LIFE: COMEDY OR TRAGEDY?
In very general terms, tragedy starts with happy times and ends in catastrophic events, whereas comedy starts with misfortune and ends in triumph. The point here is whether we write our own story or is it partly written by the meddling of others and by what we call fate, or - if we do write our story- to what extend does this happen?
My grandmother used to say, “What [life] writes does not un-write.” It sounds fatalistic but it shows how traditionally people believed in the predestination of every person’s path. That was until somewhere in the eighties. Then we got a strong infusion of “positive thinking”, and of “you-can-create-your-own-destiny” thing, and the resulting amalgam was the loss of self-esteem and the idolization of anything foreign.
Are we free to “write” our own destiny, or is it pre-written and we can do very little to change it? What are we talking about when we talk about changing, or having the control of our lives? I read sometimes articles written by authors who seem to believe that any person in the world can take control of their lives and change their destiny. And I wonder when I read them whether they had taken into account the poor and destitute of this world. Did they consider the thousands who live in the streets or in paper-box-homes? Did they think of the children who are not likely to grow old enough to go to school because hunger and malnutrition will catch up with them? Did they consider the smart and talented in unprivileged countries? Because if it’s true that we can create our own destiny, it must be true for everybody.
We know that the internet reaches in all those places. And I mean, people read what we write and they dare to dream -all kinds of people. But what is their destiny and who creates it? Are willingness and determination, intelligence, talent, hard work and a healthy self-esteem enough to move them towards a bright future? Because it looks to me that for many people their destiny is determined before they are even born. And when I talk about destiny, I talk about people reaching their full potential. This can never happen when social structures are mal-functioning. It’s one of the reasons people immigrate, looking for a place where their efforts and intelligence won’t be wasted.
But let us assume that we live in a society where social structures are intact and we can realize anything we dream of, if we just work towards that goal. Still, we are not free of ourselves. It has been said that a person’s destiny is tied up to her or his character. I’ve come to realize that life sifts everything through our character. Our actions, reactions, thoughts and impressions, combined with the actions, reactions, thoughts and impressions of those who interact with us, plus our culture, will all be sifted through our character. If our character contains kindness and compassion and sacrifice, people will most likely take advantage of us. If we are non-conformist, we will be slandered. If we are quiet, we will be misunderstood. And life will again sift all that, and the outcome will most likely be pain. If we consider that slander and misunderstanding alone, can destroy a person’s life, who then is making this person’s destiny? The healthiest of self-esteem and the most positive thinking, cannot do much when people know the wrong thing about you.
For better or for worse, we do live in a society of people and the way people respond to what we have to offer can determine our life-course. If someone wants to learn, there must be a way to access information that will teach him or her. If a child wants to go to school, there must be a school or a teacher in the vicinity. And if you want to live from your writing, there must be people who want to read what you write. Imagine an author who lives in a culture where most people are illiterate or very poor to afford books. It’s not very likely that his or her dream will ever be realized. Taking a wide view of life we understand that other people can shape part of our destiny. It’s like forcing a stream to change direction by digging a channel and taking it away from its natural course. And I think here of the thousands of girls who have been abducted and forced into the sex-slavery market. Of course, no people in their right mind will ever think that this was a life-dream for any of these girls. And yet, their lives have been forced into a different course. They have been destroyed. Many of the dreams they carried will never be fulfilled. Powers outside of their own are shaping their destiny. And yes, the strongest of them can still try to discover a meaning for their lives but the original plan is gone.
In Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles , Tess’s fate is sealed the day she is raped. That day, another man’s action, determined Tess’s fate. He determined that one day, this girl, would be led to the gallows. Had he respected her, Tess would not have been forced to kill him and she would have had the life she had dreamed, with the one man she had loved. A similar fate is prescribed for Maggie in George Elliot’s The Mill on the Floss . Maggie’s misadventure is her intelligence. She “dares” to be born with more brains than it is “allowed” for women in her era.
Sometimes, trying to fight against taboos and prejudices resembles the effort of the man who tries to break down the Great Wall of China with his fist.Embracing the pain in our lives requires a healthy attitude and much courage. But in doing it, we discover the importance of attributes greater than reaching our full potential and fulfilling our dreams. We become aware of the building of our character and the acquisition of wisdom –assets we cannot acquire without pain. We don’t seek pain, we are not masochists, but when it comes, we must know how to use it to our benefit. That way, we can create our own destiny. At the end, only our attitude will determine whether we have lived through a tragedy or a comedy. But we must learn to be patient with ourselves. The awareness of what is most important in life takes time.
by Έlενα Τίngα