Thursday, March 26, 2009

Night & Day

I've been reading "Night" by Elie Wiesel. He survived Auschwitz, Dachau and living hell. His writing is beautiful, powerful, troubling. He was transported to the camps at the end of the war. His village truly believed that the Russian army was coming, the war was ending (which it was) and that things would settle back to "normal." The Fascists took over the government, and while the Hungarian Jews knew what Fascism was they consoled themselves by saying it was just a change in administration. Days later they were transported, 80 to a cattle car, nailed in with little food or water and no sanitation facilities to a concentration camp, where they watched babies being tumbled into flames, burned alive. People in eastern Europe had not heard of Auschwitz, did not believe that it was real when they heard rumors of crazy places. It was simply too fantastical, maniacal and evil to be a real thing. Who would think that there was a movement. backed by what used to be decent people, designed specifically to rid the world of a race?
KB reads Cub science and they just read how in the 20's there was a movement to create federal parks of places like Yosemite. The problem was that people in the east didn't believe that such fantastical places could exist. Photography to the rescue; the national park system was born.
I read The Chosen and The Promise and am struck by the new ways of thinking and understanding that were being introduced, the cultural shifts that were happening: symbolic logic and historical criticism, psychoanalysis, World Wars, existentialism.
As I've been reading The Promise I am struck by the character that survives the holocaust, comes to America and becomes a fundamentalist, defending violently the "old ways" of thinking and believing. Historical Criticism is a threat to Truth, putting any kind of learning before the study of Talmud is a display of wrong priorities. The remnant must be protected, the truth salvaged, the struggle made sense of. The horror must be defined in terms of faith, blind trust in the Master of the Universe is the thread that anchors him to reality.
Heard yesterday of an adult talking with a graduating senior who could not identify the significance of the year 1776. The adult gave lots of clues but the graduating senior remained oblivious to the fact that in 1776 the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, in order to form a new nation. A nation founded on liberty and justice. A world changing event. Complete ignorance.
Seems like we are in another time of huge cultural upheaval, with post modernism at the helm. If nothing is significant, or it's significance changes from moment to moment, if meaning is prescribed by whomever than the birth of nations founded on liberty and justice mean little. What, after all is justice and liberty? If cruelty is simply my understanding, rather than an understood event or behavior, than guns in school aren't a threat, unless I think of them as such; the annihilation of people groups is probably overstated. Strong adjectives and quality verbs become simply drama instead of adding depth and meaning. Photography, once the measure of reality has computer enhancement and photo shop at its disposal. Truth becomes....what I see, feel, believe now?
I'm tired of winter, tired of "stuff," tired of memory work, tired of the mice in the house. Same old same old. But Viking Man keeps going back to the Mission. We are raising our kids with love and logic, lots of hugs, a clear understanding of the value of adjectives and verbs, a cultural heritage that takes the Master of the Universe as One who loves us, calls us by name, has a plan, despite cruelty, blandness, bills and boredom. There is meaning beyond ourselves.

"TRUTH is not yours to invent or create. It is outside you. It is real and objective and firm. One day you will hear it. It comes to you, and sooner or later you will bow to it."

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