A busy month for me, first in New Hampshire, lecturing & working on my Vastu book (which is soon to appear!), & swimming in Dublin Lake; then in New Jersey & New York State; and then in The City, where I participated in the first three days of the Shri Ganesha Festival at the Broome Street Temple (http://broomestreettemple.org/). While in Manhattan I purchased a Metrocard printed on which was this quote from ancient Chinese sage Chuang Tzu:
“The fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you’ve gotten the fish you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit. Once you’ve gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning. Once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten the words so that I can talk with him?”
What a city, where even the transit fares wax philosophical!
From Manhattan to Long Island, where I co-taught a seminar in Montauk with Dr. Claudia Welch, and visited her husband (a Long Island native) & various of his family members. I had never been that far east on Long Island before, and enjoyed being able to stop en route at the Green Thumb Organic Farm in Water Mill, which has been owned and operated by the Halsey Family since the year 1639. 1639! (http://www.greenthumborganicfarm.com/)
From Long Island to Europe for lecturing with Dr. Claudia, first in France at Trimurti, near Cogolin, which is but 20 km from St. Tropez. St. Tropez is a generally agreeable place, with quaint buildings, arty shops, and a protected natural harbor in use since ancient days. Most unusual sight: a workman delivering to a gallery just opposite city hall a six-foot high fiberglass sculpture of a yellow banana that opened to reveal – an oversized yellow phallus. We dined out one evening there at The Strand restaurant (phone +33-6-69-51-13-00), a fine experience indeed.
Next followed a whirlwind trip to Italy, including an evening lecture in Milan and another in Mirano, which is but a few km distant from Venice. With a few hours to spare before the evening presentation we sped into & then sped out of Venezia, using our 43 minutes there to visit the church of San Geremia, and the body of Santa Lucia, Venice’s patron saint, which is enshrined there (shouldn’t a female patron saint be a “matron saint”?).
After a night at the sanctuary of La Verna, we flew from Rome to Prague, where yet again I failed in my quest to visit the tomb of Rabbi Loew (due to the Yom Kippur holiday). We did however enjoy vegetarian panna cotta more than once at Lekha Hlava (“Clear Head” – http://www.lekhahlava.cz/en_novinky.htm), and took in a couple of performances of the Prague astronomical clock, but nothing like the one recorded on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjWJHEmFfPA). I also picked up another Czech tongue twister:
Na olejuje-li Julie olejem (literally, gIf Julia oils (something) with oilh)
Those who are fascinated with Czech tongue twisters may examine:
The most dramatic moments of the month arrived in the driving rain and bitterly chilly wind that pursued us during our day at Auschwitz. Though much has been written about this cursed location, neither words nor pictures can convey the indelible intensity of the dynamited ruins of Auschwitz-Birkenau’s Crematorium II, in which 500,000 human beings were exterminated between March 1943 and January 1945 – the largest number of deaths in a single room in the history of the human race.
Despite everything many survived, and even among those who didn’t there were multiple acts of bravery and nobility. Father Maximilian Kolbe volunteered to be starved to death so that another man might live. 2nd Lt. Stefan Jasienski (aka Urban) scratched an Image of Divine Mercy on the wall of Cell No. 21, Basement Block 11 (http://www.sacredheartofjesusbook.com/illustration39.html).
For an unforgettable story, read Hope is the Last to Die, the exceptionally hard-to-believe true tale of Halina Birenbaum, a Polish Jew who survived four concentration camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau. Luck, or fate, saved on many occasions, probably the most amazing of which was when she was herded with many other women into the gas chamber at Majdanek. They spent all night there, imagining at every moment that their lives were about to end; but next morning they were herded back into the camp, because the executioners had run out of poison gas!
Forgiving Dr. Mengele is a documentary on Eva Mozes Kor, who was transported with her family from Romania to Auschwitz in 1944, and with her sister Miriam became one of the 1500 sets of twins experimented upon by Dr. Josef Mengele. Though the sisters survived, Miriam later died from the effects of the abuse. Eva hasn’t forgotten, but she has forgiven; in her words: “The victim remains a victim as long as the perpetrator has power of the victim’s life. If the Nazis will not ask for forgiveness, or if they are dead, should I remain a victim for the rest of my life?”
Though she was imprisoned in the concentration camp at Theresienstadt, forgiveness is also the policy adopted by Alice Herz-Sommer, who survived by played the piano there:
Alice turns 107 in November 2010; happy birthday Alice!