Mid Week Musings

Standing in the ‘Tragic Gap’

It is difficult not to be affected by the pain we see in the world around us. The last two years have been particularly anxiety-inducing, with the scourge of Covid affecting all of our lives in one way or another. Many of us have also experienced “second-hand stress” from the stories of those who have suffered. And this has been the case not just with Covid, but also with other tragic events (such as the crisis in Ukraine) that have left us feeling worried and anxious.

How does one manage to stay on an even keel at times like these? Our ability to emotionally survive difficult times perhaps lies in our capacity to stand in what educator and author, Parker Palmer, calls “the tragic gap”. The tragic gap, according to Palmer, is the gap between the way we know things can be and the way they actually are.

It is not easy to stand in the tragic gap. Palmer says that in the face of overwhelming problems, people tend to flip either into the realm of corrosive cynicism and stop believing that anything will change, or they flip into the world of empty optimism, and ‘float above it all.’ The result is the same, as both the cynics and the ‘over-optimists’ end up doing little actual good in the world.

Mid Week Musings 23rd Feb 2022

Palmer tells us that standing in the tragic gap comes at a cost, and that is why few choose to do so. Instead of letting our hearts cave under the weight of the pain, or shatter like exploding grenades, spewing shards of hatred and anger out into the world, Palmer says we need to open our hearts and let the empathy flow out. 

Those who choose to stand in the tragic gap understand full well that they will not be able to solve the great problems of the world, but they also understand they have a responsibility to be a part of the solutions, however small. As the author Edward Everett Hale put it is so well,

“I am only one person.

But I am one person.

I cannot do everything

But I can do something.

And what I can do,

By the grace of God,

I will.”

And in these, the most trying times in recent modern history, that is enough.

Have a great week!

Team Anahat

‘Midweek Musings’ is the intellectual property of Anahat Organisation Development Consultancy Pvt. Ltd. © 2022 All Rights reserved 


Mid Week Musings

Just Do It…

It is said that Alexander the Great, when asked how he had conquered the known world in only ten years, replied in three words, “By not delaying.” 2300 years or so later, Nike, the shoe company more or less said the same thing when it coined its slogan (again, in three words) — ‘Just Do It.’

There is something to be said about not delaying or waiting too much for ‘the perfect time’ when something needs to be done. While planning and strategising are no doubt critical to the success of a venture, and there is something to be said for good timing, more often than not, it is inertia and/or fear that keep us from seizing the day.

It is important from time to time to honestly ask ourselves, “Are we not taking next steps because we don’t have all the information we need and conditions aren’t ‘just right’, or is it because we are just being afraid (or lazy)?” Risk-aversion can be taken to an extreme, as is evident from the protagonist of this rather sad, yet funny, poem:

There was a very cautious man 

Who never laughed or played. 

He never risked, he never tried, 

He never sang or prayed. 

And when one day he passed away, 

His insurance was denied. 

For since he never really lived, 

They claimed he never really died! 

How much better to be like the person Edgar Guest talks about in his wonderful poem, “Start to Sing As You Tackle the Thing”:

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,

But he with a chuckle replied

That “Maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one

Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.

So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin

On his face. If he worried he hid it.

He started to sing, as he tackled the thing

That couldn’t be done, & he did it.

Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;

At least no one ever has done it”

But he took off his coat & he took off his hat,

And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.

With a lift of his chin & a bit of a grin,

Without any doubting or “quit it”,

He started to sing as he tackled the thing

That couldn’t be done, & he did it.

There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done.

There are thousands to prophesy failure;

There are thousands to point out to you one by one,

The dangers that wait to assail you.

But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,

Just take off your coat & go to it;

Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing

That “cannot be done,” & you’ll do it.

Have a great week!


Team Anahat

Mid Week Musings

‘The Pain Will Pass, but the Beauty Will Remain’

Pierre Auguste-Renoir (1841-1919) was a prolific French impressionist artist who painted thousands of paintings depicting French life in the last three decades of the 19th century. Renoir’s paintings are displayed in some of the finest art galleries around the world and give joy to millions.

At age 51, however, Renoir developed a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. Painting became agony for him, but he persisted in his art. He developed progressive deformities in his hands which made it difficult for him to even hold a brush, requiring him to significantly change his painting technique.

His friend, Henri Matisse, another famous artist and 30 years his junior, visited him daily. One day, seeing Renoir having a particularly difficult time, Matisse exclaimed, “Auguste, why do you continue to paint when you are in such agony?”

Without removing his brush from the canvas, Renoir answered, “Because the pain will pass, but the beauty will remain.”

Pain has a way of making us self-absorbed and focus only on ourselves, but it is precisely during such times that we must make the effort, however small, to continue creating and doing work we truly believe in.

It is easy to give up on our dreams in times of pain, but we need to remind ourselves of Renoir’s immortal words and persevere, for that is often when we end up doing our most important work. 

Here are some of Renoir’s most famous paintings, a living example of the truth of his words…  

'La Grenouillère'
'The Canoeists' Luncheon'
'The Umbrellas'
'Self-portrait - Renoir'

Have a great week!


Team Anahat