When I was just a baby writer, learning how to make stories and put words together in ways that might make people want to look at them, I was instructed that there were three kinds of conflict: Man versus man, man versus nature, and man versus self. All the tales I could read or tell myself should fit neatly into one of those categories. It did not occur to me way back then to wonder aloud about the difference between man versus man and man versus self. If your self happens to be a man in the first place, why wouldn't that be man versus man? Furthermore, if man is part of nature, do we really need to separate man and nature? And isn't all conflict in our minds anyway?
Sorry, I seem to have taken you on a side trip into my conflict with reality.
So it all comes down to man versus the messed up junk in his head.
What about nature versus nature? On Al Gore's Internet I just saw a slow-motion video of a group of lions chasing a giraffe. I felt that I was being asked immediately to side with the giraffe. That great big gangly beast doing its gallumphing best to stay in front of that sharp-toothed pride. It seemed like just being a spectator in this moment was putting me in the position of having to having to root for the long-necked apparent victim in this milleu. As I cringed with each long stride, I watched one of the predators race around in front of the giraffe and crouch down, ready to spring. Here's what I found myself thinking: Why doesn't somebody stop this? There were at least three camera operators, probably a couple of drivers and assorted technical support types and all of this conflict was taking place in their full view.
Why didn't they do something to stop it?
Because that's nature. And, as it turns out, the great big hoof of that giraffe cuffed the crouching lion in the head just before she could pounce. Tragedy averted. Off into the distance ran that majestic, gangly beast. The video came to an end. I needn't have worried. Nature had triumphed over nature. For the duration of that piece of video, anyway. The chances that group of lions or some other hungry cats caught up with that winded, long-necked animal nerd seemed pretty good, percentage-wise. It was nature, after all, and what I know about the Circle of Life tells me that sooner or later we're all going to be somebody else's meal. It's not a conflict. It's nature. We like to think that our conflicts are more important than that. That's why we give them names and classifications. When it's an animal killing another animal, it's nature. Maybe it would be easier if we were eating each other after our conflicts. It's only natural.