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“Those with no sides and no causes.  Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness.  Those who don’t like to make waves – or enemies.  Those for whom freedom, honor, truth, and principles are only literature.  Those who live small, mate small, die small.  It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control.  If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you.  But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe.  Safe?  From what?  Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does.  I choose my own way to burn.”

  • Sophie Scholl, 21 years old, a member of the German White Rose resistance group, convicted of high treason for handing out anti-war literature at the University of Munich in Nazi Germany. She was executed by guillotine on February 22, 1943

 

One day, perhaps over morning coffee

As you drag yourself awake

Slowly, ruminating at the kitchen table

About nothing in particular, it appears

And cuts your breath: you know it can

Be different, life is yours to choose

Freely, if you wish, you can own

This disappearing act of yours

Before you vanish from yourself and those

For whom you say you live it.

 

But you feel it slipping past you,

Trickling out in trivial deeds

Repeated daily, the pillars of a normal life.

Sickening thought, this normalcy that grips you

By your throat and wrings you dry and dead.

Now in this quiet breath of solitude

Before the world arises into walking sleep

You are paralyzed by possibilities, nothing

Clear, just images that weave like dancing girls

Concealing and revealing wisps of dreams.

 

That is your burden now and hope

For tomorrow and the next day after that.

Begin with the smallest thing that owns you:

The need you have to think about another

Upon whom you can thrust your deepest doubts;

The stifling of a true response to a question.

Forget for once to blame your lie on love

For the other’s sensibilities.  Admit your faith

In lies which you have deftly built your life upon

And which will fall in time into a heap of hurts.

 

It is always best to begin with truth,

If you can find it and the trust enough

To let it come and smash your normalcy

To bits.  It will.  It hurts, at first.  Few

Like it, or you speaking it for that matter.

But it does matter greatly, it will burden you

With nothing much, the aperture to nothing more

Than everything that you can see as possible.

It’s tough to choose the terror of the truth

When trivia tranquilizes with such a soothing smile.

 

Then they are gone, the coffee and disturbing thoughts

As clocks alarm the others from their shady lives

To greet you, stunned and staring stupidly

Through space.

 

Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely.  He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His website is http://edwardcurtin.com/

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Some of the most poignant literature was produced during Nazi rule in Germany and this is an illustration