The difference between a tragedy and a comedy

I was reading a post over at Jeff Goins outstanding blog.  (See the blog roll.)

He was exploring the necessity and value of failure.  And it occured to me:

The only difference between a comedy, a tragedy, and an inspirational story is the last scene in the movie. 

Consider the story of Joseph.  If you ended the story with Joseph in jail, it’d be a tragedy.  If you ended it with the scene where he’s messing with his brothers, it’d be a black comedy.  If you ended it where the story ends, it’s inspirational.

Or think about Jesus himself.  If the scriptures ended with the apostles getting the temple tax out of the gut of a fish, it’d be comedy.  If they ended at the crucifiction, it’d be tragedy.  But it ends after the reseruction: it’s life-changing.

Our lives are not stories.  Except that they are.

And we can end them quite clearly and dramatically through suicide.  But we can also engage in psuedocide.  (Cool word, huh?)  Pseudocide is choosing to end the epic story even if our lives go on.  Pseudocide is giving up and giving in.

We can’t extend the story of our lives longer than we’re given.  But we can shorten it.   Moses could have resisted God’s call to return to Israel.  Elijah could have ignored God’s nurturning.  Joseph could have stayed in prison.

I am like you.  I have these frustrations and these challenges.  And so do you. If my story ended today, it would be a tragedy, I think.   Maybe yours would be too.

We can choose to end our stories.  We can choose for them to be tragedies.  But if we don’t, who knows what they might become.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

One thought on “The difference between a tragedy and a comedy”

  1. Hi this is great. And I love that “I’m smart enough, good enough…” I am a Saturday Night Live fan as well and I’m living abroad and miss this american sense of humor!!!


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