“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”
– Robert Kennedy, politician
“What is confusing you so much that you’re losing sleep over it?”
John was a former client who I had not had contact with for several years. So, I was a little surprised when he called and booked a consultation. John was a wise man. He had worked through a lot of his life challenges with a determination and honesty that made him stick out to others. He had been a devoted father, and maintained a healthy relationship with his ex-partner.
When he arrived in my office, he looked good. We had both aged, but he carried his well. We spent a few minutes catching up, where in, he told me he had remarried, and now had two stepchildren,as well as, his own two, from his first marriage. He indicated things were fine, but a recent event had confused him…to the point where, it was affecting his sleep.
I asked him, “What is confusing you so much, that you’re losing sleep over it?”
“Ken, I remember the things I learned here, and I have used the ideas daily, ever since…and, I have found them life changing. I have never experienced more appreciation for myself, and those around me, like I do living within nature’s laws.” he said, with his characteristic deep sincerity.
“I’m guessing there is a ‘but’ coming, about here!” I said, smiling.
“I get how it dissolved the borders between countries, people and politics.”
A soft smile spread across his face, hinting at his honed wit and wisdom. Then, he said, “That little boy, Alan Kurdi, whose body was found on that beach in Turkey last month…I just don’t see the symmetry or balance! Ken, he was a toddler, an innocent child…a three year old…where is the benefit to his death?”
“John, it will depend on your own values. You have probably noticed how it has motivated many people all over the world to take action, to help, not just the Syrian refugees, but all refugees, worldwide. And you have probably also noticed Alan Kurdi became our child, the world’s child. Someone said to me his death showed how us we are all responsible, for every child, on earth…not just the ones, we parent, teach or coach.” I said.
“Yes, I get that! I get how it dissolved the borders between countries, people and politics. I get how Alan’s death probably saved thousands of others from a similar fate. But, it still bothers me.” he replied with a frustrated expression.
“It sounds like there is something more personal going on here, John. Tell me what else Alan Kurdi’s death stirs up in your mind.” I said.
John sat back in his chair, and fiddled with his hands for a minute. Then, with tears dampening his eyes, and his face covered in shame, he looked up and said, “Many years ago, I fathered a child…but have no idea what happened to her.”
“The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls the butterfly.” – Richard Bach, author
“I was so preoccupied… I just never followed up.”
“So, you have five children, in all!” I said.
“Yes, but Ken, I only know the wellbeing of four. And, when I saw Alan Kurdi lying abandoned on that beach…something just clicked in my head, and I knew, I had to find out what happened to my first child…my first daughter.” he said, his eyes glistening with sadness and guilt.
“How did this come about…having a daughter?” I asked.
“It was in my graduation year in high school. I had been dating, Miranda for over six months and we were close. But, her family were waiting for her to finish her year, so they could move to Ontario, where her father had been transferred by his company.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“We kept in close contact for several months after she left, planning to reconnect. But, then her communications starting dropping off, and eventually ended entirely. The following spring, I heard, from a mutual friend, she had had a baby girl. When I tried to contact her, I got no response. I was so preoccupied with my own life at university, I just never followed up.”
“… I honour Alan Kurdi’s life, and his death…don’t I?”
“How old would your daughter be today, John?” I asked.
“She should be in her early twenties…probably twenty-one or twenty-two.” he replied.
“So, what do you need to do to honour your own values, John?” I asked him.
“I need to track Miranda down and find out about my daughter. Then I need to find a way to be part of her life…I don’t want her to think I abandoned her…even though I really did…I want to change that now…if I can?” he said, with trepidation in his voice.
“That sounds like a scary journey, with all kinds of unknowns, built into it. Almost like the journey Alan Kurdi’s family started out on, to Canada.”
“Yes, it is sort of similar. But, they had a lot less support than I have. I think when I share this with my other children, they will be OK with it, and help me, where they can.”
“So, Alan Kurdi’s passing, not only served humanity, but also individuals, like you and I, who needed a catalyst to spur us forward in important areas of our own life. Can you see that now, John?” I asked.
“Yes, Ken, I can! And, in a way, by me reaching out to my abandoned daughter, I honour Alan Kurdi’s life, and his death…don’t I?”
“Yes!” I said.
Then, I added, “That little boy’s life has impacted the human race both globally, and at an individual level. In a sense, he has achieved an immortality, which we all seek by serving humanity, at a time when our race needs to learn vital lessons for its future.”
“He certainly served me well! I can see that now!” he said, thoughtfully.
“Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, author
“…perhaps every one of us, owes Alan, and his Family, eh?”
“Let’s uncover specifically how this child’s life served you. What is the most important benefit to you, John?” I asked.
“My first daughter has been in the back of my mind for a long time. Now, I can clear out the brain noise…the guilt, I’ve carried for years. And, I think I will be more real with my other children, and more appreciative of them.” he added.
“They sound like important values for you. What else comes to mind as a way Alan Kurdi’s death benefits you?” I asked, now that he was integrating more quickly.
“Miranda was my first serious relationship, and I have often wondered about her too, over the years! I think, finding out what she has made of her life, will free me to get on with my own in some way.”
“And, what will taking these actions do for your sense of yourself, John?”
“Just talking about it with you, and committing myself to act has taken a huge burden off of me…kind of freed me, and raised by self esteem somewhat. And, I think that gives me the self confidence to do, what I know I need to do…to address this ghost like stressor in my life. So, I really owe Alan Kurdi, and his Family, for that…don’t I?”
“John, perhaps every one of us, owes Alan and his Family, eh?”
“Having had this discussion, now, I really think so! Thanks, Ken!”
“Tragedy is like strong acid – it dissolves away all but the very gold of truth.”
– D. H. Lawrence, author
Until Next time…
Now you know, public tragedies create important learning opportunities for individuals, and indeed, our whole species. Uncover the impact on you of the public tragedies you have been noticing. Which ones have a special significance to you, and why? Then, you will have an opportunity to learn important things, grow yourself, and focus your future on those values which are most important for your evolution.
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
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