On Tragedy. But first...coffee
What paying attention to the process helped me understand about resilience and hope.
Alright, let's talk about tragedy.
When you think of a cup of coffee waiting to be enjoyed, you often don’t think about how the journey is so tragic. At least if you look at it from the bean’s perspective.
Here’s what I mean.
Coffee’s native to Africa. Discovered around 800 BC and traded primarily through the Middle East for a few centuries. This African plant made its way to the Western Hemisphere around the same time (and under the same nefarious conditions) that African people did.
Stolen from its homeland. And that beginning (again, at least from the coffee beans’ perspective) is an indication of the rest of the journey from its home to your cup.
Coffee has so much sweetness and goodness trapped inside. The only way that that goodness is extracted, is if those beans undergo nothing short of a tragic process. The green beans are roasted. Exposed to intense heat.
Not only are they roasted, they’re then crushed. Ground to a powder.
Not only are they ground, they’re then drowned in boiling water.
Not only are they drowned, they’re then seemingly discarded.
Now, if you ONLY look at the process through the eyes of the bean, it’s nothing short of (and nothing more) than a tragedy. Until. Until you realize that it’s possible for something beautiful to be brought out of brokenness.
The same is true with us. I think if we learned anything from 2020 we learned that tragedy is as inescapable as it is unavoidable. There is no inoculation or vaccination that can keep us from facing the most tragic circumstances. However, since 2020, I think we’ve learned a more important lesson. And that lesson is this:
Tragedy doesn’t ruin us. Hopelessness does.
Reality (and experience) remind us that everything that feels bad to you isn't necessarily bad for you, right? Often, the very experience of being placed in circumstances of extreme pressure, feeling as if we’re broken and ground to nothing more than a fine dust, drowning in a type of boiling despair, and then seemingly discarded and disregarded, births a perspective in us that equips us with a tragedy-proof resilience. That perspective enables us to move forward through the most unimaginable circumstances. That perspective is paradoxical.
That perspective goes a little something like this. We don’t exist for ourselves. Joy isn’t found in receiving, but in giving. Ourselves. Our whole selves for the sake of others. One of the greatest uses of our lives is to spend them preparing those we love to live well in this world without us. And this perspective is a treasure that’s so often buried in our gravest trials.
Look at the people you admire the most. Sit back and ask them not just about them as a finished product, but their process. I guarantee their process isn't envious. It’s likely filled with being ground, drowned, and discarded. I guarantee that although those things will be mentioned (as they’re a crucial part of the story), those things will not be mentioned as the finale. Tragedy is in our story, it doesn’t have to be the end.
Tragedy doesn't ruin us. Hopelessness does.
That hope is often found in how you shape and share your story. Hope is often found in the narrative you're able to construct. How you interpret reality and how you communicate conviction in the most confusing circumstances. Some of the world's greatest treasures may be buried in your deepest trials.
Today, remember tragedy isn’t the end of the story. Your story, however bad, is still being written by Somebody Very Good. And you've got an opportunity today to pour another narrative over your tragedy.