Monday, June 18, 2012

The Tragic Gap

After watching Inglorious Bastards the other day, it occurred to me that the movie was really about Landa. And that felt kind of disturbing. Because Landa did not hate, he didn't care much for the propaganda or the party or the race. He just did what it took to be successful in the system, to climb up the ladder, and eventually, to save his own ass. 

And then I was watching Satyamev Jayate on YouTube. Its really encouraging to see Aamir tackle issues that we as a society would rather not talk about. Because the first step to fixing our problems is to acknowledge that they exist, to break the silence. And then strive for a better alternative that we know to be possible. 

Which brings me to something I read recently, by the philosopher Parker Palmer, on what he calls the Tragic Gap:
By “the tragic gap” I mean the gap between what is and what could and should be, the gap between the reality of a given situation and an alternative reality we know to be possible because we have experienced it. 
When I collapse into the reality of what is, I am likely to sink into corrosive cynicism: “Community is impossible, so I’m going to focus on getting my piece of the action and let the devil take the hindmost.” 
When I collapse into pure possibility, I am likely to float off into irrelevant idealism: “Oh, how lovely it would be if….”

Corrosive cynicism and irrelevant idealism may sound as if they are poles apart, but they take us to the same place: out of the gap and out of the action, out of those places we might make a life-giving contribution if we knew how to hold the tension.
We don’t learn to hold tension in ways that open the heart by reading essays but by being around others who keep learning how to do it and invite us to try it for ourselves.
And that last part is especially important, as I've learned from some of the wonderful people I've known over the years. 

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