Tuesday, September 14, 2004 +

Etty Hillesum

I can't help feeling that every hotly championed philosophy hides a little lie.

Aeroplanes, streaking down in flames, still have a wierd fascination for us - even aesthetically - though we know, deep down, that human beings are being burned alive. As long as this happens, while everything within us does not yet scream out in protest, so long will we find ways of adapting ourselves, and horrors will continue.

And as I stood, small and lost, in the centre of the big stage, the gaping, empty chasm of the auditorium stretching out threateningly before me, I was suddenly hit by the realisation that some people base their entire lives on applause from that gaping chasm.

...silence too must have contours and form.

I know that as long as one small street is left to us, the whole sky still stretches above it.

It sounds paradoxical: by excluding death from our life we cannot live a full life, and by admitting death into our life we enlarge and enrich it.

We have embraced a new reality and everything has taken on new colours and new emphases. And between our eyes and hands and mouths there now flows a constant stream of tenderness, a stream in which all petty desires seem to have been extinguished. All that matters now is to be kind to each other with all the goodness that is in us. And every encounter is also a farewell.

You must learn to forgo all personal desires and to surrender completely. And surrender does not mean giving up the ghost, fading away with grief, but offering what little assistance I can wherever it has pleased God to place me.

...later, when I have survived it all, I shall write stories about these times that will be like faint brush strokes against the great wordless background....

There is only one way of preparing the new age, by living it even now in our hearts.

I have no right to lay down conditions.

This morning I said to Jopie, "It still all comes down to the same thing: life is beautiful. And I believe in God. And I want to be there right in the thick of what people call 'horror' and still be able to say: life is beautiful."

And when the turmoil becomes too great and I am completely at my wits' end, then I still have my folded hands and bended knee. A posture that is not handed down from generation to generation with us Jews. I have had to learn it the hard way. It is my most precious inheritence from the man whose name I have almost forgotten but whose best part has become a constituent of my own life. What a strange story it really is, my story: the girl who could not kneel. Or its variation: the girl who learned to pray. That is my most intimate gesture, more intimate even than being with a man. After all one can't pour the whole of one's love out over a single man, can one?

Most books are really no good at all, we shall have to rewrite them all one day.