Standing in the Tragic Gap

By the tragic gap I mean the gap between the hard realities around us and what we know is possible — not because we wish it were so, but because we’ve seen it with our own eyes.” —Parker J. Palmer


This week, more destruction, loss and pain. More reminders of the frailty of the human condition, of the terrible pain we are capable of inflicting on one another. I am tired of swinging from exhausted cynicism to unrealistic idealism. I continue to challenge myself to stand in the middle of the uncertainty, to learn to pause in the ‘tragic gap.’ That challenge and that searching have led me back, once again, to the teaching of Parker Palmer.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.

 

3 thoughts on “Standing in the Tragic Gap

  1. The “Tragic Gap”, great phrase. These situations both show the ugliest, and then the most beautiful of who we can be. How close is that razor thin line that separates the ugly from the beautiful? The world in general wants to point outward and decry that which they deem ugly that is out and about – but the line between the ugly and the beautiful is right down the middle of my heart (and everyone else’s). How far away am I from the ugly? Not as far as I would like to think. How purely am I filled with the beautiful – not as purely as I would like to believe. I see my own ugly as I react to those who are reacting to ugliness. As I am offended by their reactions, I experience that same ugliness. As I try to tap into all that I know is beautiful and come back to rational responses, I find it not so easy. If I, who am only offended by words a family member or friend or media personality is saying, can’t respond in charity, who can? The pain of the “tragic” is real. The responses range all over the map. Is there such a thing as a “wrong” response in the face of the ugly? More ugliness would be the only “wrong” response. But if I keep looking out at the world around me and keep pointing fingers, placing blame, accusing those with whom I rarely agree, I think the ugly will only continue to fester and grow. The only answer to the “Tragic Gap” is to counter intuitively tap deeper into the beautiful within (the source of which is not our own of course and is pure grace). Otherwise, the “Tragic Gap” will grow deeper and wider and more frequent.

    • Bret, thank you for your powerful and thoughtful comments. I am especially moved by this: “the line between the ugly and the beautiful is right down the middle of my heart (and everyone else’s). How far away am I from the ugly? Not as far as I would like to think. How purely am I filled with the beautiful – not as purely as I would like to believe.” I’ll be thinking about those questions for some time to come.

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