Somewhere deep within me, sits a cynical personality that is looking for traces of evil in this world to substantiate my beliefs. Of the many failures I’ve had, I have, and will enjoy the failure to be a cynical thread of thought. And if you think books can be of no use to alter your beliefs, think about it again, for now I am going to talk about my experience with poignant books.
Yes, of course you know the second world war and the atrocities. I also know that you will have different views of that period, depending on whether, at heart, you are a humanist, a historian, a pessimist, or an information monger. I want to present the human side to you, but before that, shall we really quickly look at Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? You’ll soon know why I brought up this book. The book is in some way the urge of mankind to have their conscience disconnected from their want to hurt, to feel the unbridled joy of sadism. The distilling of Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde alludes us to one dangerous idea, that we humans are innately belligerent at heart, and that a bizarre internal or external force keeps us from doing anything violent. Now it seems the majority of the wars fought were along similar lines. The leaders were unleashing their wrath of ideas on commoners. Commoners were unleashing their wrath of hatred on other commoners. Soldiers were stuck in a playground of blood and violence. When leaders or soldiers do it, perhaps we can conclude that it’s either the crushed humanity in the leaders or the following of orders in soldiers. But the most disheartening part is when a commoner inflicts damage on another commoner, with words, weapons or whatever that can do the damage.
I lost my faith. Or was I not focusing well enough? Was I selectively looking for the bad in the world and not even considering that there was good? Let’s get one thing out of our way, this world isn’t black or white. It’s shades of gray (and yes, far more than 50). But it seemed my spectrum was biased towards the black, keenly looking for the black blotches. I am wrong. My cynicism is ill found, or at the least, not useful. “Man’s search for meaning” said so. “The book thief” said so. “Schindler’s list” said so. My friend’s stories have said so.
Every story you read has a crux to it, something we both agree to. But there is also a dual crux to it, either in agreement or in contrast to the original crux. Books on humanity always have a contrasting crux to them, and it is up to you to choose the crux. I have chosen the bad side of humans so far, but I wish to change. I wish to see the good side, even if it means the rarer one. Perhaps it doesn’t mean world is a rainbow town with sunshine for ice cream. But it at least means that I can look for a ray of sunshine in the merciless cold and rainy weather. Here is a quote to explain what I mean:
Human history is not the battle of good struggling to overcome evil. It is a battle fought by a great evil, struggling to crush a small kernel of human kindness. But if what is human in human beings has not been destroyed even now, then evil will never conquer — Vasily Grossmann
Yes, it’s the kernel of kindness that the keeps the world going.