Tragedy + Time = Comedy

I recently read Tobias Wolff’s autobiographical “This Boy’s Life,” about his time as a young delinquent. Since I’ve also read his, “In Pharaoh’s Army,” an autobiographical account of his time in Vietnam, I feel as though I’ve pretty well covered the guy’s life up until he became a writer.

Near the end of “This Boy’s Life,” Wolff said something that stuck with me. (I can’t quote it exactly; I’ve already returned the book to the library.)

He said that when we’re young, we haven’t yet acquired the gift of knowing that things change. That pain recedes. The young feel that everything that IS will always BE. As we grow older, we learn through experience that pain really does lessen over time. That’s not just something that people tell us.

What Wolff didn’t talk about was how little this insight actually helps us. Or, rather, it may help us a lot, but we still have to deal with the pain before it recedes. Knowing that it will someday only helps a little today.

I’ve been thinking that it’s a matter of sunrises. When something bad happens, the pain is going to be raw until X amount of sunrises goes by. Maybe it’s 300. Maybe it’s 30. Depends on the event.

But until those sunrises come and go, you have to deal with it. And yeah, it’s good to know that 300 sunrises from now you’ll be ok, but the fact that you have this knowledge definitely doesn’t mean that you’re ok now. You can picture the you on the other side of the 300 sunrises, but it’s like picturing yourself with a fat inheritence while you still can’t pay the rent.

The time has to pass and there are no shortcuts.

5 Responses to Tragedy + Time = Comedy

  1. JB March 27, 2007 at 1:20 pm #

    Hey, that’s kind of lyrical.

  2. weeklyrob March 27, 2007 at 6:48 pm #

    And devastating.

  3. BruceS March 29, 2007 at 3:19 pm #

    As you (Rob) know, I had some unpleasantness not long ago. I didn’t need a lot of sunrises (hate those things) to get over it. Instead, I resorted to drugs. I started taking a *lot* of drugs over the course of several months. The drugs had me wandering around in a daze sometimes, and did some physical damage, but I’m glad I used. I’d do it again under the same circumstances.
    Now I make a joke of the whole thing.
    See what you trigger with that one word? I guess I’m really not over it yet. I think I’ll have a drink…

  4. weeklyrob March 29, 2007 at 4:37 pm #

    Bruce: one way or the other, you’d have gotten over it with enough sunsets.

    Reminds me of something I heard a few times, then stopped hearing, for some reason:

    “Everything turns out all right in the end. If it’s not all right, then it’s not the end.”

  5. BruceS March 30, 2007 at 3:36 pm #

    Now sunsets I like—I prefer sleeping through sunrises.

    With enough sunsets, I’ll become much calmer, though likely smelly for a while. In that sense, I’d certainly get over my troubles.

    I would say that if you know it’s not all right (or that it *is* all right), then it’s not the end. Are we getting a bit morbid?

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