Etty

We have to rid ourselves of all preconceptions,
of all slogans,
of all sense of security,
find the courage to let go of everything,
every standard,
every conventional bulwark
.”
~ Etty Hillesum

 

Etty Hillesum was born on 15th January 1914 in Holland. When she was 27, she started writing a journal where she described her life with the little community around her and with Julius Spier, a former student of Jung who became her mentor. At this time, the Jews in Holland were being persecuted in the most terrible manner. At her own request, Etty began to work at Westerbork, a transit camp where the Jews were being gathered before being sent to extermination. She wrote: “I know the persecution and oppression and despotism and the impotent fury and the terrible sadism. I know it all … And yet – at unguarded moments, when left to myself, I suddenly lie against the naked breast of life, and her arms round me are so gentle and so protective.” She left the camp for Auschwitz on September 10th, where she died on 30th November 1943.

Patrick Woodhouse, author of ‘Etty Hillesum: A Life Transformed’, writes eloquently: “Her courageous story leads into profound understandings about the nature of God and how suffering and sorrow can be redemptive, not destructive. These emerged out of the struggles of her inner life, and the insights she arrived at were not easily gained. What we witness in the diary, and through her letters to her friends, is a battle to go on living with hope and integrity even as the world around her collapses. Her greatest weapons in this are her love of people, her deep sense of God within, and her passion for truth.”

Her fervour and dedication for Truth was indeed remarkable and deeply touching, as we read repeatedly, page after page, gems such as these:

My life has, so to speak, been extended by death, by my looking death in the eye and accepting it, by accepting destruction as part of life and no longer wasting my energies on fear of death or the refusal to acknowledge its inevitability. It sounds paradoxical: by excluding death from our life we cannot live a full life, and by admitting death into our life we enlarge and enrich it.”
~ Etty Hillesum

~

I am having an ever stronger experience these last days: in my least daily actions and sensations a hint of eternity creeps in. I am not the only one who is tired, sick, sad, or anguished. I am united with millions of others across the centuries. All that is what life is made of. Life is beautiful and full of meaning in its absurdity if you know how to take it as a whole. So life in some sense or other forms a perfect whole. As soon as we refuse or wish to eliminate certain elements, as soon as we follow our own pleasure or caprice by accepting one aspect of life and rejecting another, then life becomes in effect, absurd. Once the sense of the wholeness of it is lost, it becomes arbitrary.”
~ Etty Hillesum

~

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Etty Hillesum – Wikimedia Commons

The great obstacle is always the representation and never the reality. One deals with reality with all the suffering and difficulties that go with it – one deals with it, loading it as we do, onto our shoulders and it is by living with this load that we increase our endurance of it. However, we have to put an end to the representation of suffering. This representation is not suffering itself which is rich and can increase the meaning of our lives. By putting an end to these representations which imprison life behind bars, we liberate reality with all its force within ourselves, and we then become able to tolerate true suffering, in one’s own as well as in the life of humankind.”
~ Etty Hillesum

 

~~~

Quotes by Etty Hillesum

Main photo by Alain Joly

~~~

 

Bibliography:
– “Etty Hillesum: An Interupted Life & Letters from Westerbork” – by Etty Hillesum – (Henry Holt & Company Inc)
– “Etty Hillesum: A Life Transformed” – by Patrick Woodhouse – (Bloomsbury Continuum)
– “Etty Hillesum and the Flow of Presence” – by Meins G. S. Coetsier – (University of Missouri Press)

En Français:
– “Sagesses concordantes” avec Vimala Thakar, Etty Hillesum, Prajnânpad et Krishnamurti – de Alain Delaye – (Éditions Accarias L’Originel)

Website:
Etty Hillesum (Wikipedia)

 

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