I work as a teacher partly because there’s a wonderful social element to thejob. No teacher can exist in isolation. We have to collaborate and combine our ideas with other educators or wither under the weight of the job; we have to share with and adapt to students or we might well be committed for ranting to ourselves. I know from prior experience that working with and for others helps me to feel like I’ve reached something close to a state of grace, and that, if deprived of these interactions, I would be something less than whole.
I felt this way first in an English class, when I read Viktor Frankl’s memoir of life in a concentration camp: Man’s Search for Meaning, and suddenly felt as if all of life was illuminated before my eyes. And I felt this way again as I spent the last few weeks reviewing Elie Wiesel’s Night, a more common curricular choice and the next book in my 10th grade syllabus.
While Frankl seeks to find the optimistic solution to every stormy cloud, Wiesel paints a more human portrait of endurance–one filled with much more doubt, horror and grief than his philosophical counterpart. The brutal depiction of men degraded to the level of dogs is terribly true, and truly affecting. Through it all Wiesel shares his frank, grim confessions of internal conflict holding the reader close to a situation that is too often sanitized to “such a shame” platitudes.
In its conclusion, Night reveals the daily salvation that came to Wiesel from his relationship (difficult though it was) with his father. Though he never makes as pointed an argument as Frankl does, his anecdotes offer a captivating portrait of humanity in it’s darkest hour. While the tone and mood left me grimly stone faced till the end and made it difficult to really “love” reading the book, Night reaffirmed what I learned first from Frankl. No matter how often I despair of how others treat me, or how self-obsessed I become with my own needs and wants, I know that the more I respect my responsibility to/for others, the more my life and my world will improve.