Conversations with the Master : The tragedy

Paulo Coelho

Here I continue to reproduce excerpts from conversations with my master, from 1982 to 1986)

– Why is there so much tragedy and misery in the world?

– Tragedy and misery are different things, and very lengthy subjects. Which would you like to talk about first?

– At the moment, about tragedy. Why does man suffer?

– Read the Bible and you will find the following: "that which is good, comes from You, my Lord. That which is evil, also comes from You, my Lord. Therefore what is there to fear?"

– Nevertheless, we do suffer.

– Certainly. But take this into consideration: of every ten problems we have, nine are created by our own selves – through guilt, self-punishment, self-pity. However, from time to time a great obstacle appears in our path, which was put there by God, and which is there for a reason. The reason is: to give us the opportunity to change everything, to move forwards.

"What is tragedy? A radical change in our lives, always linked to the same principle: loss. Suffering is always the result of a loss, either someone or something – such as health, beauty, or one’s financial conditions.

"When faced with a loss, it is no use trying to recover what has gone. On the other hand, a great space has been opened up in your life – there it lies, empty, waiting to be filled with something new. At the moment of one’s loss, contradictory as this might seem, one is being given a large slice of freedom.

"But most men, when faced with tragedy, fill this space with pain and bitterness. They never think there may be other ways of facing the inevitable."

– For example?

– Firstly, by learning the great lesson of wise men: patience, the certainty that everything – both good and bad – is provisional in this life. Secondly, using this sudden change of course to risk new things in daily life, to do things you always dreamed of.

– This is clear regarding material things. But what about someone’s death?

– We have spoken much about death, and you know that for the one who passes on, it does not exist – that person is enjoying the delights of a radical transformation. The sensation of death only exists for the one left here. Every dear person, upon departing, becomes our protector – after going through a period of longing, we should be joyful, since we are better protected. In the same way, one day we will be on the other side, protecting the people we love down here.

– And those we hate…

– Exactly as you imagine. They remain tied to us through the feeling of bitterness. That is why Jesus said: "before going to the temple, go back and forgive your brother." One must be forever washing one’s soul with the water of forgiveness.

– But going back to tragedy…

– There is something which is impossible to measure: the intensity of pain. We know a person is suffering because they tell us, but we cannot evaluate exactly how much. We often try to compare someone’s attitude upon being faced by a tragedy, and we end up judging them to be stronger or weaker than they really are. Do not compare random pain with nothing; only the one suffering can know what he or she is going through.

"Therefore, when inevitable tragedy appears, we must remember these three things: to make the most of the freedom of loss, not to judge the pain, and to learn the art of patience. It will destroy 9/10 of that which you are, but the 1/10 which remains will make you an infinitely stronger person. "

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