A Break

After blogging for over five years, it is time to take an extended break. I’m not sure when I’ll return. In the meantime, thank you for reading and for responding.

Blogging continues to be an unusual experience for me, sometimes surprising, sometimes illuminating. I hope you’ve learned a little something along the way; I certainly have.



“If I knew I had to go through these experiences again, I’d kill myself.” Louis Zamperini

In Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand unfolds the astonishing life of Louis Zamperini. You may not believe what I say about her account, but I have not distorted or imagined anything. Still my summary is nothing like the experiences Zamperini endured.

Louis Zamperni was a rambunctious kid who grew up in Torrance, California, where he broke into homes, robbed merchants, and had a great knack at getting into trouble. But he was never jailed, was usually successful, and must have learned then that he could do just about anything.

It was his older brother who finally found a way to channel his energy by means of long distance running, a mile and beyond. Apparently Zamperini took to the sport at once, he had a long stride, and a tremendous kick at the end of a race.

He qualified for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, finished 8th in the 5,000 meter race and caught the eye of Hitler who came up to congratulate him after his record-breaking time in the last lap. Hillenbrand suggests he did not do better because he overate to the extreme on the long ship ride over the Atlantic and was terribly out of shape by the time he arrived in Berlin.

When the war broke out, he enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed in Hawaii. In May of 1943, the B-24 that he was flying went down on a search mission over the Pacific. Eight of his crew were killed, he and 2 others survived, one of whom eventually died on the raft they were drifting in.

They floated over 2,000 miles for 47 days. That’s 47 long days and nights without much in the way of food or water. They managed to survive by catching rainwater and an occasional fish they were able to snatch from the sea. This itself was an unbelievable ordeal. But there is more.

The raft eventually drifted on to one of the Marshall Islands held by the Japanese, to the dismay of the two survivors. They were captured, subjected to the most brutal treatment imaginable, especially Zamperini who was well known to the camp commander through his running feats.

He endured over two years of daily, intense assaults, starvation, slave labor, dysentery, beriberi, respiratory diseases, and physical injuries delivered by a succession of sadistic guards.

According to Hillenbrand, “…of the 34,648 Americans held by Japan, 12,935—more than 37 percent—died. By comparison, only 1 percent of Americans held by the Nazis and Italians died.”

Not surprisingly, after the Japanese surrendered and Zamperini was discharged from the Air Force, nothing was ever the same. He tried running again, but the injuries he sustained in the camps made it clear that was impossible. He had nightmares, terrible flashbacks, anxieties, and bouts of alcoholism.

He married, was separated from his wife several times, and finally, at her instigation, attended a crusade led by Billy Graham. Hillenbrand ends her account with an upbeat tale of his new career as a born again Christian and inspirational speaker.

I simply cannot comprehend how Louis Zamperini survived the ordeals he experienced during World War II, first the month and a half on the raft floating in the Pacific and then the years of torture in the Japanese prisoner of war camps.

Hillenbrand attributes his endurance to those early years in Torrance. Zamperini is currently 93 and lives in Hollywood. He has received numerous awards, honorary degrees, and made television appearances in this country, Europe, and Japan.

As she brings her account to a close, Hillenbrand writes: “When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him. He was not the worthless, broken, forsaken man that the Bird [the most brutal of the guards] had striven to make of him. In a single, silent moment, his rage, his fear, his humiliation and helplessness, had fallen away."


Shouting Won't Help

We hear as we breathe—effortlessly—until we can’t” Katherine Bouton

In her memoir, Shouting Won’t Help, Katherine Bouton writes that forty eight million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. You don’t have to be entirely deaf to have trouble hearing, especially in crowded, noisy situations.

Hearing speech is usually the most difficult problem for those with hearing loss. Bouton claims one in five people, across all age groups, has trouble understanding speech and many cannot hear certain sounds at all.

Hearing difficulties are known to outnumber vision problems by a sizable percentage. And the problem is exacerbated by the fact that hearing aids don’t work as well as glasses. In fact, by amplifying certain sounds, they sometimes make hearing worse.

Helen Keller considered her deafness to be a much more serious limitation than blindness. “…it means the loss of the most vital stimulus—the sound of the voice that brings language, sets thoughts astir and keeps us in the intellectual company of man.”

Bouton first became aware of her problem when she was only thirty while working as the editor for the Times Book Review and then later, at other departments at the Times. She couldn’t catch everything being said at the group meetings she attended and even in speaking one-on-one with a person in her office. She heard voices, was aware who was speaking, but didn’t hear the words they were saying.

