21 September 2010

Life - tragedy or comedy?

Horatio "Horace" Walpole once said, "Life is a tragedy for those who feel, but a comedy to those who think." Little did he know how often people would state and restate his epigram.

You've probably never heard of dear Horace even though he wrote several historical works, coined the word "serendipity," and is generally credited with inventing the Gothic novel. (He was also known for over-supporting corrupt monarchs, but I'm interested only in his literary achievements.)

Anyway, I did some research on him because I wanted to know why someone would say such a thing. At first, I assumed he was a feeler having a bit of a pity-party for himself, or a thinker laughing at a well-composed satire. But as it seems, Horace was decently balanced. And even though I appreciate the wit - I have to believe this particular quotation is misguided.

I would have expected Mr. (Sir?) Walpole to have recognized this either/or fallacy. Maybe he did, but ignored it. Life is neither a comedy nor a tragedy - it is a mixture of the sorrow that makes us stronger (or bitter), and the joy that lifts our spirits (or makes us complacent). If you think the world is tragic (as you might after hearing/seeing this moving piece of music), take a step back and look at a bigger picture - one where there are people working to make it better (like the songwriter and the artists spreading awareness).

One moment life looks tragic, another makes you laugh at it's comedy. Therefore, I confront the fickle-feeler in me with the knowledge that this life is not a logical fallacy and remind the detached analytical in me to be willing to feel sadness as well as happiness.


  1. What a wonderful post! It made me think, and feel better about my life. You need the sad moments to appreciate the happy. Life wouldn't be complete without either end of the spectrum. Thanks!

  2. The reason this statement prevails is because we are lucky enough to be able to see situations as a tragedy and a comedy. We can have an initial reaction but because we can look back on a situation and have a somewhat disconnected view of it we also have the ability to see the comedy of it all. Life isn't just one thing, it's all things at once, for everyone to enjoy and appreciate together. And to experience multiple times with our ability to remember the way we do.