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It Fit Perfectly

I met Seraphim at Grand Central, and he suggested we go to the lobby of the adjacent Hyatt and sit and chat before the others arrived. In that luxurious plush dark wood and gleaming brass and soft-cushioned environment, I told him about the movie “The Reader” I’d seen the evening before. It took a while to spin out the story, and Seraphim’s immediate reaction was that the whole thing seemed implausible. Like perhaps a stage play. How was it possible that Hanna’s illiteracy was never discovered as she went from job to job and ended up as one of the guards or administrative people at Auswitch? My learned friend found a couple other examples of the plot’s lack of credibility, and of course he was perfectly right.

I shared with him the story of my dear, life-long friends Brad and Dennis, and how they, childless, took me in as a son down in Texas back in the 60s. I told him about Dennis being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and my final meeting with him before he died, and how I was moved by Brad asking him, “Sweetie how do you want to handle this? Shall we talk about it, or not?” And him replying, “Let’s just BE.”

Later in that sad last visit, I was lying on the couch with the flu and Dennis was dozing in his armchair. Brad came in and told us lazy boys to get UP. I looked at her and said, “Brad, can’t you see that we’re SICK?”

Which absurd statement made us all laugh.

I went on to describe the very strange look Dennis had given me when I arrived at one of my earlier visits. When he saw me he was startled, and he stared at me, as if I had brought with me me some sort of awful premonition, of something dark, threatening, terrifying. But it passed, and we embraced.

Seraphim pulled out his slim volume of Robert Lax, entitled "21 Pages," and read a passage aloud. It of course fit the tone and atmosphere of my recollections of Dennis perfectly:

Something I remember about standing
in the rain, on the street, upright,of
course,and in driving rain. Not
driving, a vertical downpour. Night
and under a light in the downpour of rain.
Did I ask any questions then? Did I see
a face? I was absolutely alone on the
street. Alone. I was part of the rain. Not
part of the rain, part of the moment the
rain was about. I knew where I was.
I knew what I was doing. I knew what
was doing. There was nothing
particular about it to recall.

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(not the one of me which
is what it is of course but
the lovely captures around the
information desk)

Thanks! I noticed the major difference between Grand Central Station of today and the one just a decade ago is the omnipresence of cameras. Everywhere I looked, someone was taking a picture. Most of them were using their shiny little cell phones, and a relative handful had dedicated cameras. Flashes went off continuously, like lightning bugs on a summer night.

yes! I noticed the same thing
and i think you are right that
it is more than it used to be.

Don't take this the wrong way, but you look like a Rabbi in that top photo!

It is exactly what I said when I presented
the picture on my own livejournal and I said
to John that he seemed to have a photograph
of a rabbi doing his morning davening. :)
there is another one in which I look more
like an aging beatnik...
so ...somewhere between those is me?
let this userpic, me in an irish pub, be for
st patricks day.

It is so strange I viewed "the reader" last week proposing it to all my family 'cause I found the movie one of the best I saw in the past 5 years. A movie adaptation of a Bernard Schlink's novel;

"The Reader" is a complex film. Though the film pertains to Nazism and the "sins of our fathers," in essence, "The Reader" is a film that reflects the emotions inside all of us. During a lecture, Michael's professor comments, "Societies like to think they operate on morality but they don't." In this cynical age, how far from reality is that statement? During Hanna's trial, she's questioned why she participated in the Nazi party's horrendous war crimes, broken she replies, "It was my job." Oddly enough, that seems to be the justification most people use. Surprisingly, though, "The Reader" isn't about her exposure as a war criminal, but an exposure on an individual who took the wrong path. She's not a bad person; she's simply made wrong choices. However, when it comes to having involvement in the Nazi's liquidation of the Jews, how "wrong" can you get? "You ask us to think like lawyers," cries on student, "what are we trying to do?" A distraught Michael replies, "We are trying to understand!" But, just who exactly is trying to grasp a deeper understanding: the court or Michael? How can Hanna's past be forgiven? Director Stephen Daldry brings the much needed emotional layer that a character such as Hanna Schmitz desperately needs. Although her actions are beyond unforgivable, strangely, we sympathize with her. Maybe it's her other shameful secret. Maybe it's superb character development.

The film is a series of profound moral dilemmas — while contrived by the author, they are fair questions — that resonate deeply in the 21st Century: the role of guilt in victims, perpetrators, individuals and collectively, as well as justice, forgiveness, redemption, shame and, of course, literacy and its role in Western thought.

How quite ordinary people were able to do extraordinarily dreadful things?
That's the question I haven't answer in my mind...

Not to oversimplify, but...

Many, many Germans in the SS faced a very simple proposition. Obey the orders of superiors, and live. Or disobey and die. Similarly, many Jewish survivors after the war told the sad tales of the brutal lengths they went to so as to stay alive, even to the extent of assisting the Germans in the liquidation of their bretheren. And it was ironically a German philosopher, Schopenhauer, who identified this process as Wille zum Leben.

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