As she got older, she heard less and less, “I had trouble at teacher’s conferences. One of the kids or my husband would fill me in. I missed most of what was said in school assemblies. I never heard a single graduation speech. There were times when my hearing loss was wrenching. I missed confidences, murmured fears, muttered anger. I never heard the backseat chatter and gossip between my children and their friends.”

Eventually she became bilaterally deaf, all the while hesitant to begin wearing hearing aids. They are expensive, for some unattractive, easy to misplace, and sometimes not particularly helpful. Eventually she began using them, but they didn’t improve her hearing a great deal.

To my delight she said email is the” best thing that’s ever happened” to those who have trouble hearing. She has received emails using voice-activated software that she might otherwise not have been able to hear on the phone.

She finally accepted a cochlear implant, in fact two of them, and they came with their own limitations, like trouble transmitting music very well. She took a lip reading course, studied body language, met with researchers, and then other audiologists. But she never did recover her hearing.

Despite my sophisticated devices, I still can’t hear well enough to follow a conversation except under optimum circumstances—one-on-one, facing each other, in a quiet place. I hear speech, but I often don’t understand it.”

Hearing loss affects friendships, family and professional lives. If you know anyone who has trouble hearing, you might want to tell them about Katherine Bouton’s book. It might help them to recognize a hearing problem that they have been denying or simply unaware of.


Happy Birthday Philip Roth

Last week Philip Roth celebrated his 80th birthday. A party was held, there was much writing about Roth and he spoke, quite memorably apparently, at the gala party held in his honor.

Here are some of my favorite links about Roth and the celebration.

Adam Gopnik suggests the occasion “doubles as a bon voyage party for the American writer’s occupation itself.”

At the Times Charles McGrath and Tammy La Gorce write about Roth’s hometown, Newark, and the events held during the week long celebration.

David Remnick describes the events surrounding the week-long even, the several speakers at the party and says that Roth’s talk was “the most astonishing literary performance I’ve ever witnessed.”

The literary critic James Wood calls Roth his “literary hero.”

Here is a preview of the forthcoming PBS American Masters video Philip Roth: Unmasked

Watch Philip Roth: Unmasked on PBS. See more from American Masters.


The End of Your Life Bookclub

In 1970 Mary Ann Schwalbe learned she had a fatal form of pancreatic cancer with only a few months left to live. She carried on her life for more two active years, as if nothing much had changed, years of chemotherapy and fully engaged on projects that often meant traveling abroad.

She was a person of remarkable courage, a life long reader, and an advocate of refugees in Asia and Africa. Her son, Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club, describes her final years, the books they read together, often while she was undergoing long hours of chemo, and the organizations she either founded or supported.

That’s one of the things books do. They help us talk. But they also give us something we all can talk about when we don’t want to talk about ourselves.”

He recounts her early work as a casting agent, then director of admissions at both Radcliffe and Harvard and, after moving to New York, her role in directing the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children that took her to Afghanistan, Liberia and Sudan. And in her final months she devoted all her dwindling energy to raising money for a traveling library in Kabul.

“It’s been eighteen months of chemo: of mouth sores, swollen feet, nausea, headaches, weight loss, lack of energy, diarrhea, constipation, cramps, and fevers, and hours in doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, and hospitals. And it’s been thousands of dollars of her own money and tens of thousands of dollars of Medicare.”

Through it all they kept reading and discussing the issues the books raised—Marjorie Morning Star, The Lizard Cage, Suite Francaise, The Last Lecture, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, etc.

“The Elegance of the Hedgehog is, in many ways, a book about books (and films): what they can teach us, and how they can open up worlds. But it’s really, like most great books, about people—and the connections they make, how they save one another and themselves.”

As the book club draws to a close, Schwalbe writes, “Mom taught me not to look away from the worst but to believe that we can all do better. She never wavered in her conviction that books are the most powerful tool in the human arsenal, that reading all kinds of books, in whatever format you choose—electronic (even though it wasn’t for her) or print, or audio—is the grandest entertainment, and also is how you take part in the human conversation.”

Their times together and the books they discussed forged a new relationship between them. It was not unlike the relationship I had with my mother in her final years. While she wasn’t seriously ill, we also formed a book group of two then. Every Sunday we’d talk on the phone about the books we had been reading and what they meant to each of us.

The End of Your Life Book Club is written with heartache and affection. “Even though nearly two years have passed since her death, I’m occasionally struck by the desire to call Mom and tell her something—usually about a book I’m reading that I know she’d love.”


