So I was talking to Heather yesterday, and something kinda hit me. She was complaining about having to read the gruesome (nevertheless true) stories about the Holocaust. At first I sympathized with her...she did show me a passage in the book that sort of illustrated the horrors seen and heard throughout the genocide.
Part of the aversion to reading about such things, I think, is because we know that we are helpless to do anything about it. Every one of those people are long gone, and their pain and cries of despair have long sense ceased to echo through the passages of time. A good book will naturally tug at your heart, and if you cannot do anything to help them, then it seems almost worthless to read the book in the first place.
How, though, does this apply to fiction? With fiction stories we can console ourselves by saying that it really didn't happen, and the pain depicted is, well, fictional. It's much easier to sit back and enjoy the ride with fiction stories, simply because it didn't really happen.
But the Holocaust did happen. People were senselessly murdered, slaughtered, for no reason other than Pride. The greatest sin of all.
I think that the pain of the Holocaust has naturally lessened because of the time that has passed. Every moment that passes after 9/11, the pain grows less and less.
But is that right? Should the past slowly slip into obscurity, succumbing to the overpowering waves of apathy and ignorance?
I don't think so.
If you were caused great offense, would you want it ignored and forgotten? Wouldn't the fact that people are ignoring you make the pain that much worse? It seems that the best cure for pain is to tell someone else about it, and have them carry a little bit of your pain off on their back.
It sort of relates back to the Doctrine of Substituted Love that we learned about in Decent into Hell. For those of you who haven't read the book (I do recommend it), there is a girl named Pauline who is going through considerable trouble. She tells a guy named Stanhope about it, and he empathizes her---in an extreme way. He sort of begins to go through the pain that she goes through, and feels what she feels. All the while, Pauline feels her load lightened and is set free from her burdens. Stanhope becomes a sacrificial lamb; he takes her sin and bears it for her.
How does this relate back to what we're talking about?
The voice of those who suffered in the Holocaust cry out in pain. Their pain never goes away, but our perception of it does. The anguish caused by the lives lost on 9/11 never really goes away. Like I said, every step away from that day merely lessens our perception of the pain. It's still there, it's just getting ignored.
Can we, 60 years later, actually lessen the pain of the Holocaust by merely listening to the voices? By learning their struggles, bearing their pain? Can we experience, in the smallest measure, the extent of their torture and promise to bear it for them?
If we learn, if we listen, if we empathize, than I believe that the pain of the Holocaust, and other (true) stories like it, is lessened.
So go read a true story. Go listen to an honest tale. And bear a little more suffering and darkness away on your back.