Wasting Tragedy

It’s a sinful thing to waste a tragedy.

Tragedy is so defined because of its sudden displacing capabilities, an event with the power to change a world, to shake a person to their core. If you must ask if something is tragic, then it’s not tragic. Tragedy is something you feel or observe to the point of feeling, empathizing. It doesn’t need explanation. It is destructive and distressing. It is something that SHOULD change a person or group of people.

To live after its reverberations, to internalize the beating it throttles into your bones, and then somehow go back to life as normal, is breathtakingly sinful. It misses the mark. Our forgetfulness becomes our sin. Our narcissism become us once more.

We experience things that unwelcomingly and demandingly change us. We sit under the avalanche of shock, horror, uprootedness, collapse of worldview, feeling emotions we never knew existed when the tragic, the truly and unutterably tragic, happens to us. We shake, we convulse. Our bodies remind us that something is not right. Our minds keep us awake at night, revisiting the details, seeing the dead, watching them die, being casual bystanders as the world changes. Helpless. Yet, we resolve, when we can once again resolve, to be different. To live different. To love different. To live the values we often verbalize.

We are such good hypocrites, even those who claim to be holy.

Then, we forget. Our forgetfulness begets our sin and we revert to life before the tragic. Nothing has changed. We act the same. We value the same things. We personally recast the golden calf that was broken by the tragic. The event becomes a justification for our own pursuits, our own sense of “seizing the day,” unbeknownst that we are all just a day away from another tragic event.

The reality is this: humans are selfish fallible creatures. We can live through hell, and feel its refining fire, but unless we intentionally and prayerfully allow that refining fire to sit with us long enough until we are shaped into something otherwise, we easily fall back into our own sense of immortality and narcissism. Yet fire is harsh and we do not care to sit with it too long.

We can sit under the tree and weep with Jeremiah, weep over the casket, weep over the accident on the side of the road, bemoan over a pain we can never describe. We can do all that and talk about how “it’s changed us” and still not change.

The tragic is horrific but it is also a necessary part of life. We do not invite it, but once it arrives, we should do the best we can to survive and then allow it to do the work in us that it is supposed to do: change us. Give us perspective. Make us into someone that can inhabit the new world it has created. We are not supposed to be the same person on the other side of the tragic. It has cut us open, bled us dry, and created the deepest of scars. In order to resume life, we have to submit to painful stitches and walking with a limp.

We cannot wrestle with Tragedy and carry the same name afterward…else, did we ever experience anything?

I sincerely weep that so many are not changed, permanently, by tragedy. It has the power to shock us, but in so doing, has the power to allow us to live and embrace life on the other side of it. The world does not need our crocodile tears and a fake outrage. It needs those of us who have lived through tragedy to incarnate newness to our immediate world and to come alongside those among whom tragedy is wielding its sickle.

It is a horrible thing to waste a tragedy. I often wonder, must it happen once more?

With Meister Eckhart, I pray God to rid me of God. Rid me of my self in whom my God lives. Forgive me for my forgetfulness. Do not let the tragic of my life, and the world, be lost to me. Amen.

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