Excluding death from life narrows what life means. In this video, philosopher, Jean Vanier, draws from the life and work of Etty Hillesum, whose family was departed to Auschwitz from Amsterdam during the Holocaust. Even in the darkness, there can be something that can call us to fulfill our life’s mission to love and be loved.
Questions for Reflection
- Jean Vanier begins by saying, “We are called to love and be loved.” However, because of “various difficulties” in life, sometimes we erect a “barrier system” that prevents us from loving and receiving love as we are called to do so. What often prevents us from loving others and being loved?
- Vanier confesses, “To love our enemies, its crazy” but it takes “going from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh.” What he means by heart of flesh is to have a “vulnerable heart,” one with “the capacity of being hurt.” How does a “vulnerable heart” allow us to love our enemies?
- Vanier says, “Growth means how to grow through being hurt, which means how to grow through a consciousness of death.” How is it that in welcoming death we actually “enlarge and enrich life”? How can we narrow our conception of life by excluding death?
- Vanier says, “Unless I accept failure and from failure new things can be born.” How can accepting failure birth new things?
- Vanier describes Hillesum saying, “She had that capacity not to be frightened in front of violence, and to see the violent person in need of help.” How might we develop this kind of capacity? How can we form this inner strength?