Saintly Thoughts

A Sense of the Tragic

Is it possible that we, in a post-Rawlsian age obsessed with fairness and opportunity, have lost our sense of the tragic?  Have lost our sense of the ineluctable wrongness of things?   Have forgotten that, no matter how hard we strive and fight against the world, the world will always defeat us in the end?  For surely, on some level at least and at some times, the world elicits from us despair--demands that we despair.  And if we refuse to despair when despair is called for out of some sense of sham optimism, we lose our moral seriousness.  No, sometimes the only moral action when faced with the shear terror and ugliness of existence is to rend our hair and curse the heavens, and curse the fates.  For no matter how well-structured our institutions, no matter how good our intentions, no matter how strong our optimism, all our accomplishments shall be as dust, in the end.  We have forgotten that we are a part of creation, that creation pre-existed us, and that no amount of scrimping and building and atomizing of our existence will save us from the force of that creation, in the end.  Autonomy is the great myth of our age, and the tragedy of despair may be the one thing capable of breaking us out of our present stupor.  Let us not lose our sense of the tragic; for surely if we forget how to despair we shall also forget how to love.  For love and despair, while opposites, may well be the life-blood of one another.