Yesterday evening’s reflection on family, triggered by The Tree of Life, took root in my mind and has continued to draw on my own memories as it branched out during the course of the day. The marks that our loved ones leave on our souls, as they co-author the stories that shape us, are much like fingerprints – invisible to the naked eye, yet key clues in getting to the bottom of the silences. Henry David Thoreau said, “In human intercourse the tragedy begins, not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood.”
We so easily shy away from tragedy hoping to insulate ourselves and the ones we love from the bruises it leaves, but as Stephen Vizinczey said, “When you close your eyes to tragedy, you close your eyes to greatness.” When we shut out tragedy we inevitably black out the beauty, joy, truth and love so delicately interwoven with it, and this blinding cues an even greater tragedy: “The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives” (Albert Schweitzer).
In family and friendship our tragic flaws are painfully illuminated, but these safe confines also mean that our reversals of fortune, suffering and falls are not faced in isolation:
“Think of two people, living together day after day, year after year, in this small space, standing elbow to elbow cooking at the same small stove, squeezing past each other on the narrow stairs, shaving in front of the same small bathroom mirror, constantly jogging, jostling, bumping against each other’s bodies by mistake or on purpose, sensually, aggressively, awkwardly, impatiently, in rage or in love – think what deep though invisible tracks they must leave, everywhere, behind them!” ― Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man