This started with a photograph of hundreds of women lined up at Birkenau, the Nazi death camp, and on their way to the gas chambers. It has been reported that they sang “Hatikvah”, Israel’s national anthem, as they walked to their deaths.
The conversation online has covered many things, including the invitation to argue the existence of God, but as I wanted to wrap up the thread, I wrote this cap —
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Let’s wrap this thread and move into the new week (in which I’m enjoying a so far mild hurricane).
Regarding choices having to do with divinity, there were no ends, and it seems Pharaoh himself believed himself a God. Man as god, plants as gods, rocks as spirits, gods in the skies (those of Greece and Rome were to come), there were many possibilities, including (film recommendation here: Agora), the possibility of reason and science.
The power to intimidate, rob, and murder others by way of political will includes the intent to humiliate, so to go down firm in spirit, to sing in the face of death, is another form of exodus — an act of defiance and liberation beneath the twinned shadows of madness and death. The Nazis lost a lot more than their country, their preferred identity (as Nazis born to rule the world), and their lives, and for them that’s something that might be said of the living as well as the dead: they lost their way when they jettisoned their humanity.
In consideration of the evolution of mind that may be associated with biological “brain power” (x size x abilities), our species would seem to be gregarious with great consciousness, self-consciousness, a highly developed language ability, and with it the advent of a complex of social norms, personal conscience, and values and sentiments of all kinds. Given that life of the mind, life alone is not the highest reward (even though we Jews toast with “La chaim” — “To life!” Dignity and freedom matter. We avoid and rightly fear humiliation and shame.
Survival may be the highest reward, but in human life, “survival” involves a great deal more than animal — copulate, eat, defecate — existence.
On one or two of my blogs, I’ve a quote by Simon Weisenthal, the Nazi hunter, made n the Ballroom of the Imperial Hotel, Vienna, Austria on the occasion of His 90th Birthday: “The Nazis are no more, but we are still here, singing and dancing.”
That is living and a living testament to the discernment of right from wrong, which may be essential in both the evolution, including political and social evolution, and survival of our species.
Christopher Hitchens famously and repeatedly asked a simple question: “Do you need God to be good?”
I’ve never argued otherwise, and yet . . . from Moses to Maimonides to the Adlers (pioneers in contemporary psychology and humanism), this quest to learn from all or the Almighty or the universe seems to have been invested in those who thought enough of themselves to walk away from Pharaoh or who chose to end their lives — or begin new ones — singing “Hatikvah”.
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