Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Paradox of Tragedy

A war.

An affair.

A physically impaired newborn.

A natural disaster.


There perhaps is nothing so controversial as stating something good was possible only because it was preceded by and actually resulted through something ruthlessly cruel and horribly tragic.

There may be some appreciation in a general ability to find a ‘sliver lining’, but when someone goes so far as to say that society and people are better off, improved, happier and wealthier because of death, destruction and mayhem, it’s hard to find an audience that won’t become angry and outraged.

Stay open minded for a moment. Let’s review history. While examples would be plentiful through ALL of history, we’ll stick to the last few hundred years just so it feels relevant.

I cannot get myself to say that tragedy is good. I’m not so cynical or jaded as to think that someone’s intense suffering is a good thing. However, there is room for gratitude that their suffering was not endured for nothing.

Suffering is part of the human condition. Anything that manages to survive birth, survives to endure an endless series of unfortunate events. Life = suffering.

BUT life is also about overcoming. It’s about championing a cause, defending the underdog, protecting things worth saving and experiencing the greatest of all of life’s joys: some kind of a meaningful relationship with another human being.

And regrettably, most of that would not be possible without tragedy.

It has been acknowledged by authorities of many kinds that without religious persecution in England and the greed of the wealthy that resulted in the death and suffering of thousands of people for thousands of centuries- people would not have been desperate enough to leave their homes and venture out on a rickety old timber boat to risk death, disease and starvation- to find a new country to live in. I am of course referring to how America as we know it got it’s early beginnings.

And it has similarly been acknowledged that America would have been a vastly different place without the sweat, blood and tears of all the people (indentured white servants, cheated imported Chinese, enslaved Africans and those who arrived here free) who cultivated the raw and wild land into homes, businesses and multi-cultured civilization.

It truly was an atrocity how the Native American Indians were nearly wiped out through deliberate and accidental means during that process.

It cannot be overlooked though that the harvesting of this continent was inevitable. The French, Germans, Russians, Mexicans and others were all after a chunk of this rich and fertile country. Without the story going the unfortunate way it did, there is a good chance that traveling to California would be owned by Mexico, Alaska by and …. By…. That many different countries trying to live side by side in the loose and highly desirable territories, would have inevitably led to more wars and bloodshed than our current history books list.

Likewise, every nationality that has called America home has somehow harmed it and enhanced it. Disease, pestilence, vermin, violence and treachery have come from every corner of the earth along with new customs, imaginative contributions, brilliant literature, scientific breakthroughs. You might say that each country that stepped foot on American soil brought with them their own Pandora’s Box.

Ultimately though, through bad events and circumstances good things can come. You just have to be resilient enough to withstand the inevitable changes of life, and open minded enough to appreciate a silver lining.

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