Poetic Depth and The Honor of a Tragedy

So my brother, Tom, is a musician based out of Missoula, Montana.  I recently checked the weather forecast where he lives and the highs were in the 20’s with an “Avalanche Warning” until 7am the following morning.

I have to be honest.  Never, not once, have I ever been warned about an impending avalanche.  Interesting how we all live in different worlds.

But I digress…

Tom is a singer/songwriter/musician/poet.  His lyrics are as entertaining as his skills on multiple musical instruments.  One of his songs is a tune called MALADY.  It’s off an album of what I believe to be some of his finest work.

Contained in the song MALADY is a line that uses the phrase “Honor of a Tragedy”.   That phrase is one that has been bouncing around in my head for years since I first heard this song.  (You can hear the phrase at the 1:10 and 1:25 mark in the song link below.)

It’s a fascinating combination of words.  Honor is not something that I would normally associate with tragedy…and yet I keep coming back to it trying to discover what he meant.

Is it related to the tendency toward victimhood in our culture today?  You know what I mean, of course.  I refer to the character depriving pattern of competitive victim status comparisons.

No…I don’t think so.  Doesn’t feel like Tom.

I have another theory.  I think maybe he is trying to capture the deference we show to folks who have been through something tragic.  You know, we honor their grief by giving them love, understanding, space and time to heal.  The honor of a tragedy.

Hmmm…..not sure.

Well, there is really only one way to find out for sure so I went straight to the source and inquired about it.  He resolved the mystery…

“Honor of a tragedy”….the haunting lyric that has been such a curiousity for me over the last few years was actually “Yawner of a tragedy” which is easily understandable.

I heard it wrong.

And yet, still I am curious about what he didn’t mean when he didn’t write that line…Honor of a Tragedy.




6 Replies to “Poetic Depth and The Honor of a Tragedy”

  1. I’m not sure what I didn’t mean either, but I’m excited to be referenced in this post! “The honor of a tragedy” sounds kind sarcastic/cynical to my ear….even though the two words are often paired it seems after something terrible happens. Is there honor in tragedy? Or is it just tragedy? That’s it I’m changing the words!

  2. ha! wow! I always heard “honor of a tragedy,” too, and I did hear it as–not cynical, exactly, but definitely ironic–as in “thanks for the somber respect everyone’s giving this sad time but it actually is just low-rent down-in-the-mud miserable.”

  3. My mind immediately tried to ascribe deep meaning to “honor of a tragedy” so when you confessed you’d misheard the lyrics, I had to laugh at myself!

    1. Exactly….that phrase calls for you to ascribe deep meaning. I can’t get beyond it. And now that Tom says I misheard it I find myself in an unresolvable endless loop. Do you think I could convince Tom to lie to me about some meaning?

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