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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Three down, one more to go...



Unrelated note: Cecil is my homeboy.



We come to the close of another school year. I have loved this semester. It has filled me with so many uneasily-answered questions. My favorite part of this semester has been my Shoah class. I have probably seemed to be quite the Debbie Downer among my friends when I bring up random Nazi facts in everyday conversation. But the truth is that this was such a terrible moment in humanity, how can we afford to rob it of the attention it deserves.

Another wonderful aspect of this class is my teacher, Ilona Klein.

(Picture taken by Cate Williams)

Many of you have probably seen her on the video I constructed for my mom's 50th birthday. She is an absolute hoot. An Italian professor who survives as the only member left of her paternal family as her grandmother was gassed in the concentration camps, she takes everything with passion and vigor and regards life as something so very precious. Shouldn't we all be like that? My favorite motto I've taken from her is that you only live once. You might as well live with a little bit of oomph!

Well, she closed our final exam for this class with a question: Where do you go from here?

That is a heavy-handed question. Where do I go from here? During the semester while I was taking this class, it was hard to sympathize with myself when I was undergoing any hardships because I merely had to look at my stack of homework and remember that there are many who have had it infinitely worse than me. But spiritually I have dabbled in the gracious idea that while these experiences scrape at the bottom of the barrel of human mortality, every individual’s interactions are important. Every person’s pain is paramount. Every human’s heartache is historic. We experience these times in our lives not so that we can compare with one another’s epic tales, but so that we can further the progression of humanity to a place where one will not need to feel pain again.

Incited in me is an appreciation of passion. Passion fuels the important actions of this world and allows other humans to experience the better life. This class has taught me a sense of moral duty we are all endowed with on this earth as fellow human beings. We have a responsibility to look out for each other. When witnessing another struggling, how can we idly sit back and list all of the reasons why we are powerless? We are only powerless in our lack of commitment and our lack of passion.

This class has shown me the ugliest sides of humanity. To know that these atrocities continue today, how can I not extend my hands? After seeing the effects of indifference in the lives of 13 million voices lost, I cannot help but use whatever tools I’ve been given to promote life for all. Life the way it is intended to be lived.

It seems overwhelming, but I think we owe it to our fellow humans to look at the world, take one issue we are really passionate about--on a local level, national, familial, etc.--and work at it with all of our might to make it better. How awesome would the world be if every person did that?


Ah, who knew that studying so much death would teach me so much about life?

4 comments:

Gregory said...

I've heard it said, and I can't cite any meaningful sources, that the ancients Greeks used to ask at a funeral, regarding the deceased, "did he have passion?"

Since I heard that, I've tried to make sure the question could be answered affirmatively of me.

More importantly though, I am fascinated by how passion seems to violate a variety of social rules. We have a lot of language for talking about people who are too passionate; we talk about being overly enthusiastic, and have pejorative terms like "fanboy."

Worst of all though, I have no idea why this is! Why do we deride passion when we see it channeled toward a goal or activity that we don't understand? Think about the last time you saw the medieval club. Wasn't it a little embarrassing to see them? Why is this?

natalie.dayle said...

I'm going to miss that class so much! Dr. Klein was so wonderful.

Ashleigh said...

Ah, Whit, you're so deep.

You know, I was talking to Chad today about being passionate about things. I kind of had the same thoughts as Gregory. Why is it that people try to pull passionate people back down to the regular "blah" life that we all seem to be living? Why can't we be happy for people who are passionate about things and try to support and lift them up? Being passionate is not being "obsessive". I guess it can turn that way, but if it is a good thing that isn't getting in the way of higher priorities, then good for them!

I feel like there is too much criticism towards those who have passions and what's sad is it can really tear a person down and make them give up the thing that they were so passionate about.

Your class sounds amazing. I love learning about things like the Holocaust, but I am extremely sensitive to violence and I think the class would probably make me tail spin into a deep depression. I'm glad you're strong enough to learn about it and still have a good outlook on life.

Kayleigh said...

you're incredible. and i liked your use of alliteration in this post, whether intentional or not.

but alliteration aside, this whole post was very profound. got me thinkin'! :)