Midweek Musings-43

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

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