The line wrapped around the block. A big street block. Over one thousand people waiting in the cold blustery night. I’ve never seen it so packed for anything, much less one person.
But then, this person underwent one of the most heinous events in human history.
This person is Elie Wiesel. And the event which is wrapped in the tapestries of his life is the Holocaust. An event to which he calls himself a witness.
He visited the Walton Arts Center here in Fayetteville last night (March 7, 2012). I was privileged enough to get to hear him speak. Being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I took some notes, hoping to share with you some of the wisdom of this man. A few topics stood out in my mind, so I will present those, a quote and a few thoughts of my own.
Some of the worst murders were committed by people with a PhD [paraphrase]
Examining knowledge, it would seem like a double-edged sword. Knowledge is essential to pass on to future generations. As a human race, we need knowledge to learn from our mistakes and move forward. But can too much knowledge be a bad thing? In the years leading to the second World War, Germany had a wealth of knowledge. But Mr. Wiesel claims it was often the people with the most power, who committed some of the worst acts who also held doctorates.
Indifference & Hatred
“The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference”
“Hatred is as dangerous to the hater as the hated”
One of the points that resounded within me was his thoughts on the poison of indifference. This was what allowed such atrocities to take place and what allows them still today. I would certainly agree. Escapism can become a safe cave for the soul, where it can become reclusive and forget the cares of the rest of the world and become indifferent to them. Equally poisonous is hatred. As he so finely put it, hatred destroys the one who clenches it and the one on the other end.
“I favor questions always. Answers change. Questions don’t”
Mr. Wiesel gave some fascinating insight on seeking answers versus pursuing questions. There is a relative nature to answers. They depend on who is giving them and how they feel about the question. But the question (which contains a “quest” as Mr. Wiesel points out) remains. For example, history is riddled with the same question “Why are we here?”.
Forgiveness & Peace
“Forgiveness is God’s, but human forgiveness is individual” [paraphrase]
One could imagine that if there was one person who had every right to be bitter and resentful toward humanity, it would be Elie Wiesel. But he isn’t. Quite the opposite. He is a man of great peace and wisdom. He spoke of forgiveness of humanity being in the hands of God. However, we as people can forgive other individuals.
I can only pray that I will have a tiny breadth of the understanding of forgiveness and peace that this man has. His wisdom was inspiring and moving. I hope that my recollections and thoughts can bring some peace to your soul.