Sunday, December 23, 2012

Peace on Parchment and The Diary of Anne Frank

Perhaps you could silence Anne.
Many tried.
The circumstances of her life are well versed and familiar, each moment we could describe as trying, beyond the scope of understanding, even horrific. And then there were these... moments of calm. Moments of joy. Even moments of peace.

In the small confines of an uncertain attic floor with the sounds of soldiers in the rafters, she wrapped her fears in words. Powerful words.

Had her death not been hastened by the cruelties of a concentration camp, what would she have become? Could she have become even greater than we regard her now? I wonder. Writing Wednesday, April 5, 1944 ..."I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want! I know I can write ..., but it remains to be seen whether I really have talent." ...
Anne wanted to be an actress early on in her life and later a journalist. She used a red-and-white checkered book given to her by her father that was never meant for journaling in the first place, to record her thoughts and feelings while hiding from the Gestapo. Even at fourteen she questioned everything, most of all the motives of her own tender and conflicted heart. While hiding in Amsterdam she examined her most intimate relationships and freely expressed them in that little book of words, coming round to the beginning again from doubt and contempt, even hatred, to the serenity that contemplation and self-examination brings...even to a girl on her way to hell. She fought with her emotions and brought them to her most trusted friend, the diary, which never scolded or mocked or betrayed.

She clearly saw her future, her purpose and her life's plan, even in the reality of sudden and swift discovery by those who would surely bring those plans to an end. The German occupation of the Netherlands in 1944 would seal her fate as a Jewish girl in the brutality that was Auschwitz. But Anne kept writing...
 "And if I don’t have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that."

Her diary was published in 1947 under the title "A Child's Voice" and as Soviet writer Ilya Ehrenburg said of her work, "one voice speaks for six million—the voice not of a sage or a poet but of an ordinary little girl."   Nelson Mandela read her diary while in prison. It has been quoted and revered in speeches by many great thinkers and influences of our time including John F. Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elie Wiesel and others.

 I agree that while her voice is uniquely representative of six million others with stories just like hers, it represents one story. Her story.
And that may be the most powerful lesson of all. Because we all have one. And it all has power and purpose. If you trust in the power of your words for good, it is never just about you. They end up being tossed about the universe in bits and pieces of you that serve to solder and mold who you are into completion and maybe one day will form a more cohesive world - simply because you shared them. You can't believe in the power of words without believing in the power of you.
"I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me!

When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that’s a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?"

 I have struggled lately, as you have, to understand the depths of evil in the middle of a conflicted humanity, during a season called Christmas based on the life of a gentle Jew who also knew suffering and brought peace to his own world full of barbaric practices and beliefs. I have struggled to believe in hope for any of us in a world that rocks and spins on the axis of anything but hope and love. When I don't know what to say, I've learned to say nothing at all. 

So this morning as I listened to a Christmas sermon and sat down to write something, to find some normalcy after a week of particular heartbreak in our collective consciousness amidst the images of children in hiding and wondering what their last moments must have been like simply because I don't want them to be alone and I think in my helplessness that my being with them will somehow help - I still couldn't find any words. But as is my usual custom, sometimes they find me. 

I keep it on my desk at all times, facing me as I write, and yet it had gone unnoticed and untouched all week, this small piece of parchment oddly staring at me now.  I found it one Saturday morning while rummaging through a treasure of yard sale boxes in another town, a half-wet cardboard box full of diaries and yearbooks from the sixties and seventies, writings of a teenager I'd never know who plastered the wisdom of Frank and Thoreau and Emerson and the poetry of Rumi onto handmade journals with glue and string and decoupage, pasting them into her private collection of inspirational words. This one fell out amongst the haiku and landed on my desk where it has stayed.  I was lucky enough to find her thoughts They were speckled with hand drawn flowers, peace signs, and birds in flight drawn with strong black ink and subtle colors elegantly wrapped in parchment printed power. Simple words. But words I knew in bits and pieces you see...some old, some newly written...from another school girl in the sixties days of war, who took them from Anne, typed them with an old typewriter and passed them unknowingly to me.

In my book of life, the one I am always writing in my head, I am inspired by honest and poignant words from a child. And because of her, in the most tangible of ways...

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Jennie Marsland said...

What a beautiful post. In dark times, what can any of us do but hold on to hope? After all, the lovers still outnumber the haters in this world.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Beautiful, as always, Mimi. I so hear what you mean about the wound to our collective consciousness. So hard to keep believing. And yet we must. We owe it to all children to create for them a world of hope and possibility - and justice.

bazza said...

Hi Mimi
Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year from Bazza.
Looking forward to another year of great posts from you.
Barry & Leah x
PS: I have been to Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam. It's a heartbreaking experience. This was a beautiful post.
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Akelamalu said...

Lovely post Mimi. Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and thankyou for hosting the Peace Globe Movement. xx

Charles Gramlich said...

I appreciate the sentiment she expresses, but I'm not sure the human race as a whole has ever known peace and tranquility. Have a great Christmas season.

The Gal Herself said...

What a lovely post! As a teen, I completely related to Anne. As an adult, I think of Miep, the woman who helped hide the Franks and retrieved/protected Anne's diary for us. How much she risked. I wonder if I would be as gallant and brave in similar circumstances. I fear not, but still, Miep reminds me of my responsibility to my community.

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