Life is a spiral

The Sophoclean tragedy, Oedipus the King, ends with the chorus saying, ‘Count no man happy till he dies.’ After having been an involved spectator of the tragic life of Oedipus, a man in conflict with himself and his destiny, the chorus, representing common men and women of Athens 500 years before Christ, comes out with, as it were, a verdict on man’s ambiguous destiny and articulates these words of wisdom as borne out of the trials and tribulations of the protagonist. The idea is to make us realise that tragedy ennobles the man, chastens him, makes him accept reality and, in the process, makes him better….

We find two kinds of responses that tragedy offers. First, to take the experience as a grim reminder of ‘the special providence in the fall of a sparrow’, to borrow a phrase from Hamlet, and, thus, to remain in awe of unknown forces working against man and his purposes. Or to consider the experience as a result of personal imperfection that can be corrected in all probability. The first choice has a practical completeness about it, while the second emanates from a mind agitated and resentful.

The spiral contour that the narrative of life takes upon itself is made possible because the blighting experience of tragedy inevitably makes us rise up again and take up lost causes, subverting, as it were, the Sophoclean chorus’ verdict.

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