Wednesday, October 1, 2008

white space wednesday

I just finished a work of fiction (The Book Theif by Markus Zusak ISBN-13: 978-0375842207 ) set in Germany during WWII, who's narrator was death himself. It was, in a very crude and simplistic version of the truth, amazing. Death is not who you would expect. He strikes me, in this version of himself, as a kind of anthropologist who strives to understand this group of creatures he works so intimately with but is not part of.


A great deal of the story is about other memorable, endearing, characters. Death is the arc. But it's him I keep thinking about. I often feel that I'm a rouge anthropologist, trying to understand a world that I'm part of but never quite feel seated in. I often find myself in the thick of things and still feel I'm on the outside looking in. I relate to Death.


The last line of the book (and I'm not giving anything away at all by saying this) is Death's thought, "I am haunted by humans."

The bond between that character and myself was cemented right then. Days before, I'd added a section on this blog entitled "Haunted by" which lists books I've read that I still think a lot about.

I am haunted by humanity too.


Longingly I look upon love between friends, between human beings who share a moment of mutual care, and I marvel at the capacity of all of us to be good and kind. Often we lament the choices made by those "in charge" as being motivated and supported by self interest. We can find deceit and cunning around every corner, when we look. And, really, it's not all that surprising. We, like most others, are creatures who have evolved and survived almost entirely because of our awareness of self interest.

first down

Given that long rich history, it's really quite a marvel that any of us can feel compelled to, well, love, and act lovingly toward others. Of course we have found it to be advantageous to share resources and goals in the framework of society. And we have found that social norms regarding polite behavior are often the best means to reinforcing that cohesiveness called society. But, I find that it's hard to explain away strangers who pick up your dropped coins in this way. I find it hard to explain Birthday cards, and sent flowers, standing ovations, a hand held or an arm around the shoulder of someone grieving.


I am haunted by humans. I'm haunted by the terrible things we do.... but much more, I'm haunted by kindness. Kindness is not easy and we do it anyway.


Lynne said...

I enjoyed the book and think it's worth re reading. I don't usually, so many new ones to discover, but it's certainly thought provoking.
Love your mosaics.

alsokaizen said...

Lovely thoughts and lovely photos too

Larissa said...

Nicely said, however I'd disagree that kindness is difficult. I think it's a natural occurence within that we learn to choke off through fear of being seeing, fear of embarrassment. I'd concur that what is difficult for adults is to be in one's heart, to express and to a risk rather than analyze and be in one's head.

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

You've given me so much to think about that I'm not sure where to begin here, except thank you for the book review. I must read this one for myself, definitely.

Anonymous said...

I'm doing catch up Rachel and I still come to visit ... I read this book about a year ago and it really impacted me as well though in a very different way. I am especially intrigued by your eloquent thoughts on how this book has affected you. I'm not so sure I find kindness difficult but perhaps I'm misunderstanding your thoughts. Thank you again for this thoughtful post.