When Your Livelihood Goes Up in Flames
May 3, 2017

Many events happen by chance, and events differing in importance; (now) if they turn out ill they crush and maim happiness; for they both bring pain with them and hinder many activities. Yet even in these nobility shines through, when a man bears with resignation many great misfortunes, not through insensibility to pain but through nobility and greatness of soul.
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

I do not know all the details. In a sense, they don’t matter. My friends’ hand-grown, hand-crafted livelihood has burnt to the ground: half-finished works of art, business records, tools, precious reclaimed materials by the ton, … Good gracious, that wood!

What if a man’s dreams go up in those flames too? Fire can destroy more than just a business.

But then again, it can refine, and show things for what they really are, by bringing out their deeper reality. This fire, I firmly believe, will do just that for many people. Indeed, it already has.

But why did this happen, how could this happen, to these people? This age-old question will be asked again. And it should be.

Some will be sore tempted to give the negative answer. Understandably.

But the nay-sayers will be wrong. They always are. Including the nay-sayer in each of us.

Even Aristotle, who had no clear notion of a divine providence, could see the deeper power of calamity. In a way that was heretofore not possible, the people of Strong Oaks Woodshop can now discover who they are. Greater courage, deeper community, richer friendships can grow and blossom, from the ashes.

In saying these things, am I closing my eyes to reality? Am I inviting my friends to do so? I think not. This is a matter of truth. Sometimes we only see things clearly when we are looking through tears. Experience has shown this in the past; and it will show it again.

~ ~ ~

If you are inclined and in a position to offer financial assistance to the people of Strong Oaks, here is their Go Fund Me site.

Here is a newspaper report of the fire.

Note: next week I will continue our BIRD posts…

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  1. One of my favorite lines from Mary Poppins; “From the ashes of disaster grow the roses of success” Tears can focus our vision, that is so true, in a physical sense too. I am very nearsighted yet I discovered once as a kid (with my glasses off ) that tears resting in my eyes actually focused my vision. I love reading your blog!

    1. That is really beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

  2. In this Easter season, we are reminded that out of death comes life! A beautifully written post with seeds of truth and hope. Where would we be without the crosses in our lives, painful though they may be. Well said, Dr. Cuddeback! I really appreciate the wisdom you share with us!

    1. Thank you very much Rebecca!

  3. vernyce dannells

    our house similarly afflicted, though the gravity and extent is difficult for those outside this stone facade to realize. makes it harder, as people lightly say that everything but life is replaceable. but when computers w/a world of thought and reflection and design and desire are taken, when one’s very marriage certificate, signed by friends no longer alive, is gone. not so much

  4. Hi Dr. Cuddeback,

    Wow. This is a tough one. When I read about this in the news I thought “I bet Dr. Cuddeback knows the owner” – given your lifestyle and the nature of the Strong Oaks Woodshop. There is no doubt that adversity can make us stronger. I have always thought the saying attributed to Ben Franklin “Those things that hurt, instruct” is so true. I think of that in terms of errors of judgement, as in “well, I am never going to do THAT again.” But the destruction of this man’s business just seems like random tragedy. I feel so sorry for him. However, this situation does bring to mind the line from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” “Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build em up with worn-out tools.” Easier said than done.

    Ed Morrison

  5. Beauty from ashes can be a painful journey, but it is real and so redemptive. And there doesn’t seem to be any other way to reach a certain way of knowing.