Like Someone in Love

In Abbas Kiarostami’s latest film, Like Someone in Love, much of what happens, and it isn’t a great deal, is seen through mirrors and glass. The film opens with a long scene in a Tokyo bar where we often view a character through a faded reflection in a door window.

The scene shifts to a taxi where a young college student, Akiko, is being driven to an aging scholar who is her client. She is a call girl trying to earn money to pay for her college education. At least, that is what we are told.

We view her through the car window, the small rear window inside the car, and then the one outside on the door. She is sitting quietly and then tearfully in the back seat listening to the voice mail messages from her grandmother who has come to Tokyo to see her. She tells Akiko that she will be waiting for her next to a statue outside the train station.

The taxi circles the station once, but a small truck blocks the view from the rear-door window. She asks the driver to circle again. This time we glimpse her grandmother, or what we assume to be her grandmother, again through the rear-door window

Akiko arrives at the book-lined apartment of the elderly scholar who says his name is Takashi. She begins looking over the photos, covered in glass frames, of Takashi’s family. They talk for a short while. It is the only time in the film that Akiko becomes the least bit animated.

She claims to be tired and I imagine she has had many sleepless nights arguing with her boyfriend, who claims she is his fiancĂ©. She says she isn’t hungry, doesn’t care for the shrimp soup Takashi has prepared for their meal, and repairs to the bedroom. She throws off her clothes and gets into bed. The ensuing conversation between Takashi and Akiko is viewed through a clouded mirror.

The next day he drives her to school. Once again there is a long scene in a car. After she is dropped off, we view an argument between Akiko and her so so-called boyfriend, Noriaki, from the car.

Akiko breaks away, heads into the building, whereupon the jealous Noriaki comes down to the car to confront Takashi. He is invited into the car and the two begin a friendly conversation, as Takashi lets the young man think he is Akiko’s grandfather.

There is another long drive as Takashi drives Noriaki to work, followed by another, when Takashi returns to rescue Akiko who has fought again with Noriaki. They return to his apartment and the film abruptly ends with yet another scene in which a glass object plays a critical role.

It was only later that I began to understand what Kiarostami is suggesting or might be suggesting, by viewing these individuals and presumably their inner life, from the reflections in the various glass objects that appear so often in the film.

We stand before ourselves in mirrors, we glimpse others through the mirrors they choose to reflect. But rarely do we see beyond the appearances. I am reminded of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in The Republic.

Socrates describes a group of prisoners in a cave who can only observe the shadows cast by the objects passing by outside. Socrates means to suggest that the shadows do not constitute reality, but that is all we are able to glimpse, never the “true form of reality” itself.

There is much deception and evasiveness in Like Someone in Love. Nothing is what we are told or what we are able to see. It is the same theme depicted in Kiarostami’s previous film, Certified Copy, which also spends a fair amount of time in a car, this time driving around Tuscany.

We’re all standing at the windows of our selves and others, glimpsing what we can, and only speculating about the rest, a highly risky endeavor that often ends disagreeably and with considerable misunderstanding.


Small Courtesies

Every once in a while I send an email to one of my children or grandchildren. I rarely get a reply. Sometimes it is in response to a question they ask me. I try to answer it in an email and I wait in vain for a thank you.

On special occasions, we send a gift. With increasing frequency, we never receive a thank you note, email, phone call, or text message

I am disappointed when this happens. I ask myself is this reasonable? I am bothered by it. Is there anything more unsettling than being ignored, especially by someone you love?

Now I learn that I am out of fashion, that current email etiquette does not require a thank you or acknowledgement.

In the Times Nick Bilton writes, “Of course, some people might think me the rude one for not appreciating life’s little courtesies. But many social norms just don’t make sense to people drowning in digital communication.” I utter a profanity.

If I was speaking in person to someone and they didn’t reply to a question I asked or a remark in our ongoing conversation, it would feel rather strange, to say the least. Yet the rudeness of such silence would be unmistakable.

I am sure I’d get a reply if we were texting each other or speaking on the phone. But not necessarily in an email.

Bilton quotes Baratunde Thurston, a co-founder of something called a “comedic creative company.” “It’s almost too easy to not think before we express ourselves because expression is so cheap, yet it often costs the receiver more.” Again, I utter a profanity.

I know I am older than these people and that I come from a tradition that both expects and appreciates a thank you note, regardless of how it is delivered. I do not understand or welcome the new era of digital silence.

I see people on the street, in restaurants, and elevators staring at the screen on their cell phone, usually hitting the keys with their thumbs. Sometimes, their thumbs are moving as fast as the speed of light. It almost seems that this gadget has become attached to their body.

