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Published:June 14th, 2013 12:59 EST
Tornadoes, Bombings and Kidnappings: Trying To Make Sense Out of Tragedies

Tornadoes, Bombings and Kidnappings: Trying To Make Sense Out of Tragedies

By Jay Forte

In what seems to be a period of an unprecedented amount of tragedies, we ask what is happening with our planet and with the people in our world? Tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and super storms; bombings, kidnapping, civil wars, battles over land and beliefs, and centuries` old sectarian violence is all we hear about. Today`s news seems to report crisis after catastrophe after calamity. Why do these tragedies happen and what sense can we make out of them? 

What if tragedies were the interruption in our lives to get us out of our mindless approach to our days " to be shocked into being greater, more compassionate, more creative and wiser? What if the reason for tragedies were to force us to learn to reconnect with others as each important and valuable, and to use our collective genius to learn how to live better and more safely on our changing planet? 

In a closer review, it seems this string of tragedies is centered on two areas " our planet and our humanity. Perhaps by looking at each, we can start to make sense of why these events happen and determine if there is anything we can do about them. Let`s start with a look at the planet. 

Our planet is alive. It is constantly shifting, growing and regenerating. Earthquakes are the natural process of the collision of shifting tectonic plates and the bringing up of new materials from deep in the earth to feed the surface. Hurricanes are the natural reaction of changes in our atmosphere whose winds clean and reconfigure the face of the land. Their rains replenish all life forms throughout all ecological systems. Violent tornadoes are the intersection of cold and warm fronts, influenced by topography and geography. 

My personal perspective is there is no intentionality or malice in these events; these are not curses or punishments. They, instead, are the natural cycle of life of our living and changing planet. These events have existed on our planet long before mankind inhabited this blue and green ball. As we live along fault lines, in areas lower than sea level, along riverbanks, on flat windy plains and along the coasts, we put ourselves in nature`s way. Nature does what it does to sustain itself, regardless of where we live, shop, attend school or work. Though beautiful, nature can also be violent. Tragedies happen when these planet life-events collide with where humans live and work. But the solution to living in a vibrant and thriving planet is directly connected to the second focus in this discussion of tragedy " people. 

In addition to our collision with our planet, we are also in collision with people. Wars, conflicts, bombings, genocide, kidnapping, assaults and rapes happen because we are colliding with cultures, values, beliefs and traditions. In these collisions, we have forgotten that each of us is intrinsically great, special, unique and divinely created. In conflict, we do not consider others as equally important, valuable or as great as ourselves. We lose the understanding that we are a collection of people " all uniquely gifted and capable of not only solving the issues we have with each other to eliminate personal tragedies, but by using our intellect and gifts to discover how to live on our evolving planet. 

I am reminded of the message in the Hindu greeting Namaste " may the divine in me acknowledge the divine in you. Science, religion and philosophy rarely agree. But they do agree on this one thing " there is an element of greatness or divinity in each of us, evidenced by the uniqueness of our talents, strengths and passions. Reconsidering this inherent value in everyone and living with the respect and appreciation for the true greatness in others, not only can reduce the collision of people, but can be used to resolve the collisions of people with the planet. 

Author Seth Godin shares that, in today`s world, big change doesn`t happen top-down " by governments or companies deciding what to do. Big or epic change happens from the ground up. It happens as thousands of people decide how they want something to be and then go do it. We can influence this string of tragedies between people by a creating a groundswell of respect and appreciation by people who recommit to seeing the good in others, valuing others and using their unique abilities to see and solve today`s challenges.

Tragedies get our attention. Tragedies interrupt our daily flow " they demand us to step into larger and more responsible roles. When life is fine " we are less intentional in our approach " almost going through life in autopilot. In these moments, we are less focused on how we can connect with each other more significantly or find ways to live more safely on the planet. But when something unusual " painful and tragic " happens, we dig deeper, find resources within ourselves and work more significantly with others to give, improve, support and care. We are more responsive and more compassionate. 

Eckhard Tolle shares in his book A New Earth, As unhappiness increases, it also causes an increasing disruption in your life. And when the pain is great, we change. When tragedies strike, we are shaken out of our normal, self-centered worlds and have a glimpse of our greater humanity, greater suffering and greater need. In this moment, we connect to what is best in us and we solve, invent, work together and let petty differences disappear. Remember the unity we felt after the Boston Marathon bombings, 911, the Oklahoma tornadoes and hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. 

The planet and people are the greatest sources of our tragedies. We can`t do much about the planet other than to understand it and use our collective genius to work together to learn how to live safely on it. We can however, learn to be more focused on each other`s greatness as the way to discuss our differences instead of attack, to work through problems instead of shooting or bombing, and to consider that every life is as valuable and important as every other life, regardless of faith, career, social status or ethnicity. We are each born awesome; when we each are able to know ourselves and know our world, we can then unite to connect the best of ourselves to address today`s needs, challenges and opportunities. Our problems and our solutions are in our humanity.

As my mother used to say to my five siblings and me when we complained about some physical attribute we inherited from our family that we didn`t like (long arms, unruly hair, Italian nose), Look deeper. You have enough of the right stuff to make a profound difference in this world. You have what others need in the way of ideas, intellect, compassion and awareness to invent what needs to be invented and to learn to see the divine abilities in every other person.  

What if each of us learned to respond in tragedy-mode even when there were no tragedies? What if we cared more for others to help them reach their potential and soar in life instead of taking them down? What if we used our amazing intellectual abilities and wisdom to develop ways to keep people around the planet safe, regardless of what the planet was doing in its life cycle, then hurry to respond if something larger than our solutions happens? 

Tragedies have the ability to help us discover and live what is best in us. The better question is why must we wait for a tragedy to access our more expansive, wise and compassionate selves? If they are present in tragedy, then they are also present in happier and less dangerous times. All we need to do is to call on them. 

So, maybe tragedies occur to remind us that we have greater power and influence over the outcomes of things than we think. That perhaps tragedies exist to show us that we have what we need to proactively stop future tragedies from happening. It is our choice to show up each day respecting and caring about others, and understanding our world to know how to live in it safely and wisely. And when the unavoidable humanity and planet collisions occur, that we quickly, wisely and compassionately respond. 

Jay Forte, a former financial executive and corporate educator, now business and motivational speaker, workplace and life coach, and author, is a nationally ranked Thought Leader. He is the President and Founder of The Greatness Zone, a personal development and business performance improvement company. The Greatness Zone provides practical tools to help people discover their unique abilities and to connect them to opportunities to live and work with purpose, passion and power. 

Jay is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition and The Greatness Zone - Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform The World. The Greatness Zone tools, programs, books, resources and coaching can be found at and