I was talking to Walter yesterday, and he told me that they
were teaching the twins in school about the Holocaust. Walter related that Will
especially was troubled. “How could they do that? Why did the German people go
along with what Hitler demanded?” Will asked the questions that we all ask. I
recently read The Unbroken by Laura
Hillenbrand about an Olympic runner’s ordeal in the Japanese prison camps of
World War II, an amazing book and story. I found myself wondering, like Will, “How
could they do that? How could such a gentle people perform such atrocities. “ I
also read about a Sufi author, Pir Khan, whose sister was betrayed to the Nazis
for 100,000 Francs and the tragic consequences it had. The author says it is
easier to forgive the jailer who kicked her nearly to death, than the woman who
betrayed her for money.
Not all our difficulties are like those suffered in wartime.
And our emotions do not always provide a direct route to forgiveness. Few have
escaped being marked by the wounds of resentment, anger, and distress at life’s
unfairness. But it is so important to find the path to let go. Not being able
to forgive makes us more deeply entrenched in our own suffering. When we carry
the wound in our hearts it stands in the way of our progress. Pardon the
analogy, but sometimes we have to just open our wounds to clean them of the
infection that will set in and destroy us over time. Sometimes it is the
distress that comes from mass suffering that allows us to realize how small our
own concerns are.
I don’t envy Walter trying to explain the Holocaust to my young
philosopher, Will. Perhaps Will can find the words that can bring understanding
out of the unexplainable.