A teacher describes a short seminar she will be teaching. She plans to give the students a few pre-assignments: one is to take a walk, observe what they see around them, but without taking their cell phones. To that I say, “fantastic.”

What an experience that will be, the trauma of a few minutes of solitude without that part of their body, as if they were leaving one of their feet at home before heading out for a walk.

The teacher says, “I am very sure—that asking them to spend half an hour without a cell phone is like asking them to take their clothes off. No cell phones, no cup of coffee—just take a solitary walk.”

I think this teacher deserves the Teacher of the Year award. And I wonder how the students will get by. Will they begin suffering from a new form of traumatic stress disorder? Or need to repair to their psychiatrist before the half hour walk ends?

However, I doubt this exercise will teach them the lost art of saying thank you when they receive a gift or a thoughtful email. I have no idea what it will take to do that?



It begins with flashing lights. Always on the left side of my field of vision. I can’t read. I can’t see clearly. I rub close my eyes. If I can get to the Tylenol, I take a couple. And if possible, I lie down. The lights flash across my forehead, so to speak, from left to right. In a half hour they are gone. And I can see again. Afterwards, I have a headache, sometimes mild, sometimes a little stronger.

The episodes were increasing, from maybe once or twice at most a year, to a recent series of four of them. One night I had such a pain in my head, I woke up, turned over and then it went away. Lately I have a low-grade headache that comes and goes during the day, never strong enough to require Tylenol, however.

What is going on? I go to the doctor to find out. He tells me we better have a look. I go to the MRI lab. I read about the procedure. “Our unique Philips Gemini GXL PET/CT system has both PET and multi-slice CT components….” “…multi-slice…?” Good grief, did I bargain for this?

What is PET? I read on. “PET (Positron Emission Tomography) is a powerful diagnostic tool…” I’m sure. What is CT? “CT stands for Computed Tomography.”  I am convinced. “CT is non-invasive, painless and relatively fast.” I remain hopeful.

I am laid out flat, inserted into a cylinder and then the music begins—bam, bam, bam; boom, boom, boom, drilling and more drilling, beep, beep, beep, drum rolls, squeaks, rat-ta-tat tats—again and again in progressive waves for forty five minutes.

Before it begins I am asked if I want to watch TV. Sure I say. So there I lay watching CNN and they are blasting my head with this Schoenberg. How am I expected to hear Wolf Blitzer when they are pounding my head with Arnold Schoenberg?

I am told it is over. They hand me a CD of the results. I say, what is this for? So you can see the images. What will I be able to make of them? Well, you can take it to another physician one day if you need to. I know that is something I am going to have to do for the rest of my life anyway.

I go to the doctor. The report has arrived. There is no evidence of any “cerebellopontine angle lesion, although “mastoid disease is present and possible medial temporal lobe atrophy.” There is also a “mild vertebrobasilar dolichoectasia with slight chronic indentation of the ventral margin of the pons in the right paramedian location by the basilar artery.”

I am thrilled by the news, although can’t make heads or tails of it. It is suggested that I take some Tylenol. No more flashing lights, no more headaches. The wonders of placebos.


Henri Cole's Paris Diary

I’ve been reading Henri Cole’s “Street of the Iron Po(e)t” installments on the New Yorker Website. To date there have been five and I imagine they will form the basis of his Paris Diary, whenever he completes it.

When I began reading them, I had no idea who Henri Cole was. I’ve subsequently learned he is a poet, one time executive director of the American Society of Poets who has held many teaching positions, published several collections of poetry, and received a good many awards and honors.

In his first installment he explains that his little apartment is Paris is located on the Street of the Iron Pot (rue Pot de Fer) which he renamed the Street of the Iron Poet—the title of his daily experiences in the city.

The matters he treats range from ordinary chores of going out and about, the parks he visits and the literary luminaries he spends time with.

“I had to clean [his apartment] for many days before I felt comfortable, but now it is home.” “Today I received a flu shot.” “Today I visited the cenotaph to Baudelaire.”

He visits the bookstores of his Latin Quarter neighborhood, the bars and the cinemas that he says have the feel of a village. His words read like prose poems and he intersperses them with photographs he took along the way. He writes about his parents, his mother a first generation French woman whose parents emigrated from Armenia. She met his father in Marseille, who was an American soldier. He includes a photo of the family of three.

He recalls a poem, “Quai d’Orleans” by Elizabeth Bishop, that is set on the Seine, quotes the poem, and includes a photograph, (or is it a painting?) of the bridge. Another day he encounters fifteen horses marching down the avenue.

