Monday, May 12, 2008

NIGHT by Elie Weisel

Elie Weisel has written one of the most powerful books I have ever read in “Night”. In fact, the New York Times calls it “A slim volume of terrifying power”. The book consists of only 120 pages, but these pages are packed with human drama. This book explores the depth of human emotion and takes the reader on a journey to the very foundation of the human psyche. Wiesel uses horrifying honesty of the brutality of the Nazi regime and explores the human mind in a way that most people cannot imagine. His contrast of the idyllic life he lived as a pre war Jewish boy growing up in Sighet, Transylvania to the horror of the Nazi concentration camps is sobering to say the least.

In pre war Transylvania, Weisel dreamed of studying the Jewish religion and Kabbalah. He had a very nice and peaceful upbringing and enjoyed a very loving family. His family ran a small store and lived happily until the Nazi’s invaded his town. Shortly after the Nazi’s invaded they turned the town into a “Ghetto” and moved everyone from their homes. In time all were loaded onto cattle cars and sent to concentration camps. Weisel describes this in this most compelling verse from the book:

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, they turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.

Never shall I forget that smoke.

Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.

Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.

Never shall I forget those things; even were I condemned to live as long as God himself.


Weisel makes the pain ever so clear. Throughout the book he describes in chilling detail the insanity of the concentration camps. He makes the brutality real, he makes you feel the gut wrenching anguish and takes you inside the desperate mind of a Jewish prisoner of war. I cannot begin to imagine the anguish and desperation that sets in. His touching stories of the love he felt for his family, the total helplessness he felt when watching his father suffer, and ultimately his fathers agonizing death. Weisel points out the minds desire to survive and how desperation will force a person to turn against their most beloved. His desperation even led him to doubt the existence of the God he once sought to dedicate his life to.

I found Weisel’s brutal honesty made “night” one of the most heroic pieces of literature I have read. I cannot imagine the ability to write with such candor about our very darkest emotions. His brutal honesty was refreshing. He could have chosen to write the book in a much simpler and watered down truth. However, he depicted events as they truly were. Or maybe the book was written in a watered down approach. With all his candor and courage Weisel may not have been able to fully depict the sheer evil of the Nazi’s.The evil of the Nazi’s may very well be beyond truth. However, this book shines light on the dark side of human nature. It is well worth the emotional read.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The talent of giving

All people have talent. Some people have artistic ability, others have leadership qualities, and others may have athletic ability. Some people are talented cooks and others have strong business minds. Some peoples talent may be that they are very strong willed and persistent. The fact is, all people have some talent. Some people struggle to realize their talents and abilities, but they do have them. A trait of successful people is that they are able to recognize their talents. Once they recognize their talents they take an inventory of their talents and weaknesses. Successful people are then able to play to their strengths. They leverage the talents and strengths of other people to overcome their weaknesses. That seems like a pretty simple formula. However, there is a whole lot more to it than that.

Some people really struggle to find their true talent. There are numerous reasons for this. Some people struggle with confidence and self esteem. Others have battles with their ego. Many people get caught up in life and circumstances become a real hindrance. They get caught up in the day to day struggle to make a living and life becomes too hectic to pursue their talents and passion. Whatever the reason may be, some people have a very difficult time realizing their true talents and abilities.

The successful people I have met seem to have a very good understanding of their talents. They pursue their talents and seem to really enjoy life and work. I once heard that if you do what love you will not have to work a day in your life. That makes a lot of sense. If you pursue your dreams and play to your talents, then you are likely to do what you love doing. It is not work if you are truly enjoying what you do. It becomes work when the joy leaves. So, what is it that allows you to continue to play to your talents and enjoy what you are doing? The answer is really quite simple. To keep the joy in your career and to keep your talents growing and improving you have to use your talents to serve others.

That’s right, you have to give to get. I am sure that there are many people that have a lot of money that are just not nice people, but the truly happy people that I know are the ones who use their talents in a way that benefits others. There is a lot of talk about abundance and the secret and various ways to become successful. They are all based on the premise of giving to get. That is how nature operates. You plant a seed and in time you reap a harvest. The harvest yields an abundance of crops for the seeds that are planted. You have to put in the work of planting and cultivating before nature will do her part, but by giving up front, you gain multitudes in the end. It is the same way with our talents. We have to use them to serve others. When we do serve others we reap the rewards of satisfaction for doing good for others and we reap the rewards of doing satisfying work. In addition, we often receive financial rewards as well.

So, how do you use your talents?