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Why is Human Existence so Tragic?

June 21, 2013

It seems we are each destined to play out our own personal story of tragedy during this life. Why has existence become such a tragic thing? A battle we must ultimately lose, yet a battle we are to keep on striving against till inevitable defeat in the end. What are the elements of this tragedy?

Firstly, we believe individual growth and self-development is the goal of our existence. Secondly, we know that we will have to die one day, undermining all our efforts. Many religions aim to insulate people from this tragedy, offering a spiritual development that reaches beyond this individual existence. While, the West, it seems, via it’s Judaeo-Christian background and via its recent adoption of science and a humanist and individualist viewpoint, is insisting more and more that spiritual development is confined to this individual existence.

Is this a great and heroic acceptance of harsh reality by us Westerners, or is it just an avenue of belief we have chosen to distinguish ourselves from other groups? Tragedy I think is something we are attached to. It is in our Western origins in the Greeks. It is what distinguishes some of the most remembered and great western literature. Including the bible itself. One tragedy after another besets the Jews, due to moral woes, and external invaders, and in the new testament is the tragedy of the crucifixion and the final belief in a coming tragedy of the apocalypse. Homer is full of tragedy, Shakespeare also, with his most memorable plays being Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Macbeth.

What this tells me is that we are attached to stories of this kind, rather than it being about some noble acceptance of reality. I am not sure what the best approach to the future may be. But my spiritual views tell me that this is an attachment we could do without. The over reliance on rationality, I think, is one example of such a western tragedy. We isolate ourselves in a bubble of rationality, immune to the outside world, immune to fear, anxiety and despair, only to have it burst by practices inconsistent with our rational expectations. A stressful job and lifestyle of dealing with others irrationality, giving us little joy. Addiction to various drugs. Scandalous sexual activities. Let us not imagine we can separate the rational ideal here, it is one side of the coin with this other irrational behavior. It is just the latest source for us Westerners at pursuing a tragic existence.

Yes we have things in reality we must face, accept, and deal with, and at times it is difficult. But lets focus on dealing with them, rather than making some dramatic tragedy out of it.

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