The Irony of Tragedy

If we don’t truly think, we may come to the conclusion that a life free of tragedy is a good thing. However, even the lightest of reflections will inform us that tragedy is inevitable. Death and taxes at the bare minimum — and probably a lot more.

Living a life without struggle is like being an athlete that never competes. Adversity and the right level of suffering helps us build character and resilience. Without facing challenges, we remain weak and fragile. What we want to become, to paraphrase Nassim Taleb, is anti-fragile. This means that not only are we able to resist the chaos of life, but that we come out of it stronger.

Last year, I had a highly traumatic event. I suffered — for a while. Now, this is part of my identity. I came out of it stronger, wiser, more resilient. I measure the everyday stresses against the yardstick of this experience, and nothing measures up. Everyday issues feel like background noise.

Tragedy also makes us better human beings. We can understand the struggle of other’s when we have been through something similar ourselves. We tend to forgive a little more easily, to understand the internal motivation structures of other people.

Confronting tragedy and hardship can provide us with a renewed sense of purpose. When we truly recognise life’s inherent fragility and our own mortality, it can inspire us to live more intentionally. Processing trauma has a way of prioritising what matters most and motivating us to pursue meaning over trivial concerns. By acknowledging the inevitability of death, we grasp the preciousness of each moment. This existential motivation, born of difficulty, inspires us to live with a sense of urgency and purpose.

Though we dread tragedy, wisdom blossoms in its wake.

Related Essays