Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reality, Perspective, and Primo Levi.

For this semester's Craft Essay component of my MFA in creative nonfiction, I have decided to focus on the role of the Afterwords in memoir. As part of my reading list, I just finished Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz  - both the book and the Afterwords. And even though I see no value in comparative pain - what hurts us hurts us, regardless of the pain someone else may be experiencing - I also think that perspective is a great teacher.

Oppressive heat, a couple of challenging coworkers, trouble breathing, a demonic puppy -- my today includes all of these things (most of them, I suspect, are actually because of the oppressive heat).  Yet I am free to have these things, and what's more, most of them are within my control, not because I can stop them from happening, but because I can choose to see them for what they are: annoying, upsetting, exhausting ... luxuries.

So here's what I think:

A bad day is carrying 200 pounds of metal on one's back all day, every day, as punishment for simply being born. An argument with a coworker? Nuisance.

A bad day is bunking with a roomfull of strangers in a freezing camp while listening to their stomachs growl with starvation. A bland lunch? Bummer that it's bland, blessing that it's lunch.

A bad day is knowing you could die at any moment - and sometimes hoping that the moment is now. A bad mood? A fleeting thing, and nothing that will cost me my life.

Reality.  Perspective.  And Primo Levi.

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