"You had all the answers, but no human touch..."
A very basic theme when constructing the conflict between characters in a setting, or against the setting itself,
is to set up two sides with opposing beliefs in how to deal with themselves and the world. The conflict will center around whether characters should seek to discipline themselves, gaining a measure of control over themselves and in so doing the world around them (let's call this side Discipline), or whether they should accept themselves and the world as it is, seeking not to control either but to coexist harmoniously with the forces in their environment (we'll call this side Harmony).
This conflict can play out in any scale and genre. From Jedi versus Sith
in their view of The Force
and The Dark Side
(Do you let it flow through you and enact its will upon the galaxy? Or chafe at the "chains" so imposed and bend it to your will?), to a doctor choosing whether to go on punishing themselves for every patient lost, insisting that they just need to work themselves harder to make themselves be able to save every patient, or admitting that no, they can not save everyone.
Expanding on the above, Harmony will believe that untamed nature, be it physical, natural or mental, is preferable and that mankind should not try to dominate or change the environment in which it finds itself
. It believes that doing so is Prideful
and unnatural, leading only to heartache and calamity
. It believes that it is nature (be it Mother Nature, plain old nature, Sentient Cosmic Force
, The Lifestream
, magic, or even human impulses) that binds us all together into a greater whole which knows how best we should all coexist. Because of this outlook, Harmony tends to be reactive, correcting problems rather than seeking to prevent them. All well and good, but the less advertised side of Harmony is that nature tends to have a wild, uncontrollable and potentially destructive side. It's (usually) completely without malice, but that's cold comfort when a tornado or magically augmented mastodon tears through your house.
Opposing Harmony is Discipline, the belief that mankind can and should master themselves and their environment for the betterment of all. Be it through mastery of the self through rigorous mental and/or physical training, study, exploration or with laws and civilization, this rigorous pursuit usually advocates science, progress, capitalism, Magic in its intellectual aspect
, religion in its intellectual and organized aspects, innovation, urbanization and curiosity.
Discipline believes that Harmony is too focused on preserving and accepting, and is in fact defeatist by not trying to improve things, this is why Discipline tends to be active. On the flip side, Discipline can
end up tampering with things best left unmolested, can give its practitioners a God complex
, and can lose sight of the now in favor of tomorrow.
So. Which is right? Harmony
? Discipline? Both
, or perhaps neither
? Sometimes one and sometimes the other? This is a question of values that has Real Life
counterparts and is thus entirely up to the author to decide, assuming they want to take sides in this sometimes thorny debate. Usually, a little of both is needed. Sometimes, you can get Harmony and Discipline to agree temporarily, especially in a setting where evil is neither harmonious nor disciplined
. Works that come down firmly on one side or the other have been getting less and less frequent as more and more of the audience of any given work have become more educated and thus more apt to recognize the inherent hypocrisy of an author living in Real Life
(where no one would be alive if we didn't have a lot of both going on, especially regarding nature itself) demonizing one or the other.
As a metaphor, this can play out in lots of variations
using any of the following tropes, or in entirely new ways by mix and matching "Discipline" and "Harmony" factions from this list.
- All Work vs. All Play — All work is discipline, where all play is harmony.
- Balance Between Good and Evil — Generally, Good is harmony and evil is discipline, though inversions are commonplace.
- Elves VS Dwarves — Elves live in harmony with nature; dwarves seek to tame and utilize its resources.
- Emotions vs. Stoicism — Emotions are harmony, and Stoicism is discipline.
- Enlightenment Superpowers — Usually the result of using great discipline to achieve harmony.
- Flesh Versus Steel
- Fur Against Fang
- Heaven And Hell — One is Harmony, and the other is Discipline; which is which depends on the author's feelings on the topic.
- Ludd Was Right — Discipline is inherently faulty.
- Mother Nature, Father Science — Harmony is feminine, Discipline is masculine.
- Magic Versus Science — Magic is Harmony, Science is Discipline.
- Order Versus Chaos — It's assumed Chaos is Harmony, and that Order is Discipline. But then again, Order could be either Harmony or Discipline, with Chaos off in another dimension.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni — The Red Oni tends to be Harmony, and the Blue Discipline.
- Romanticism Versus Enlightenment — In general, Romanticism is Harmony and Enlightenment is Discipline.
- Science Is Bad, Nature Is Good — Science is inherently unharmonious, and thus bad.
- Slobs Versus Snobs — Slobs are Harmony and Snobs are Discipline
- Technician Versus Performer — One contestant is good because he worked at it (Discipline), another because it seems to come naturally to him (Harmony).
- Un-Equal Rites — Magic should be controlled, treated as art, or as religion.
See also: Magic from Technology
, and Romanticism Versus Enlightenment
These are examples of character or location types that fit into an associated group.
