Susan's Thursday morning note April 2, 2009
Book Notes: A Reader’s Journal by Julia Hecomovich
Finding beauty in life even in horrible circumstances.
An Interrupted Life and Letters from Westerbork by Etty Hillesum (died in concentration camps)
Hi all of you! Even the coffee doesn’t seem to be working this morning, but noticing the wind isn’t blowing yet is seeming to be sufficient for getting me going today. If you’re not living in Nebraska and get this note – be glad. The wind was ridiculous this week. If you’re in Nebraska….well, at least you made it to today! Your local broadcaster…me…calm at this point! I was given a beautiful book this week that I will be getting in for all of you. Book Notes. Along with quotes there are empty journal pages for your favorite books, books loaned out, books you’d like to read, etc. Here are some of the quotes that I especially liked, some making me laugh, some serious. They’re worth writing down!
I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on, I go into another room and read a good book. Groucho Marx
The contents of someone’s bookcase are part of his history, like an ancestral portrait. Antole Broyard
You think your pains and your heartbreaks are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who have ever been alive. James Baldwin
Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all. Henry David Thoreau
Never lend books, for no one ever returns them. The only books I have in my library are those that other folks have lent me. Anatole France
The only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little further down our own particular path than we have yet got ourselves. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
If anyone wants to try to enclose in a small space in a single house or single room, the history of the human spirit and to make it his own, he can only do this in the form of a collection of books. Hermann Hesse
The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them. Mark Twain
The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. St. Augustine
I’m also still working through the diary, Etty Hillesum: An Interrupted Life (a young woman who found God and peace before she died at the age of 29 in a WW2 concentration camp). Here is a little more that I underlined this week for you.
Worrying About Tomorrow:
We have to fight them daily, like fleas, those many small worries about the morrow, for they sap our energies. We make mental provision for the days to come, and everything turns out differently, quite differently. Sufficient unto the day. The things that have to be done must be done, and for the rest we must not allow ourselves to become infested with thousands of petty fears and worries, so many motions of no confidence in God.
A new idea for when you can’t sleep at night:
Alone for once in the middle of the night. God and I have been left together, and I feel all the richer and at peace for it.
On spending time with friends, children, anyone suffering – intense suffering in their life:
It still all comes down to the same thing: life is beautiful. And I believe in God. And I want to be there right in the thick of what people call ‘horror’ and still be able to say: life is beautiful.” And now here I lie in some corner, dizzy and feverish and unable to do a thing. When I woke up just now I was parched, reached for my glass of water, and grateful for that one sip,, thought to myself, “If I could only be there to give some of those parched thousands just one sip of water.” And all the time I keep telling yourself, “Don’t worry, things aren’t all that bad.” Whenever yet another poor woman broke down at one of our registration tables, or a hungry child started crying, I would go over to them and stand beside them protectively, arms folded across my chest, force a smile for those huddled, shattered scraps of humanity, and tell myself, “Things aren’t all that bad, they really aren’t that bad.” And all I did was just stand there, for what else could one do? Sometimes I might sit down beside someone, put an arm round a shoulder, say very little and just look into their eyes. Nothing was alien to me, not one single expression of human sorrow. Everything seemed so familiar, as if I knew it all and had gone through it all before. People said to me, “You must have nerves of steel to stand up to it.” I don’t think I have nerves of steel, far from it, but I can certainly stand up to things. I am not afraid to look suffering straight in the eyes. And at the end of each day, there was always the feeling: I love people so much. Never any bitterness about what was done to them, but always love for those who knew how to bear so much although nothing had prepared them for such burdens.
On praying for others when we don’t know how to pray for them, when their burdens or suffering is impossible to take away:
To pray for another’s well-being is something I find childish as well; one should only pray that another should have enough strength to shoulder his burden. If you do that, you lend him some of your own strength.
I’ll try to finish this journal this week & let you know if there is any more sections that I believe you would like to read. Thank you so much for letting me send you what I found comforting, encouraging, challenging, motivating…. I honestly don’t get a chance to read much, don’t be intimidated by my writing to you every week – that is one of my main goals in life, to find something worth your reading, too. And as Mark Twain wrote above, The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them. If you only have an hour total per week to read, then don’t use the hour on magazines. Find an author that is recommended to you. Trust the recommendation. Place the book by your chair or bed, and begin. If you don’t find meaning, then that isn’t your book. The $10 is still better used than fast food from lunch. Don’t think you wasted the money, and don’t think you need to continue reading that book. It’s okay to stop and try again with a new author. You’re not failing & you’re not wasting money. Just continue to search. Someone has written something out there that could change your life.
Have a great weekend! I hope you can run over this weekend for our open house. To see what all we’ve gotten in and to just have an excuse to come to Aurora. How can I truly convince you how your support is the reason that we are here and growing? Thank you. And thank you for letting me come into your Thursday again. Have a great day. Notice the littlest gifts. Life is beautiful, no matter the intensity of any pain you may have. Notice the cocoons (are there any yet?) They are changing. Incubating. In the dark and in the quiet. To become beautiful. Patient with the darkness. Knowing there is a reason. I try to remember that analogy a lot. Darkness and hard times are incubating times – times for me to grow and change. To be who God created me to be. I really do look forward to meeting all of us in 10 years. More of life thrown at us. More books. More prayer. More decisions. Who will we be? Susan
Latin for this week:
luctor et emergo - I struggle and emerge.
Hecomovich, Julia. Book Notes: A Reader's Journal. Galison. New York.
Hillesum, Etty. An Interrupted Life and Letters from Westerbork. 1996. Henry Holt and Company. New York.