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Life is Inherently Tragic

A professor I once had used to say “life is inherently tragic.”  He would go on to explain how death is a part of life, and without one, we cannot have another.  Death gives birth to new life.  Life gives birth to something that will one day die.  

In life, we certainly have our fair share of tragedy.  Both of my own parents died before I was 30.  I have no siblings, and in some ways have had to forge my own way through life.  

We have a friend of ours living with us currently who is a recent widow.  One year ago yesterday her dear husband of over 30 years was taken by the horrible disease of cancer.  She has gone through some real and undiluted pain over the last few years, and is now in a process of recovery.

A child gets killed in an accident, or worse, on purpose.
  Death, disease, hunger, and struggle appear all around us.  We nearly become numb to this pain.

And one of the worst parts about it all, is that in the midst of the chaos and pain of life’s tragedies, it often feels as if we are surrounded by people who just don’t get it.  They haven’t walked the same path, they haven’t experienced the same pain.  They say stupid things that hurt deeply, and sometimes it feels as if their “words of encouragement” turn to us comforting them instead of the opposite.

I don’t understand all of the bad, but no more do I understand how all of the good that happens in our world can actually happen in spite of the bad.

We are temporary travelers on the road of life.  There is more, much more to life than that we see.  We are wanderers, seeking our way, part of a history and future that we neither created nor can control.  Yet we are held in God’s hands, the hands that hold the entire world, see a larger perspective, and know what is really going on.  

The pain we feel allows us to see the joy that we feel.  

We will miss those we lost, and we will hurt still more when others are lost in the future.  But by and through this pain that we feel, there is a richness to life that I wouldn’t want to miss.  Somehow the depth of the feelings of pain and despair enlighten us to the “more” that is present in life besides simply existing.  

(The attached pictures are of a man I saw at the cemetery yesterday.  A man whose hunched and tired body looked so downcast as he sat by the grave of presumably his wife.)


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Death, disease, hunger, and struggle appear all around us. But we have to live by win this.

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Phil is a Professor, Ph.D. Student, Musician, Husband, Father, and Cultural Observer.