The Tragic Life is Better Than the Simple
Tragic endings yield more room for self-reflection and inner sanctity than simple, easy-going, minimalistic happy endings. Instead of suffering under the chain of routine or everyday boredom, tragedy makes lives seem more purposeful and worthy of being retold. Having tragic flaws embedded in a situation or encrusted within a character is better than having no concrete story to tell. The blemishes, shortcomings, and unintentional errors highlight useful lessons, ones that can be taken to the grave. Dissecting the tragic life story opens more doors and takes you more places than considering the simple motives of a non-tragic somewhat-happy-yet-always-boring life; living without any variations or changes to the general taste of life can lead to a feeling of stagnation. You’re going in circles and getting nowhere. Yet with tragedy you run in different directions. And at the very least, that would lead to a final endpoint or space of relief as opposed to the monotony of simply living without any hoops to jump through. Like the poets say, don’t let life happen to you, control and steer the ship yourself and make life happen.
For those who beat the drum for simplicity being an “artful way towards success,” you’ve not lived and experienced the rollercoaster that is tragedy. It is tragic suffering and distress which ultimately paves the way for truly appreciating the simplistic and gloomy. Sylvia Plath talked about feeling all the “shades, tones, and variations” of life which included loss, depression, loneliness and moments of utter and complete sadness. It can be argued that her poetry became a reflection of her mental state and tragic emotions. Her complicated life might as well be seen as a blessing since it led to a creative outburst and outpouring of poetry, of which a large number are celebrated today. While tragedy makes for a timeless story to tell, it also reinforces historic claims about the importance of downfall in a situation. In my opinion, the purpose is not to influence your art with tragedy but to grow out of being a simpleton who’s constantly trying to keep life like a bed without creases. Embrace the barriers you have to cross without thinking of them as awful punishments, rather as mere blessings in disguise.
Sometimes people have a natural tendency to get themselves into trouble or practise self-destructive behaviours. Maybe this entails staying in a toxic relationship, consuming a food item you’re allergic to, watching a horror film whilst knowing it’ll make it harder to sleep, starting a fight when you know better or intentionally hurting somebody in some disastrous way. This attraction with the dangerous or uncanny is a mechanism used to add some kind of flavour to our daily existence. It might stem from a need to prove yourself, a sense of longing, desire to be well liked and even a split personality trait. Most of the time people hit themselves with a hammer only because they’ll be glad to experience the relief once they stop. Such a masochistic desire for pain explains why certain tragedies are self-inflicted. Despite knowing better, people take chances, and this becomes a medium of avoiding the simple sailing carousel of life. It would also be hard to enjoy the simplicities of life if a safe sail at sea was all anyone knew. In this sense, tragedy impregnates a simple life with purpose. It leads to character development and constructive change while a simple life would make us all the same, effacing our identities.
Tragic endings or stories make the audience sit with their own perceptions and take what they must from what they’ve witnessed. Upon watching a Beckettian play, the audience leaves disturbed yet washed and enlightened by the chaos of life’s uncertainty and unfairness. It might be difficult to watch, yet it promises an unforgettable experience that is infused with reflective thoughts. Films can spark strong emotions and the experience can be equivalent to reliving a tragedy yourself. This might be part of the reason why people indulge in watching horror movies, emotional soap operas or reading fictional stories with unhappy endings. There is the desire to feel something, no matter how painful or tragic, and take a momentary respite from the tedium that is reality.
Both fictional and real people’s tragedies become our own, so it’s imperative to find solace in the uncertain, accidental and unexpected tragic moments or endings. Examples, from Shakespeare’s emphasis on tragedy to the piecing together of atrocious headlines in the news, show that pain and tragedy is a point of attraction. However, this should not be the sole reason for us to desire some sort of great upheaval or tragic end. The bulk of enjoying the variations of tragedy has to do with avoiding the numb inertia of sameness and causality. Break away from the cycle, subvert the norms and start some anarchical revolts. Don’t just succumb to a dreary, lackluster life of work, of drinking tea, and raising children.
Illustration: The Saint Illustration Team