a bass thunder that powders your bones, as you march green plastic Army men to the precipice.

You try not to take your extremes as far as you once did. You know the price and you’ve come far enough to realize we are all at war—soldier, civilian, and refugee alike. This vying for dominance, this tear and tussle for extremes, it is in all of us. An original, primal DNA-era program that twists through every nook and cranny of a being precariously balanced between heaven and earth.

You also know, it doesn’t start with battlefields and trenches. It’s the itch. The reach for the bottle. The need to fix. It’s the flash of canines, the first taste of saliva at the back of your throat. It’s the fearful shriek for compliance, for law and order (Think of the children!). It’s the mocking echoes of loneliness that wilt your weak and precious heart. War rises solely to break and then discard the broken. And we are all at war. Within and without.

Given enough time and combustion, your internal war will spill over and engulf another. Spouses, bosses, friends, family— all will burn if you get close enough to them. In turn, they will billow with warfare of their own and soon a feeling deepens, an energy shifts. Movements form, machinations, the first stirrings of unease take shape. Extremists of every deadly stripe and addled minds sour the landscape. Differences cleave. Ideologies corrupt. Mob rules. Greed dances to the tune of commerce. The war machine rolls fresh tanks off the assembly line.

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