Saturday, March 12, 2016

Menschlichkeit

Israel Kristal, The Confectioner Of Lodz

(Photo: New York Times; Dvir Rosen/Guinness World Records, via AP)
The New York Times published an article in yesterday's edition that is enough to make you cry and dance at the same time. Israel Kristal, a confectioner from Poland, "lived through the tumult of two world wars, lost his family in the Holocaust and escaped death in the Auschwitz concentration camp. He then built a new life in Israel. On Friday, at the age of 112 years and 178 days, he was declared the oldest man in the world."
“There have been smarter, stronger and better looking men then me who are no longer alive,” he added. “All that is left for us to do is to keep on working as hard as we can and rebuild what is lost.”

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oswiecim, Poland, said... that the announcement of Mr. Kristal’s longevity was “a very symbolic fact considering his personal story.”
I keep saying we live in a world with a very limited supply of Mensches. You know what being a Mensch is when you see it. We do tend to put people who have heart and talent, or insight and popularity, people who move us, up on a pedestal. We respect the suffering of who survived the unimaginable.

Our heroes are human beings; they have (or had) lives, and are as human and fallible as anyone, including Mr. Kristal. But I would argue that it is being imperfect, surviving and going forward, Hallelujah Anyway, recognizing "time is so short /and love so brief", that makes being a Mensch possible.

In life, we need examples of others who survive, and live -- not just through days of the worst our species can do to each other; but living through the other thirty-eight thousand days when life must be lived, for better or worse, in the small gestures: ecstatic, boring; the losses and failures and small victories. And to be grateful -- to what or whom, I can't say, but grateful nonetheless.

The Israel Kristals of the planet allow us to remember that. They remind us to live right at the edge of the black curtain, that border between the Human and the Sacred (if there is any such thing), and proclaim that we are alive -- and that we can rise, cry, laugh, and dance.

Mazel Tov, Mr Kristal: A Mer Leb'n.
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Please feel free to thrill all humankind with the brilliance and importance of You. And forgo all civility (especially the passive-aggressive sort, aggression masquerading as mildness) . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

But, consider: Dogs have short attention spans, don't tolerate bullies, and we're notoriously thin-skinned -- so make sense, be brief, and play nice, or I'll bite you and pee on your leg. Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark.