Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Paradigm Shift: Value in Tragedy?

I'm not sure when it started or even what it was in particular that made it change so suddenly but I've always viewed my life as a story, a novel that would someday be read, thought on deeply, discussed at length. Something inspiring, and no doubt dramatic. Something victorious in ways but mostly just beautifully tragic.

That association in my mind between beauty and tragedy is something I always assumed to be part of my internal hardwiring, present since birth and essential to my unique personality. I always felt it was the thing that made me artistic in nature, and for that reason I cherished it. Clung to it. Revered it as sacred, a piece of myself to be left untouched in my attempts to become the very best version of myself.

Recently however it has come to my attention by way of a slowly building momentum of personal progress finally picking up some speed, that this trait may not be what I always thought it to be. It may in fact be another of the many ways in which I have been programmed by the media. I realized it because a trend caught my attention... my generation as a whole romanticizes tragedy. Since I first came upon this thought I have been experiencing something akin to what happens to a woman who becomes pregnant, suddenly everywhere she looks she sees babies, and tons upon tons of other pregnant women. Where did they all come from? Had they been here all along? Why are so many people having babies all at the same time as me? Is this another baby boom? ... in reality there was no spike in procreation just in the woman's perception. Her personal worldview changed and suddenly she sees things that were around her all along that she had never noticed before. It now makes sense.

Now everywhere I look I see this stream of glamorized images of suffering, tragedy, even torture. We are being taught to revere struggle for struggles sake, instead of in an attempt to better ourselves, our communities, our society. I've known for some time that America has been guilty of putting mediocrity up on the pedestal as something to aspire to... but I was blind to just how strongly we are barraged by the message that tragedy is beautiful. Our suffering alone is what makes us valuable, regardless of whether we make something of ourselves as a result of the suffering. We've lost the value of the struggle when we take success out of the picture. Struggles have become the end and not the means to the end. So many of my peers have succumbed to the notion that going out in a tragic blaze of glory or squandering the blessings they were born with will make for a much better life story than struggling and then attaining greatness.

We've been sold this bill of goods that the American dream we used to strive for is tainted and not worth the price. We've been told that the price is our values and our sanity anyways so why not just dispel with those things from the get go and strive instead to make our lives into the most dramatic story we possibly can without ever really challenging ourselves. Lets board the wild pleasure-seeking roller coaster ride and endure any amount of hardship in the name of that goal.

Well, I tell you what, I don't want it. Suffering isn't beautiful. There is no meaning behind pain in the pursuit of pleasure. We struggle so that we can stretch our capacities enough to handle the success we seek, the struggles alone do not add value to us. It's the learning and growing that those struggles inspire. The hero of the horror movie is not more valuable in the final scene than in the opening credits simply because they survived... they are more valuable because they decided they had something to live for and the worked in attainment of that goal... if they then never devote the life they barely made it out with to that purpose that inspired them, the value they gained in surviving is quickly lost.

Getting through a struggle and coming out on the other end is not something to trivialize. Some don't even get that far and sometimes getting out at all is worthy of some serious acknowledgement... but no one need feel that their story should end there. This is life, not a neatly wrapped up song or movie or novel. We have no way of knowing when our personal end will come so let's not assume it's over and miss out on what could be. What makes a compelling tale doesn't always make for a well lived life.


  1. Cat,

    Once again, your writing not only moves me, but inspires me. Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts with the world.

  2. This is an absolutely fantastic post. I too felt for many years that my life would be "destined for tragedy." Only when I discovered some sense of self worth through personal development did I begin to truly believe my life is destined for greatness.

    As Chris Brady says, "Live on purpose, for a purpose; use your privileges for your purpose, not for pleasure."

    Again, great work, you really captured the spirit behind the matter!


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