Guest post by Landon Saunders
The French philosopher Montesquieu wrote: “We receive three educations: one from our parents, one from our schoolmasters, and one from the world, and the third one contradicts the first two.” I cited this quote in a speech, and nearly every head vigorously nodded in agreement. Why is this? Why does the education we receive from the world differ from the one received from parents and school?
One reason lies in the difference between living in a more controlled environment and living “on our own,” the difference between operating a simulator and operating the controls on your first real flight as the pilot. But, of greater significance is the confrontation with tragedy. Tragedy is one of the world’s greatest teachers. Tragedy is the boot that crushes the fingers you are using to cling to the edge of a cliff, but if you didn’t use lose your grip on the cliff, you might never learn that you can fly.
This is harsh, you might say. And it is. But have you ever known tragedy to be tactful and diplomatic? Have you ever known tragedy to be reasonable? Does it say, “Excuse me. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll cause you to suffer today.” No, there’s almost no way to prepare specifically for a meeting with tragedy. And there’s no way to avoid it. Every life suffers. Any difference is only one of degree.
Let us be clear about what we are saying: Life must deal with the tragic, but that is not the end of the story. Facing the tragic with courage leads to passion and strength. We will never know how much we can do until we have the courage to look suffering in the eye and defy it.