‘Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind. I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create. Tara Westover, 2018
After reading Tara Westover’s memoir Educated I watched a podcast where she is interviewed by Oprah Winfrey (at: https://www.facebook.com/oprahwinfrey/videos/tara-westover-sss/448771535924623/), in which she refers to the part in her book about her ignorance of the Holocaust. That bit brought up one of my stories. Years ago when there was intense turmoil in Palestine a woman I knew had arbitrarily inferred that since my heart went out to these people I must feel hostility towards her friend, whom I also knew, because she happened to be of Jewish origin. Initially, it had come as a shock and then it had felt oppressive. It was true that my heart ached for what was going on in Palestine, but that had nothing to do with my feelings towards her friend. To be honest, her friend had not crossed my mind as I was digesting the scenes on the News. Moreover, the many stories and films I had read and watched about the Holocaust had never ceased to shock and move me. Viktor Frankl’s and Anna Frank’s books had influenced me significantly in my earlier years. One of my favourite quotes by Viktor E. Frankl from Man’s Search for Meaning is “Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.” There are many more books written by people of Jewish origin on my shelves. I have also quoted quite a few over the years on this site.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage in the world of horrors and bloody conflict, currently and historically. We can feel the pain of Congo and Rwanda and Syria, Nigeria, the Middle East ….. The list goes on and on. We can feel the weight of the horrors of famine and genocide, past and current. There is quite a lot of strife and oppression in our western world, as well, not to mention, what has happened to women and minority groups across cultures. We are spoilt for choice, but actually we do not have to choose. Our hearts do not discriminate when it comes to human suffering. It is only our minds that come up with stories.
As I am refining a manuscript I have been working during this journey over these last years, all sorts of little pieces and stories are falling into place as the ice thaws and the underlying all connecting thread of my life becomes visible. A few lines from a poem I had read on a wall many years ago by a Palestine poet surfaced in my mind while adding this story. Someone had apparently translated it in Greek. I googled it and found that the poet’s name is Mahmood Darwish:
To our land, / and it is the one poor as a grouse’s wings, / holy books and an identity wound