Have you ever wondered what could some of the great tragedies in life be? As I considered the question, the following three tragedies topped my list. Without any hint of doubt, most of us would agree that the loss of someone dear to us could be the greatest of all tragedies in life. The reason for that is obvious: the feeling of loss of a dear one is more often than not irreparable, and the dear one, irreplaceable. The only thing that might survive is the memory of that person. The closer the person is to us, the greater the memories, and as a result, the greater the amount of pain and grief caused by the loss. I have experienced a few deaths in my extended family and I know what death could bring upon the lives of the surviving family members. One of my uncles and his family were crushed by my cousin’s unexpected death at quite a young age. Similarly, the death of my grandmother had literally led to the death of my grandfather – He just didn’t want to live after he lost his wife, and he fasted to death. These kinds of experiences are not unique to me; either you or people from your life might have been terribly affected by the death of their dear ones. The confusion, shock, and emptiness of the loss conglomerate and present a bitter pill of reality to swallow; and such pill, many people reckon, to be so bitter that they would rather count their own death to be less bitter, just like my grandpa did.
Closely following the tragedy caused by death is the tragedy caused by loneliness, which in a way seems like the foretaste of death. In fact, recently, a report on social isolation and its impacts on mortality in the TIME magazine makes it clear that social isolation, which is closely related to the feeling of loneliness, leads to early deaths. There are quite a few studies on loneliness and how the “progress” that we boast of has indeed led us to loneliness and isolation. Instead of having more time on our hands to spend with our near and dear ones, and to pursue the hobbies that we like, our lives have become cogs in the great money-making-machine. Some of us are in the illusion that we are connected more than ever through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., but the fact of the matter is that we are so superficially connected that our deeper longing for love and communion are far from being met. The Atlantic has published a thought provoking article, entitled: “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?”, which speaks to that fact. The article points out that “new research suggests that we have never been lonelier (or more narcissistic) – and that this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill.”
In addition to the two tragedies that I have mentioned, another grave tragedy of life, in my opinion, is the loss of the ability to feel – be it with someone, or for someone. Being able to feel with someone is nothing but having compassion. Marcus Borg in his Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, talking about the importance of compassion in the life and work of Jesus, parses the word and maintains that compassion “means feeling the feelings of somebody in a visceral way, at a level somewhere below the level of the head.” He adds that compassion is commonly associated with feeling the suffering of somebody else and being moved by that suffering to do something. That means this ability of being able to feel the joys or sorrows of others is what enables us to move beyond ourselves and consider the good of others. Further, Borg drives home the point that “to be compassionate” is what is meant by the New Testament command “to love.” Love and compassion, therefore, seem to serve as antidote to the narcissistic drives that we are forced to foster by the media and the great money-making-machine. Dalai Lama said it well: “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” Drawing on the words of the Dalai Lama, it seems to me that the day we cease to be compassionate and to love, we cease to exist as humanity, and that, is indeed a great tragedy.