Elie Wiesel has been seen as a voice of the Holocaust. Although he was not the first to speak out (and write) about his experiences, he certainly had a way of rising above the rest — to tell the stories and legends that should never be forgotten. Because he was a survivor of those horrors at Auschwitz, his voice also resonates with authority on all topics of humanity, human rights and indifference.
If we look up the definition of indifference, Webster’s Dictionary tells us that it’s a “lack of concern.” We simply don’t care, which is worse, as Wiesel writes:
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
To be indifferent is to lose the very depth of human feeling and understanding. Perhaps it’s been quashed out of us. We may have lost all hope. It’s even true that we’ve seen the empty, indifferent gaze in the eyes of those in the depths of despair. We see them in the war-torn places of the world. It’s across the globe, but perhaps even worse… it’s familiar. It’s next door, down the street, at the local hospital. The eyes tell us more than stories ever could.
With the lack of caring, the turning off of our humanity; we may find it easier to just stop thinking, feeling, hoping or dreaming. One of my favorite quotes from Elie Wiesel is: “Think higher, feel deeper.”
It sounds so simple, even too easy. How could thinking and feeling ever really change the world? How could we ever think to make a difference. Just look at the horrors.
Perhaps it really is as straightforward as opening our minds and hearts (as cliche as that must sound). If we stop turning a blind eye, walk that extra mile to learn what’s really going on in the world (and in our communities).
He’s not the only one who has ever encouraged us to take a stand and make a difference, but his words and his legacy will last long after he’s long gone. And, it can begin in as simple a step as interference. As he wrote:
“Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.”
His speaking and writing have been his acts of interference. Never silent. Never forget. After all, the first loss was enough to all of humanity. He says: “To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”