We are the rock and life is the stream – we can but resist with grace. On our optimistic days we may think of ourselves as the authors of our own lives. On our pessimistic days we may see ourselves as puppets, subject to the will of others. In truth – we can only be ourselves, true to the best in ourself – we may influence the flow of things, but we will never control it.
The power of choosing between good and evil is within the reach of all
The price of this choice can be terrible. In the totalitarian state choosing good may bring death; but the choice remains. The possibility of this choice is the foundation of human dignity; but the decent society is one where the temptation to choose evil is minimised.
Among a million Russian huts you will never find even two that are exactly the same. Everything that lives is unique. It is unimaginable that two people, or two briar roses, should be identical… If you attempt to erase the peculiarities and individuality of life by violence, then life itself must suffocate.
From Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate
These words come from the opening sections of Grossman’s amazing book – I cannot think of a better novel for exploring the horror of the twentieth century. Grossman’s story encompasses the Holocaust, the Gulag and the reality of war. Somehow, amidst all this negativity, he also manages to identify glimpses of light and goodness. In opposition to the mad grandeur of the architects of evil – goodness exists in the humble, the kind and the ordinary.
Life is freedom and freedom is diversity and the refusal to submit to the order defined by the powerful.
As the twenty-first century takes shape we can see that the old battles remain. But today the fight is not so much against the numbing power of the state – rather it is against our own fears, anxieties and prejudices. Can we trust ourselves and each other? Can we support ourselves and each other? Can we accept ourselves and each other?
The enemy of human diversity is ourselves – our own craving for a deathly comfort in conformity.