The Tragic Flaw

November 16th, 2021

I won't repackage the truth by suggesting my master is a divisive figure; people are what they are, either curious or closed for the business of the mind. They are interested in truth or swaddled in confirmation bias. They have read, or they have not; they want to read, or they want to watch television. People are smart, or not, and they have a chance at becoming smarter, or they don't --this divide is made long before and deeply beneath their awareness of MP, who sheds light on these great rifts between people, with the perhaps obvious result that the side which comes out looking less appealing is ever invested in the attempt to make the difference look 1) cosmetic and 2) wholly caused by MP himself.

In the face of a man as evidently fluent and talented as MP, such attempts must grasp so fitfully at straws as to make them ridiculous rather than merely unfounded. Indeed the claims and smears and desperate ploys for consensus ran quite the gamut, from uninspired spins through the Rolodex of Shameful Epithets (racist! misogynist! gypsy! MEAN PERSON!) to all manner of fantasies that he was really multiple people, or even someone else entirely. None were particularly interesting, and certainly not important, past their fleeting entertainment value1, but I recall them now for the sake of a common thread I often tried to pluck and bring to master, for his microscope: the tragic flaw.

With Achilles at the center and spanning out in most, if not all, stories, the hero must have some attribute that makes him vulnerable, no matter what his powers and blessings might be. In fact, it seems as if the greater a man is, the more simple and accessible must be his tragic flaw, the better to let far lesser men hope for overcoming him. A Bovary in his simpish surmountability succumbs to the blind trust of puppy love, but a peerless warrior of Achilles' caliber must have a literal inch or two that offers his demise.

It's a search, of course, for balance, more practically the attempt to find a cause for fighting, rather than following, the hero. A reason not to submit in the face of what would otherwise subjugate the lesser party. This bare truth is obfuscated by the lesser's own inability to honestly self-reflect, and further muddied in the fashionable if hollow pretendings to some universal equality that would deny the possibility of greater or lesser at all. But universal equality is given the lie in the universal search for that one great flaw to explain away the great man's greatness.

I knew it then as I know it now: MP had no tragic flaw. No avarice, no vanity, no heel; his greatness, resplendent, was of the sort that needs no crutch to keep it counterbalanced, which is why each day his wealth, tangible or no, his breadth, writing or discovering, his brilliance, technical or artistic, grew. "Each day starts at zero," he told me once. And each day he built more.

Even the day, this summer past, when I woke him before dawn and was greeted with his warm embrace, when I drove him through the fields and valleys that he loved towards the ocean, when he told me "See you soon," and slipped into the sea, when he was caught by the current and I fought into it to grasp his hand: those seconds before his unconsciousness, in the utter chaos of doom, he looked at me with serious eyes, free of fear, and showed me how to die a hero's death. It was indeed the very heart of tragedy. But the flaw belongs to me, and to that ocean, and to the world.

  1. For which reason I suppose I should give an honorable mention to my personal favorite, that being the hysterical suggestion that MP only had one suit! []

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