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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  1. muriel says:

    I believe people do bad things to people because they are stuck, stuck with themselves and who they are, they mostly envy something the person they hurt has or who he/she is. The people who hurt others are to be pitied as they don’t fully realize what it is that makes them behave like that and therefor won’t change and will never get what who they hurt has or is. It has taken me a while to realize this was the case with the people who hurt me and it took me a while again to deal with the pain of it all, but now I realize they are the ones I must feel sorry for not for myself, the pain has gone and I feel strong again.

  2. THELMA says:

    If we, humans, are not enlightened, life is a Tragedy, because we are mortals!
    Promitheus has stolen the Light and gave it to the people.{The myth of Promitheus]. The Light is Wisdom. Wisdom is the catalyst and the surpass of Death. The Resurrection. Eternal life.
    “I am the Light, the Resurrection and Life…” the Gospel says.

  3. Alexandra says:

    Right.I had experienced the pain that was very powerfull,but nobody seemed to be aware that I was suffering,not even my mother,or the man to whom I was very near.But my sufference was almost unbereable.Than,I undertood that only the person in case feels the intensity of the pain,and that pain is not equall for another person which might seem in the same position.Now I am glad I passed over,and truth is I used time of the loss,because my pain was due to my love loss,by doing things that I dreamed .At the beginning was not easy,but with time passing,I get success and I understood why things had to happen.

  4. Cristina says:

    Como podemos practicar la paciencia? :l

  5. Mirela Baron says:

    When i lost my aunt and my grandgrandmother i kried a few days, and i feld a strong pain in the heart but after i spoke about my pain ,the cicle of suffering was closed,and i feld lightness and accepting the new situation,i started to feel something new :i described thes feeling with Hope and somehow Entusiasm of a new Start!
    Is not easy to describe suffering and tragedy…!

    May God help us through all tests that we have to live in this and other lifes!

    Love Mirela

  6. Tania says:

    Yes songs help …and the universe give you the right songs for the right day -nice songs Jessica ..but yes we cant avoid some tragedy but we can grow strong from the pain -if allow our hearts to stay open ..otherwise we get scared and fearful and not enjoy life or its miracles ..Love Tania

  7. Günther says:

    Dear Marcos,

    in my opinion the first and most important step towards real forgiveness – me considering this to be the only form of forgiveness which leads to freedom for my soul – is the insight that there is no guilt. Instead of guilt the person whom you want to forgive has shown braveness as this human being was willing to draw your attention to areas of potential growth. Of course this is much easier written than actually lived.

    If you want to gather new perspectives regarding forgiveness I suggest that you read “Radical Forgiveness, Making Room for the Miracle” by Colin C. Tipping.

    I’ve learned that the only way to growth is your very own way, meaning that insights only are born inside yourself and by yourself. Other people can provide guidance and can open up new perspectives for you, the actual change has to be done by yourself.



  8. Laretta says:


    You must read Pinocho.


  9. Katharina says:

    Dear Marco,

    I read your comment and recognized that we both are faced with a similar problem – perhaps the same problem. And I am looking for a solution since nearly three years.

    Last week I bought a book, written by the DALAI LAMA with the titel ETHICS FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM. I also have read all books (all books published in the german language) written by Paulo Coelho and I often felt that I am comming near to a solution.

    But the book of the Dalai Lama gave me more clearness. Also in this book the central point is “PATIENCE”, but it also gives more explanation and ideas how to live with the diappointment and the frustration, caused by other human beings.

    I am feeling with you!

  10. Aretha says:

    The only thing I can say based on my personal experience about tragedy is that the sooner you accept the state of fact the sooner you overcome this unpredictable period.

    This doesn’t necessarily mean that the tragedy will come to an end, but for sure you react in a shorter time, you become a different person and you will have a new perceptions of life.

  11. Marcos says:


    I have to say, I find it interesting that everything you share, your wisdom, often strikes at the heart of the problem and the soul for me. I have read most of your books, and each I have gained much from, and thank you for that.

    I turned to your website tonight because I have in the past had issues from a close friend which has ended painfully and sorrowfully. I have mourned, I have been angry, I have sought counselling, I have talked to friends at great length, but have not been able to put the person away. We had a long and good history, but in the last few years, this person has done things that most people would shun. My friends have cautioned me from the very start about this person, and I’ve asked “What do my friends see about this person that I do not?”. I saw a person of great value and talent, someone I loved deeply, cared for immensely, would give anything for, someone I would have welcomed into my life forever. But at the same time, what this person did to me was wrong.

    So, I feel torn. Part of me, and my friends and counselling share this view, that I should simply give up on this person and move on and cast him from my life forever, that we can’t be friends or anything anymore. But part of me loves this person deeply still, and would forgive this person if he came and showed remorse for his actions. I feel torn because on one hand I shouldn’t have him in my life, and on the other, I miss him terribly and every day.

    So I turned to your website to send you an email asking for your wisdom, and the first page I see is this message on tragedy, and I absorbed the parts on what I can learn from this tragedy, and also on forgiveness. While it gives me no answer, I add more depth to the problem and hopefully it will lead me to the answer? This tragedy has led me to make huge changes in my life that have come great good from, changes that have benefited my career and family and future. So from your message I take that this tragedy that has befallen my friendship I need to learn from and take the inspiration it has given me and move with it. But the part that I also absorbed, the one on forgiveness, it puzzles me. How can I forgive him, if he shows no remorse for his actions? It is not that I don’t want to, but I just don’t know how. And I guess, there is also the fear about what the rest of my friends will say if I was to invite him into my life, because I have been burnt from him twice now, and I would feel stupid if I was burnt a third time.

    So, what would you suggest? I guess I turn to you because I am tired of holding onto the anger and loss, but I don’t know how to let go. I want to live a life of higher love, but seem to be ruled by imperfection and doubt. Where do I go?

  12. Heart says:

    Thank you for reflecting on this important topic, which for some ends up by loosing the faith. If tragedies can happen, where is the loving, protective supreme being? I’m not sure both good and evil comes from the lord? The image of dead ones being our protectors is a wonderful one. I guess to me religion has offered a great comfort in time of tragedy, and I’ve been fortunate always to surround myself also with the opposite, comedy.