Tragedy's Beauty: The Courage of Human and Hero

3 years ago

Originally posted on

There’s a sort of beauty in tragedy. It’s an inevitable part of the human experience, even in the unlikely scenario the only tragedy a person ever faces is their own death. Maybe this is due to my current optimistic personality or my history of being a youth. Either way, I can’t help but appreciate the sadder moments in life for the beauty an impact they can have, if only you look.

There’s a great game I once played with the most bitter-sweet ending. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried my eyes out at the end of that video game. Despite the tragedy, the ending was perfect. It was the golden edge of a leather-bound book, the delicate white thread adding detail to a tapestry depicting a great ocean.

When all hope is lost, when we’re lower than we’ve ever been before, there is a certain beauty to simply surviving it all. We don’t always see it when in the situation unless someone outside points it out, but in those moments, we are heroes.

Reading a couple dozen pages on Norse mythology doesn’t make me much of an expert, but the idea that the gods understood and accepted the futility of their fight against evil left an impression on me. Where, in religion, mythology or even comic book lore are we presented with a hopeless tasks that heroes nevertheless embark on?

I was inspired by the idea that, even though the accepted reality of Asgard, where the Norse god reside, is that they will all eventually die and evil eventually win, they still kept fighting for good. They didn’t throw their hands up join the dark side just because that would be easier. They didn’t cease their fight for good simply because the fight was futile.

A hero isn’t always judged on their successes. They are also praised for their willingness to ride into battle against unbeatable odds so that the good in the world might last a little bit longer.

There’s a bullied child inside of me who has great respect for that idea. She understands the futility of doing what is right. When she looked at the average children in her school – the children who were neither friends nor bullies – she felt sorrow. They were all good people, but when they witnessed wrongdoing, they hardly ever spoke up. If they did, the bullies or the plastics would surly beat them back into place (in an emotional sense). Who in their right mind would risk their social status like that?

This photo, “Heroes” is copyright (c) 2014 Suus Wansink and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Because that was reality, I remember the rare moments where someone dared to stand up for me or for another bullied peer. They were among my heroes and, like the gods of Norse mythology, they stood against an inevitable reality. Regardless, their action and courage raised them above the average student. In that short moment, they became more. Even if they regressed back to a child when the moment ended, for that brief span of time, they reach maturity beyond the label of child.

Tragic beauty is still in our modern media, whether it be in a sad song or a tear-jerker film. Even as a tear rolled down my cheek in the middle of the Say Something music video, I saw its powerful message. Taken at face value, the song is about a broken relationship. The video expands this idea beyond a simple break up to also revolve around death and a troubled family. We see the struggle of three people who, despite wanting their relationship to continue, are forced to end it.

The viewer may choose to focus on the reluctant goodbye in that song. While that is an undeniable reality in the story of the song, there is something else unspoken. Those people are standing. They have risen above the tragedy of their situation and have gained the ability to walk away.

Something is only truly depressing or tragic when you let that tragedy bring you down. Maybe you’re thinking that dying in a battle against evil is the same as succumbing to the tragedy, but you’re wrong.

In the face of inevitable death in his fight against evil, one of my favorite heroes once said, “You know you can’t win. You can’t destroy what I really am. Even if you manage to kill this body, someone even stronger would surface to take my place.”

When he died, did this villains truly win? Did beating down one who fought for good erase good from existence? Even if you answer yes to those two questions, was his fight truly futile? Wasn’t it still worth fighting?

None of us will be here forever. No matter how many blessings or curses color our lives, we’ll all see a grave someday. That is the tragedy of life. That inevitability does not make life worth any less. In fact, it makes it worth so much more. That is what I heard in the ideas of Norse mythology. The inevitability of the Norse gods’ eventual failure in their fight for good did not make good any less valuable. On the contrary, it made all that was good an even greater treasure.

Do you think there is beauty in tragic or depressing stories? How does surviving tragedy affect people? When in the middle of a difficult or depressing situation, do you think a person can recognize the courage and strength to overcome? Or, does a person have to survive a situation first before than can recognize those qualities?

Twitter: @tkrv12

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