by Susan Leem, associate producer
Photo by Alfred Essa/Flickr/cc by-nc-sa 2.0
The Chronicle of Higher Education profiles the late Italian Jewish writer Primo Levi whose thoughts on fascism sound as relevant today (amid unrest we observe in Libya and Syria) as when he was writing in 1974:
"Every age has its own fascism, and we see the warning signs wherever the concentration of power denies citizens the possibility and the means of expressing and acting on their own free will. There are many ways of reaching this point, and not just through the terror of police intimidation, but by denying and distorting information, by undermining systems of justice, by paralyzing the education system, and by spreading in a myriad subtle ways nostalgia for a world where order reigned, and where the security of a privileged few depends on the forced labor and the forced silence of the many."
Levi’s reflection on Passover shares this same spirit of anti-fascism, of parity and equity with optimism for a better future:
"Tonight they will exchange questions: The wise, the godless, the simple-minded, and the child. And time reverses its course, today flowing back into yesterday, like a river enclosed at its mouth. Each of us has been a slave in Egypt, soaked straw and clay with sweat, and crossed the sea dry-footed. You too, stranger. This year in fear and shame, next year in virtue and justice."
He is best known for Survival in Auschwitz, his memoir about the year he survived as a prisoner in a concentration camp. He said of that experience and the impact on his character:
"Auschwitz left its mark on me, but it did not remove my desire to live. On the contrary, that experience increased my desire, it gave my life a purpose, to bear witness, so that such a thing should never occur again."Comments
by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
"Finding happiness doesn’t necessarily follow from pursuing it. Sometimes the deepest happiness comes when you’re least expecting it."
Grazia Cesarini Sforza (pictured in red above) is one of the stars of Mid-August Lunch, a lovely Italian film about a middle-aged bachelor who takes care of four elderly women — each with distinct and sometimes conflicting temperaments — during Italy’s annual August holiday. Sforza, like most of the cast, had never appeared on screen before. Reflecting on the film’s success and her own experience being part of the production, she echoes Rabbi Sacks’ sentiment:
"The film was … one of life’s gifts that you don’t expect at the age of 90. At 90 what’s gone is gone. … And then the success that it’s had and the friends I’ve made, the people I’ve met is something really. I hadn’t imagined anything like that."
What experiences come to mind in when you think about an unexpected happiness that landed in your lap?Comments
Maria Montello, guest author
Editor’s note: Our parent organization, American Public Media (APM), is a large and diverse organization. Maria is the manager of software development for the company. She’s a fan of SOF who travels extensively and is planning an introspective journey to myriad spiritual sites around the world. We invited her to contribute to SOF Observed on occasion and reflect as she listens to Krista’s interviews and works with us on upcoming projects.
As SOF staff pore over hundreds of responses to the audience query about Catholic identity and we IT folks try to envision a way to capture that diversity in an online space, I thought about my own relationship with the Catholic Church. How would I answer that query? Has the archdiocese’s cracking down on my small community (The Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul recently issued letters to area parishes forbidding practices such as communal penance as a sacrament and allowing lay people to preach during Mass. My parish, St. Frances Cabrini Church, was among them.) tainted my relationship with the Church? Why do I still show up?
A few weeks ago I returned from gallivanting around that splendid place of my ancestry — Italy. My Italian companions and I toured through Tuscany and quickly came to understand the three essential components of a Tuscan village: hill, wall, church. Just as my pores exude of garlic after some crostini con pancetta, so too does Italy’s rich art, architecture, and traditions of the Catholic Church.
Despite my friends’ vitriolic commentaries about the Church as an institution, it was in the churches that we spent hours — our necks craned back to witness salvation history played out in frescoes dating from the fifteenth century.
In The Spirituality of Parenting, last week’s SOF guest, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, spoke of religion as a container for spiritual experience. What better place, for me, than a church — the physical manifestation of this container — to hearken back to that original experience in one of the best ways we know how: through art.
As we stood together marveling at the vaulted ceilings, Corinthian pillars and walls of light, I’d like to think we shared a similar sentiment: “I’m glad to have shown up.”Comments