Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Tragedy (taken from "Everyday Zen" by Charlotte Joko Beck)

"According to the dictionary a tragedy is 'a dramatic or literary work depicting a protagonist engaged in a morally significant struggle ending in ruin or profound disappointment.' From the usual point of view life is a tragedy. Each of us is a protagonist playing our own leading role on our little stage. Each of us feels we are engaged in a morally significant struggle. And - though we don't want to admit this - that struggle will inevitably end in our ruin. Aside from any accident we might encounter in life, there's one 'accident' at the end that none of us can avoid. We're done for. From the moment of conception our life is on its way out. And from a personal point of view this is a tragedy. So we spend out life in a pointless battle to avoid that end. That misdirected battle is the real tragedy."


James said...

Is she saying that people spend their lives trying not to die? I disagree with her. Only a very few people would think like that. It sounds really depressing.

Crypticity said...

I don't think she is necessarily saying that in particular. But that is the background idea - or the background thought. For example, the oft-quoted question mentioned last night:

What is the meaning of life?

To me that would sound like looking for the morally significant struggle for which to strive for before your tragic end. (Or maybe people would see it as tragic to be without this definitive purpose or achievement).

Or alternatively, if we want to focus on death itself, we might broaden the idea. Fear of decline or ill-health could be manifestations of such a fear. Fear of deterioration may drive people to the gym more than any implicit desire to exercise. Perhaps.

And if all that is wrong, then maybe we are living in a more enlightened society than that which the book was written (LA) or maybe she was just stretching her case...

James said...

I think that the meaning of life is whatever you want it to be. But, you would usually reach that understanding only through deep introspection.

If you have already had a full and satisfying life, then death doesn't need to be ruin or profound disappointment. So, life is not necessarily a tragedy. (There may be tragedies in life, though). As you suggested, I think she is just stretching her case. And, being overdramatic.