Archives for posts with tag: life

We’ve all heard about the Holocaust. An extremist German man imprisoned an estimated 15-20 million people in Death Camps, succeeding in killing an approximate 11 million. We’ve seen the stats; we know the facts. We’ve heard and read the stories; Anne Frank’s perhaps being the most famous. But there’s still so much more we don’t know, and never will. So many records destroyed, so many bodies burned or buried and lost. But have you ever wondered why it worked? And now, from where we stand in 2017, do we yet understand the magnitude of such a disastrous crime against humanity, by humanity?

Throughout the course of the war in the death camp Auschwitz alone, approximately 1.1 million were killed while it was staffed by a mere 7 thousand. Of course, they were starved, tormented, and tortuously overworked. And the Nazi’s had guns. But 1.1 million. The manpower alone could have overwhelmed 7,000, guns or no. The casualties would have been great, sure, but as we now see, and as most prisoners guessed their own fate, those fates were worse without an uprising. So, why wasn’t there one?

Well, that’s the part we don’t want to admit about Adolf Hitler. He was a racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, mass-murdering, and abhorrent human being, to put it lightly. But he was also a genius. That’s why it worked. Because the Holocaust was conducted brilliantly.

His greatest crimes do not only lie in the slaughter of 1.1 million people. Because before they were killed, they suffered far worse than death. His system was not fragile, and so, it was not destroyed from the inside.

If you want to know more, read the book. It’s dreadfully honest. It’s real. And it gives you eyes into the self-perpetuating structure of the death camps. It will make you nauseous, it might make you cry. And to date, it is one of the most sickening and worthwhile books I’ve read. But don’t crack its spine on the dock of your vacation home. This isn’t one of those books to read under the sun with a lake lapping around you. It’s a book you read with the doors shut and a box of chocolates nearby. It’s the book you read as a tribute to those who didn’t make it out. To those who lived and died inside it’s pages. We don’t do that carelessly or with joy. But we should do it nonetheless.

Primo Levi offers a beautiful perspective on this horror. He stands apart from his torturers, and his experiences. His anger, his hatred, hardly leaks into his words until they are deserved. He does not encourage his bias. He’s an academic, and he treats his experience as a third party would. He does not relinquish them of their guilt, or forgive them their sins. He does not hate the German people, though he admits their blind participation was pivotal, if not essential, for the capture and mass slaughter of millions of human beings. Instead, he seeks to learn, to understand, to punish those who deserve it, and, above all, prevent this from ever happening again.

I cannot give enough credit to Levi’s beautiful sense of humanity, or his ability and style used to approach writing this book, with the memories of his lost friends, his shame, and his experience. He offers a unique perspective on forgiveness. His is based on logic. It is not unconditional, and it is not undeserved. Those who receive it, have also received his pity, his disappointment, and his attempt to understand. And there are still many who have not been forgiven, and who never will.

There are a multitude of lessons that we can learn from the Holocaust. From Hitler, from the persuasion and power of an entire population of people. From the mass slaughter. And unless we take heed to remember them, to understand them, we are vulnerable for history to repeat itself.

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Does it make us up? Like collected molecules or building blocks that we slowly stack together throughout our life?

Sometimes memories slip away into the ever growing distance in time between past and present. They fade, and sometimes diminish in importance as new ones take their place.

Maybe memory is just a collection of ideas, values, and learning’s that we draw on for the rest of our lives. Maybe they’re a whole bunch of different voices, each grown from a different moment in our life, that speak to us in our heads when we make our decisions. These voices would be the aftereffect of experience.

Sometimes, stupidly, we ignore those voices. And we make drastic or impulsive choices. And afterwards we think, why didn’t I think before I did that? But maybe a more accurate statement would be why didn’t I listen to my voices? Or specifically, why didn’t I trust my experiences?

Maybe it’s a drifted off memory from long ago of going on a rollercoaster. Maybe they just aren’t your thing. But in the present your friends are telling you to go on it, and the exhilaration of the moment pushes you to try it again. Despite the fact that there is that nagging voice in the back of your brain reminding you that you don’t like rollercoasters, you go anyways. So you go on one, and you hate it. And you think, I knew I didn’t like rollercoasters, so why did I just do that? Why didn’t I think?

But what would happen if all of those voices were erased. Or at least, a large population of them were. What would happen, if the last five years of your life simply disappeared. Time didn’t, you’re still the age you are now and you still technically experienced every moment of those five years, but they simply appear to you to have never happened. Would you be the same person? What knowledge or life experience would be stripped from your personality?

I’d be the equivalent of a 14-year-old girl, scared of people she didn’t know, and about to start in my second year of university. Not the much more sociable 19 year old who knows how to live on her own, and talk to strangers. (At least ones in safe settings like classrooms)

My point, and my question put simply is: what is memory? And what are we without it?

If we realize that we would lose a huge section of who we are by forgetting those five years, regardless of actual lived experience, then memory is probably a pretty pivotal part of us. A significant chunk of our person.

Knowing that, and knowing that realistically, or at least probably, we’re not about to lose the last five years of our memory, what do we then gain from this knowledge of the importance of memory?

Maybe what it means is that we should focus on making the best memories going forward for the next five. If memories are that important to the person, we should take care in creating and remembering the absolute most incredible, life altering, and mind changing memories from here on out.

In five years, would you like to remember that you spent a lot of that time on the couch? Or that you ate a lot of pasta because it was easy and quick? Or would you like to instead remember concerts and baseball games and karaoke nights and cafés and restaurants, and cooking food for the taste and enjoyment of the meal?

We may not be able to ensure an accurate or lengthy log of memories. But we can make them as memorable as possible, and hope that we won’t suffer a random bout of amnesia that will steal these precious experiences from us. We all focus on the amount of time we’re given, but what’s time without memory?

We’re all a product of our own experiences in that they become our memories. And it’s memories that we should have forever. Whereas experiences are quick and fleeting. Some of us have had 10, 20, 40, or 80 years to accumulate those experiences. I would like, in my life, to focus on creating those personality-inspiring memories.

I may not understand what memory is, or perhaps how it affects me day to day. But maybe all I need to know is to not waste the chance to make a great one. And I guess that’s as good an answer as I’m going to get.