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    TRAGEDY
    (see also TRIALS)

    As a young man, film director Robert Flaherty spent many months in the far north looking for iron ore and cod. He found neither, but he did shoot 70,000 feet of film in his travels. Someone encouraged him to edit the film and make a documentary, which Flaherty spent weeks doing. But just as he finished, a match from his cigarette dropped among the celluloid, consuming the entire film and burning Flaherty badly. His response to the disaster was a determination to return to the far north and make a film of Eskimo life "that people will never forget." He did just that, and the result was the classic 1922 documentary, Nanook of the North.

    Today in the Word, July 19, 1993.


    The bitter news of Dawson Trotman's drowning swept like cold wind across Schroon Lake to the shoreline. Eyewitnesses tell of the profound anxiety, the tears, the helpless disbelief in the faces of those who now looked out across the deep blue water. Everyone's face except one -- Lila Trotman, Dawson's widow. As she suddenly walked upon the scene a close friend shouted, "Oh, Lila ... He's gone. Dawson's gone!" To that she replied in calm assurance the words of Psalm 115:3:

    But our God is in the heavens;                                                                                                                He does whatever He pleases.

    All of the anguish, the sudden loneliness that normally consumes and cripples those who survive did not invade that woman's heart. Instead, she leaned hard upon her sovereign Lord, who had once again done what He pleased. 

    Charles R. Swindoll, Starting Over, Multnomah Press, 1977, p. 67.


    In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. 

    Oscar Wilde.


    One of the greatest tragedies of our modern civilization is that you and I can live a trivial life and get away with it. 

    Tim Hansel.


    It was 1818 in France, and Louis, a boy of 9, was sitting in his father's workshop. The father was a harness-maker and the boy loved to watch his father work the leather. "Someday Father," said Louis, "I want to be a harness-maker, just like you."

    "Why not start now?" said the father. He took a piece of leather and drew a design on it. "Now, my son," he said, "take the hole- puncher and a hammer and follow this design, but be careful that you don't hit your hand." 

    Excited, the boy began to work, but when he hit the hole-puncher, it flew out of his hand and pierced his eye! He lost the sight of that eye immediately. Later, sight in the other eye failed. Louis was now totally blind. 

    A few years later, Louis was sitting in the family garden when a friend handed him a pine cone. As he ran his sensitive fingers over the cone, an idea came to him. He became enthusiastic and began to create an alphabet of raised dots on paper so that the blind could feel and interpret what was written. Thus, Louis Braille opened up a whole new world for the blind--all because of an accident! 

    Bits and Pieces, June, 1990, pp. 23-4.


    Thomas Edison invented the microphone, the phonograph, the incandescent light, the storage battery, talking movies, and more than 1000 other things. December 1914 he had worked for 10 years on a storage battery. This had greatly strained his finances. This particular evening spontaneous combustion had broken out in the film room. Within minutes all the packing compounds, celluloid for records and film, and other flammable goods were in flames. Fire companies from eight surrounding towns arrived, but the heat was so intense and the water pressure so low that the attempt to douse the flames was futile. Everything was destroyed. Edison was 67. With all his assets going up in a whoosh (although the damage exceeded two million dollars, the buildings were only insured for $238,000 because they were made of concrete and thought to be fireproof), would his spirit be broken? 

    The inventor's 24-year old son, Charles, searched frantically for his father. He finally found him, calmly watching the fire, his face glowing in the reflection, his white hair blowing in the wind. "My heart ached for him," said Charles. "He was 67--no longer a young man--and everything was going up in flames. When he saw me, he shouted, 'Charles, where's your mother?' When I told him I didn't know, he said, 'Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this as long as she lives.'" The next morning, Edison looked at the ruins and said, "There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew." Three weeks after the fire, Edison managed to deliver the first phonograph. 

    Swindoll, Hand Me Another Brick, Thomas Nelson, 1978, pp. 82-3, and Bits and Pieces, November, 1989, p. 12.