We all recognize that there is a significant distance between the “real” world we live in and the “ideal” one we’d love to see instantiated. Parker Palmer calls this space between real and ideal the “tragic gap.” He uses “tragic” to denote the inevitability of this distance and to acknowledge that even the greatest person living the best kind of life will never live to see her or his ideals fully realized. “Tragic” implies those things that are inescapable conditions of life. In Mormon theology, even God lives in the tragic gap. God can call and urge and try to persuade each person and entity toward its richest life, but always that pesky thing called “agency” will thwart full realization. Given these facts of existence, however, how does God maintain focus and energy and a life of continual striving to try to bring about joy for all? And, closer to home, how can we? How can we hold the tension? How can we find renewal of our spirits?
This episode features an extended reflection on these and related issues by Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon. Using a talk he gave in November 2014 at the Sunstone Northwest Symposium as a guide, he seeks to draw attention to deeper and richer forms of inclusion and belonging, culminating in our coming to peace and joy as people who are willing to courageously (but also not without its joys) live, breathe, and serve in this tragic gap. It is a life that offers no easy tasks, but it is a type of life and independence of spirit in which we might fully be at peace with ourselves and find renewal of our energies. And one in which we’ll find that we are also in great company!