Wednesday, January 17, 2018

“It’s not so terrible after all” – how to live like Alice

November 8, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured Posts, Free and Laughing, Love

A friend shared with me a video clip “Alice Dancing Under the Gallows” of 106 year old Alice Herz-Sommer.  Alice is the oldest living Holocaust survivor.   She credits her survival of the Holocaust to her music, as she was sent to a special camp – a “purgatory for artists and musicians”.  “I used to play the cello” said one of Alice’s compatriots on her arrival at the concentration camp. “You will be saved” responded another prisoner.  Alice survived because she played the piano.  And Alice still plays the piano every day!

Alice teaches us many lessons about HOW to live, no matter WHAT life throws at us.  Here are some of the lessons I got from Alice:

“Everyday in life is beautiful” – if we only look up from our “reality” and realize that every day is a gift of a new day, we will begin to see that life, the moment, is beautiful.

“It (music) was not entertainment – it had a much bigger value” says her friend. “In Alice’s case, her music was not just about entertaining the German oppressors – it was about survival and hope.  When she played, she gave hope to the other prisoners that things WOULD get better – and hope to herself.  Our gifts are not to be taken lightly – they have a much bigger value in this world.  No matter how small and insignificant you think your talents are, they are of worth and value to someone.

“All the complaints – “This is terrible”.  It’s not so terrible after all”.   Complaining, like anything in life that we focus on, magnifies, until our complaints loom larger than the actual thing itself.  It’s not so terrible after all, once we stop focusing on it.

“I never hate.  I will never hate.  Hatred brings only hatred”.  Surely Alice has every justification to hate, her family, her life, her community having been rent so violently from her.  Yet she doesn’t.  For she knows that when you hate, you do not hurt the one you hate – you hurt yourself.  Hatred attracts hatred.  Instead, Alice chooses to love:

“I love people” – Alice is surrounded by friends who visit regularly, some of whom also survived the Holocaust.   These people are happy to be around her – why?  Because she is happy to be around them.  Love people and people will surely love you back!

“And I was always laughing – even there I was always laughing”.  Laughing in a concentration camp?  Laughing as people were murdered all around you?  Laughing at one of the darkest periods of history?  Yes.  And why not?  For laughing keeps you in the present, keeps you from hating, frees you to hope and to love. As Alice played her piano, tinkling the music from her fingers, she also played the music of her soul – laughter.  No matter what our experience, we can laugh.  We can laugh inside, even if our faces are stoic.  That inner laughter tells us we are free – that man can imprison and destroy our body, but not our soul.

So, today, live like Alice:

  1. Know that life is beautiful, no matter what
  2. Value your gifts to the world
  3. Stop complaining
  4. Shift from hate to love
  5. Laugh!!!!!!!


3 Responses to ““It’s not so terrible after all” – how to live like Alice”
  1. Carol says:

    Thank you for this Marguerite! Really, perspective is everything. Who said :”When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”? Can’t remember, but it’s so true.

  2. Marguerite Orane says:

    Carol – Thanks for this quote – it is right ON! We know this, yet we don’t practice! Alice is a real inspiration to me to practice – every moment – that life is good!


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