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Etty Hillesum

"Life cannot be captured in a few axioms. And that is just what I keep trying to do. But it won't work, for life is full of endless nuances and cannot be captured in just a few formulae. Not that you yourself cannot become simpler ... "

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"We are always in search of the redeeming formula, the crystallising thought."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"That fear of missing out on things makes you miss out on everything. Keeps you from reality."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"Thinking gets you nowhere. It may be a fine and noble aid in academic studies, but you can't think your way out of emotional difficulties. That takes something altogether different. You have to make yourself passive then, and just listen. Re-establish contact with a slice of eternity."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"To live fully, outwardly and inwardly, not to ignore external reality for the sake of the inner life, or the reverse -- that's quite a task."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"One must marry one's feelings to one's beliefs and ideas. That is probably the only way to achieve a measure of harmony in one's life."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"Everything is chance, or nothing is chance. If I believed the first, I would be unable to live on, but I am not yet fully convinced of the second."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"And now that I don't want to own anything any more and am free, now I suddenly own everything, now my inner riches are immeasurable."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"After each creative act one has to be sustained by one's strength of character, by a moral sense, by I don't know what, lest one tumble."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"Suffering has always been with us, does it really matter in what form it comes? All that matters is how we bear it and how we fit it into our lives."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"The externals are simply so many props; everything we need is within us."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"Every day I shall put my papers in order and every day I shall say farewell. And the real farewell, when it comes, will only be a small outward confirmation of what has been accomplished within me from day to day."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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" If I knew for certain that I should die next week, I would still be able to sit at my desk all week and study with perfect equanimity, for I know now that life and death make a meaningful whole. "

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"We have to fight them daily, like fleas, those many small worries about the morrow, for they sap our energies."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"Such words as 'God' and 'Death' and 'Suffering' and 'Eternity' are best forgotten. We have to become as simple and as wordless as the growing corn or the falling rain. We must just be."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"If one burdens the future with one's worries, it cannot grow organically. I am filled with confidence, not that I shall succeed in worldly things, but that even when things go badly for me I shall still find life good and worth living."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"By 'coming to terms with life' I mean: the reality of death has become a definite part of my life; 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, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"The fact is I don't lead a simple enough inner life. I indulge in excesses, bacchanalia of the spirit. Perhaps I identify too much with everything I read and study. Someone like Dostoevsky still shatters me."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"Sometimes I feel that every word spoken and every gesture made merely serve to exacerbate misunderstandings. Then what I would really like is to escape into a great silence and impose that silence on everyone else."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"Greed probably figures in my intellectual life as well, as I attempt to absorb a massive amount of information with consequent mental indigestion."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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" How rash to assert that man shapes his own destiny. All he can do is determine his inner responses."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"Our desire must be like a slow and stately ship, sailing across endless oceans, never in search of safe anchorage. Then suddenly, unexpectedly, it will find mooring for a moment."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"Life may be brimming over with experiences, but somewhere, deep inside, all of us carry a vast and fruitful loneliness wherever we go. And sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths, or the turning inwards in prayer for five short minutes."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"But I do believe it is possible to create, even without ever writing a word or painting a picture, by simply moulding one's inner life. And that too is a deed."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"And I believe that I will never be able to hate any human being for his so-called 'wickedness,' that I shall only hate the evil that is within me, though hate is perhaps putting it too strongly even then. In any case, we cannot be lax enough in what we demand of others and strict enough in what we demand of ourselves."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"All disasters stem from us. Why is there a war? Perhaps because now and then I might be inclined to snap at my neighbour. Because I and my neighbour and everyone else do not have enough love. Yet we could fight war and all its excrescences by releasing each day, the love which is shackled inside us, and giving it a chance to live."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"We human beings cause monstrous conditions, but precisely because we cause them we soon learn to adapt ourselves to them. Only if we become such that we can no longer adapt ourselves, only if, deep inside, we rebel against every kind of evil, will we be able to put a stop to it. ... while everything within us does not yet scream out in protest, so long will we find ways of adapting ourselves, and the horrors will continue. "

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"... ought we not, from time to time, open ourselves up to cosmic sadness? ... Give your sorrow all the space and shelter in yourself that is its due, for if everyone bears his grief honestly and courageously, the sorrow that now fills the world will abate. But if you do not clear a decent shelter for your sorrow, and instead reserve most of the space inside you for hatred and thoughts of revenge--from which new sorrows will be born for others--then sorrow will never cease in this world and will multiply."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"Yes, to become simple and live simply, not only within yourself but also in your everyday dealings. Don't make ripples all around you, don't try so hard to be interesting, keep your distance, be honest, fight the desire to be thought fascinating by the outside world. Instead, reach for true simplicity in your inner life and in your surroundings, and also work."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"I keep remembering from my early student days how I would walk at night through the streets, my hands bunched into fists in the pocket of my coat, my head hunched deep into my collar, and how I used to say, 'I want to work, I shall work'--and then I would come back home and be so exhausted by my determination that I had no strength left to do the actual work."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"A desire to kneel down sometimes pulses through my body, or rather it is as if my body had been meant and made for the act of kneeling. Sometimes, in moments of deep gratitude, kneeling down becomes an overwhelming urge, head deeply bowed, hands before my face. "

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"I think what weakens people most is fear of wasting their strength."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"So much that was beautiful and so much that was hard to bear. Yet whenever I showed myself ready to bear it, the hard was directly transformed into the beautiful. "

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"One must also accept that one has 'uncreative' moments. The more honestly one can accept that, the quicker these moments will pass. One must have the courage to call a halt, to feel empty and discouraged."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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"Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world."

Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life (1983)

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Etty Hillesum, German-Jewish diarist, died at Auschwitz
(1914 - 1943)

Full name: Esther Hillesum. Her one book is moving, inspiring, and beautifully written.