July 6th, 2014

Etty Hillesum's Last Diary Entry -- Amsterdam, October 12, 1942.

"Early next morning.  Vorvegnehmen. To anticipate.  I know no real Dutch equivalent.  Ever since last night, I have been lying here trying to assimilate just a little of the terrible suffering that has to be endured all over the world.  To accommodate just a little of the great sorrow the coming winter has in store.  It could not be done.  Today will be a hard day.  I shall lie quietly and try to anticipate something of all the hard days that are to come.

'When I suffer for the vulnerable, is it not for my own vulnerability that I really suffer?'

'I have broken my body like bread and shared it out among men.  And why not, they were hungry and had gone without for so long.'

I always return to Rilke.  It is strange to think that someone so frail, who did most of his writing within protective castle walls, who perhaps would have been broken by the circumstances in which we now live (should be able to speak for us in ways we can't).  Is that not further testimony that  life is finely balanced?  Evidence that in peaceful times and under favorable circumstances, sensitive artists may search for the purest and most fitting expression of their deepest insights so that, during more turbulent and debilitating times, others can turn to them for support and a ready response to their bewildered questions?  A response they are unable to formulate for themselves, since all their energies are taken up in looking after the bare necessities?  Sadly, in difficult times we tend to shrug off the spiritual heritage of artists from an 'earlier' age with 'what use is that sort of thing to us now?'

It is an understandable but short sighted reaction.  And utterly impoverishing.

We should be willing to act as a balm for all wounds."

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