“Life may be brimming over with experiences, but somewhere, deep inside, all of us carry a vast and fruitful loneliness wherever we go. And sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes.”
~ Etty Hilleson, Trans: A Pomerans, In Interrupted Life The Diaries of Etty Hillesum. pg. 78
It is a slow and painful process, this striving after true inner freedom. Growing more and more certain that there is no help or assurance or refuge in others. That the others are just as uncertain and weak and helpless as you are. You are alway thrown back on to your own resources. There is nothing else. The rest is make-believe. But that fact has to be recognized over and over again. Especially since you are a woman. For a woman always longs to lose herself in another. But that too is a fiction, albeit a beautiful one. There is no matching of lives. At least not for me. Perhaps for a few moments. But do those moments justify a lifetime together? Can those few moments cement a shared experience? All they can do is give you a little strength. And perhaps a little happiness. God knows, being alone is hard. For the world is inhospitable. In the past I used to dream of giving it to one person. But it was not to be. And when you reach such painful truths at the age of 27, you sometimes feel quite desperate and lonely and anxious, although independent and proud at the same time. I have confidence in myself and I shall manage by myself. The only measure you have is yourself. And the only responsibility you can shoulder in life is responsibility for yourself. But you must do it with all your strength. And now to ring up S.”
cited: Trans: A Pomerans, An Interrupted Life The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1983. pg 46.
Image and quote from Etty Hillesum’s diary submitted in response to the World is a Book’s lens-artists’ photo challenge: narrow.
Your imagination and your emotions are like a vast ocean
“…But let me impress just one thing upon you, sister. Wash your hands of all attempts to embody those great, sweeping thoughts. The smallest, most fatuous little essay is worth more than the flood of grandiose ideas in which you like to wallow. Of course you must hold on to your forebodings and your intuitions. They are the sources upon which you drew, but be careful not to drown in them. Just organize things a little, exercise some mental hygiene. Your imagination and your emotions are like a vast ocean from which you wrest small pieces of land that may well be flooded again. The ocean is wide and elemental, but what matter are the small pieces of land you reclaim from it. The subject right before you is more important than those prodigious thoughts on Tolstoy and Napoleon that occurred to you in the middle of last night, and the lesson you gave that keen young girl on Friday night is more important than all your vague philosophisings. Never forget that. Don’t overestimate your own intensity; it may give you the impression that you are cut out for greater things than the so-called man in the street, whose inner life is a closed book to you. In fact, you are no more than a weakling and a nonentity adrift and tossed by the waves.
Keep your eye fixed on the mainland and don’t flounder helplessly in the ocean…”
cited: Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life The Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941-1943, pp.6-7
“Thursday Morning, 9.30. On a summer’s day like this I lie in bed as if cradled in sweet arms. It makes one feel so indolent and languid. And when he sang, ‘The Linden Tree’ last time (I thought it so beautiful that I asked him to sing me a whole forest-full of linden trees), the lines on his face looked like old, age-old, tracks through a landscape as ancient as creation itself.”