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- The path of the Martial Pacifist requires both Discipline and Harmony. In fact, this path to Harmony requires Discipline to follow. Many martial artists would view this trope as a False Dichotomy. Removing either facet can lead to a variation on the Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy.
- Many religions teach love, harmony, and acceptance. It takes true discipline to reach the point where you love your enemy as yourself.
- In Watership Down Cowslips warren is a Utopia of the extreme of harmony with no Chief Rabbit, no need to forage, and no struggle to survive— and an unavoidable dark secret. Efrafa is a Utopia of discipline where rabbits follow The Spartan Way. Neither are regarded as pleasant places. Though interestingly the Efrafan way at least gets an ambiguous kind of respect.
- On Firefly Simon is an example of Discipline. Though as it happens it is possible to kill him nothing and nobody can break him and River only melts him. Kaylee is an example of Harmony, with her love of everybody and her love of Serenity(an odd example of "harmony" being represented by a machine and it's mechanic). River too, represents Harmony the way she loves to dance, and mistakes a gun for a leafy twig. Mal of course, is the epitome of Discipline, as his resolve is made of iron.
- In Chariots of Fire, Eric is more Harmony, though he as a good streak of discipline as well. Harold is the extreme of discipline.
- Both Harmony and Discipline are represented in Magic: The Gathering by the color wheel. Blue is the color of discipline, which uses magic to control, understand, and shape the world. Blue mages rely on their cunning and intellect to outwit, manipulate, and dominate those who oppose their master plans- usually what they consider best for society. It's gameplay style is therefore more subtle and nuanced, seeking to gain long term advantage and control the course of the game. Green, meanwhile is the color of harmony. Its magic reveres the natural world, allowing Green mages to draw more mana from their lands, summon more powerful creatures, and ultimately win by making nature an ally rather than a servant. Interestingly enough, White magic (equidistant from Green and Blue) tends to blend discipline and harmony, believing that the most natural, harmonious society is one of honor, order, and discipline.
- This was shown in the two cards Concentrate and Harmonize - care to guess which of the two (with identical effects) was blue and which was green?
- The Colors Red and Black are a bit harder to pin down. Red is next to Green and quite opposed to Blue and by extension discipline, but isn't so much harmonious as it is passionately explosive. While it's the color most in touch with it's inner reckless self, it's quite self destructive. Red decks can deal damage very, very fast, but run the risk of petering out quickly or burning the Red mage himself. Black on the other hand is also self destructive... but because it embraces Power at a Price, and no price is too steep for absolute power. Black does tend towards the discipline end of things, being next to Blue and wanting to control others for its own ends. Which is why Black themed decks have powerful effects with "unconventional" costs or high upkeep. A clever Black mage might even trick an opponent into paying that cost.
- maybe a case of: harmony(green)/chaos(red) vs discipline(blue)/order(black)?
- Red and Black are next to each other, so it doesn't work, but White does represent order. In the color pie, the perpendicular axis is that of White versus Red/Black, which represents organisation and society (White) versus selfishness and rejection of external rules (Black/Red). Thus, Red is a little more harmonious (because it absolutely rejects Discipline) and Black is a little more disciplined (because it thinks more and may be less short-sighted)
- Musical ensembles can't produce Harmony without Discipline.
- The Jedi and the Sith actually both embody Harmony and Discipline, but in opposite areas. The Jedi strive to master their emotions and do the will of the Force while the Sith seek to bend the Force to their will while giving in to their emotions. The Jedi belive in internal Discipline and external Harmony, while the Sith believe in external Discipline and internal Harmony.
- On the other hand, Sith philosophy believe totally in external Discipline. They encourage to satisfy your emotion with any mean necessary(choke the officer when you're angry, go for empire when you're still a head of state, etc). This stimulates Sith to improve their external ability while ignore either internal or external peace and harmony. It is impossible for any human to think straight when their heads are full of anger all the time.
- In A New Hope, Obiwan tells Luke that while the Force controls his actions, it also obeys his commands. So the Jedi have a certain aspect of controlling the Force. Also, Darth Vader has successfully mastered his emotions in a way that would do a Jedi proud.
- In The Sound of Music Maria is Harmony married to Captain von Trapps Discipline. She is a merry Manic Pixie Dream Girl who loves singing and dancing, while Captain von Trapp is a Stoic Officer and a Gentleman whose Death Glare is a weapon of mass destruction.
- As per the standard dichotomy of Law and Chaos, Shin Megami Tensei usually features this as a core undercurrent. Harmony is generally associated with the Chaos Faction (which favors emotions), and Law enforces Discipline (which operates via logic and strict control). That said, there are exceptions: Chaos may utilize Discipline to gain and enforce power while Law may use Harmony to foster its ethic of conformity. Yet as with everything else Lawful and Chaotic, Harmony AND Discipline become limiting when used exclusively.