I hope I meet Byl Wringe again some day. Last heard, he was teaching Philosophy in Turkey.
When we were students together he had a moustache he fiddled with. We were Young Fogeys, at the end of Thatcher’s era. Byl said he couldn’t be a Christian because Christians denied Tragedy. But things do go wrong, he said. The centre doesn’t always hold. To deny that fact is to deny also the vulnerability of the world, which is its beauty, its lovability.
Believing in Tragedy is believing that irresistible forces meet immovable objects, that there are problems that can’t be solved. In the tragic world view, Economic Growth is pitted against Environmental Protection; Housing against the Countryside; Employment against Inflation; Human Rights against Human Responsibilities; Security against Peace.
Poster for Sophocles’ Electra, performed by students at Kings College London in 1989
That’s what the Ancient Greek Tragedies did. They took abstract nouns and hurled them at each other. Antigone can’t reconcile Respect for the Dead with Respect for Authority. Electra’s love for her Dad drives her to hate her Mum. Pentheus is torn between sensuality and dignity, in the end literally torn.
What’s the answer to these clashes of opposites?
‘Sacrifice!’ say the Right Wing. ‘One Good has to be sacrificed for another Good!’ (Oddly, it’s often someone else’s Good that has to be sacrificed.)
What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?
Possibly a transformation of both?
What if transformation were possible? What if reconciliation were possible? What if there were solutions?
‘Love hopes all things.’
What if the tragic outlook missed a trick, turned out to be a little wooden, seeing the murdered tree of the cross, and not the dynamo that was forged?
Byl, are you out there?
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