Today I think of Primo Levi. And the silenced voices. I reflect about him and his stories more at Christmas time than any other time of the year. He presented the Christmas Tree in a most heartbreaking way in his book, The Reawakening, with the absurdity of the tree placed next to the gallows in Auschwitz. I think of him at anytime that I hear stories about the silenced. No matter the life, it had value and the candle was snuffed out too soon. The following is another poignant poem from Primo Levi.
“You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find warm food
And friendly faces when you return home.
Consider if this is a man
Who works in mud,
Who knows no peace,
Who fights for a crust of bread,
Who dies by a yes or no.
Consider if this is a woman
Without hair, without name,
Without the strength to remember,
Empty are her eyes, cold her womb,
Like a frog in winter.
Never forget that this has happened.
Remember these words.
Engrave them in your hearts,
When at home or in the street,
When lying down, when getting up.
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your houses be destroyed,
May illness strike you down,
May your offspring turn their faces from you.”
― Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz
I also tend to lean on the words of other strong leaders from the past for wisdom. Love is a common construct in each of these. Kindness follows. I am fearful that those who were hurt will take it out on others. I am fearful that those who are not a part of something will become broken, bitter, afraid, and angry. I have become all of these things. But life is too short to live like this. You must give yourself over to love and compassion. Otherwise you will shrivel up and die in your anger.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.
AloneLying, thinking Last night How to find my soul a home Where water is not thirsty And bread loaf is not stone I came up with one thing And I don’t believe I’m wrong That nobody, But nobody Can make it out here alone. Alone, all alone Nobody, but nobody Can make it out here alone. There are some millionaires With money they can’t use Their wives run round like banshees Their children sing the blues They’ve got expensive doctors To cure their hearts of stone. But nobody No, nobody Can make it out here alone. Alone, all alone Nobody, but nobody Can make it out here alone. Now if you listen closely I’ll tell you what I know Storm clouds are gathering The wind is gonna blow The race of man is suffering And I can hear the moan, ‘Cause nobody, But nobody Can make it out here alone. Alone, all alone Nobody, but nobody Can make it out here alone.
From Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well By Maya Angelou. Copyright © 1975 by Maya Angelou.