Beauty and Tragedy

So, I finally watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower this weekend. (And uh, unrelated, but Emma Watson = amazing).

I read the book years ago, maybe even in middle school (I really can’t remember). It is one of my favorites. Beautifully written.

perks of being a wallflower

But it is heavy. (Warning –> spoiler alert) I remembered that the protagonist, Charlie, was sexually abused. But I had forgotten about all the other elements of the book, including struggles of LGBTQ youth, suicide and domestic violence. It’s really heavy, haunting stuff.

But, hey, I don’t mean to bum you out. The story is also one of friendship and love, and the ending is a happy one. The characters overcome their obstacles, and the reader is left believing that they will survive because they have each other.

Anyway, as I sat on the couch crying, watching the credits roll, my mind started racing with thoughts and feelings (because this is my reaction to pretty much everything).

Why? I thought. Why is there evil? Why are some children abused and others are not?

Why are some kids born into poverty and abuse while others are born into wealth and privilege? 

Why did my best friend lose her Dad to cancer and I still have mine? 

Why is the world unfair? Why do bad things happen?

Now, okay, these are big questions…and I don’t have the answers. I don’t think anyone has the answers, and many different people seek many different ways to find peace with these tough questions.

For some people, the answers are found in their faith. For others, maybe there is truth in science. I firmly believe that all people should have the freedom and courage to seek the answers in their own way and in their own time. I also think that maybe there are some things we will just never know….that some things in life are meant to be a mystery…and we should be challenged to always ask questions with an open mind. When we decide we have all the answers, then we stop learning, growing and living.

For me, personally, these questions continue to baffle me, and I wrestle with them often. I have found, for the time being, some kind of answer that does bring me peace.

As I cried at the end of the movie, I also found myself thinking how beautiful. Tragically beautiful.

And isn’t that the way so many things are? I thought of this quote my mom has hanging on the fridge at home:

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

— Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

It’s just so true. The stories that touch us, the people who inspire us, the words that bring tears to our eyes, and the songs that give us goosebumps are often tragic at least in some small way. They speak to the parts of us that know sorrow and struggle….the place where we all wrestle with our inner demons.

I think back to the hard times in my life, and I find myself wondering would I have the same kind of compassion and empathy for others if I had not been through those experiences? Would I be as close to my family? Would I appreciate people the same way? No. I don’t think I would, and so I become better, and my life becomes fuller because of those negative experiences.

Does it make the bad stuff okay? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. Does it make life fair? No. Do all people face the same kind of struggles in life? No. But no one leaves unscathed, either. Everyone is battling something.

I don’t know why there is evil. I don’t think I will ever know. But I do know that beautiful people don’t just happen. They are made.

What does one have to offer the world if he/she has not known adversity? I don’t think you can give back until you have lost. I do not think you can touch the hearts of others until you have felt the pain of your own.

And so, at least temporarily, I find comfort knowing there is beauty in tragedy.