“I heard the horses’ hooves striking the pavement long before they were visible, and when they stopped at an intersection, those of us on the sidewalk, and in cars and on motorcycles, couldn’t help but pause and admire them, smiling as the wind played with their brushed tails.”

One night he has dinner with a friend who is the biographer of Picasso and Giacometti. The next day he meets with his translator. He visits the Jardin des Plantes and I recall an afternoon I spent there not long ago.

“Walking along the Seine today, I found a monument to Thomas Jefferson, who first sailed to Paris in 1784, to negotiate with European powers. Later, taking a carriage drawn by horses, he traveled south, to Aix-en-Provence, as a private citizen without servants, because he believed that when one travelled alone one reflected more.”

What a pleasure it is to read Cole’s account of his activities from one day to the next. He writes beautifully and gives me a chance to recall those times I too have lived in the same neighborhood of Paris, walked down those same streets, and strolled about the same parks.

I wait for the next installment. Perhaps you’d also like to read those he has published so far? Visit this page for first five.



…you don't need to have had known or reported concussions to develop this brain disease. [chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)]. It really shows us that those multiple, repetitive sub-concussive blows to the head that are experienced by so many athletes in many different sports can bring on the beginnings of this disease."
Dr Robert Stern

A while ago, Malcolm Gladwell gave a public lecture at the University of Pennsylvania on the subject of “proof.” He asked: What do we need to know about the harmfulness of college and professional football before we take action? That may range from complete banning of the game to somehow taking steps to reduce the likelihood of injury, especially to the brain.

Gladwell began by discussing the very lengthy time it took for society to do something about the seriousness of black-lung disease among miners. Then he moved on to the matter of recent deaths that have occurred among football players

Not surprisingly what counts as proof for Gladwell are examples of players who have died as a result of brain injuries incurred during their playing days. It doesn’t take more than a very small number, perhaps only one, for Gladwell to “prove” the harmfulness of the game.

And then, in the light of that evidence, to take action, not waiting for more evidence, more deaths and if so how many. Rather doing something now to insure it will not happen again.

He pointed to the hazards of this hard-hitting game by citing several examples of players who had committed suicide and where autopsies of their brain discovered a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

They included Junior Seau who had played in the NFL for 20 years, Dave Duerson, Terry Long and Andre Waters who shot themselves to death, and the linebacker Jovan Belcher who killed his girl friend and then himself.

According to Liz Neporent, “Of the 34 former NFL players who have died and donated their brains to research, the percentage of them who have pathologically confirmed CTE is staggering – over 90 percent, a 2009 University of Michigan report found.”

And before an audience of Penn students, Gladwell brought up the case of 21-year-old Penn college football player Owen Thomas who committed suicide and whose autopsy indicated he had mild stages of the same type of brain damage seen in athletics who have played much longer.

These occurred in spite of continuing improvements in the design of helmets and modifications in the rules of the game to reduce these risks. But players today are bigger, stronger and faster than they used to be.

Gladwell confined his remarks to football. But what about all those other rough and tumble sports—hockey, rugby, wrestling and boxing, where the likelihood of major brain injury is just as likely?

In his lecture he argued forcefully for the complete elimination of the “brutal” game of football. “Brutal” because of the cumulative effects of blows to the head that almost all football players experience.

He argued that football has no place in colleges or university settings where something called an education is supposed to be occurring. (At Reed College, where I taught for many years, there was no football team. But “Ultimate Frisbee” was wildly popular.) In Gladwell’s view, the enormous financial benefit to the institution from all those well-healed alumni is no justification for continuing to maintain a football team.

Gladwell is a cool and effective speaker. If you’re interested in this subject have a look:


Weekend Reading

You could say that the book club became our life, but it would be more accurate to say that our life became a book club.
Will Schwalbe

Over the weekend I began reading Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club. Schwalbe and his mother, who had advanced pancreatic cancer, that is almost always fatal, discuss the books they are reading. They exchange books, sometimes read together and share their hopes and concerns by means of literature. In a way they have created a book group for two, a group that I’ve been hoping to join for years.

Early on in the book Schwalbe recalls a poem by Auden called “Musee des Beaux Arts.”

Musee des Beaux Arts
About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Schwalbe says Auden wrote the poem in December 1938, just after Kristallnacht. Brueghel’s painting depicts Icarus falling into the sea while everyone else carries on with their daily affairs without the slightest concern for the drowning Icarus.

Kristallnacht was a series of attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and portions of Austria on the night of November 9, 1938. It is estimated 91 Jews were killed, thousands were arrested and Jewish homes, stores, buildings, synagogues and schools were attacked. Some were completely destroyed, others were partially burned, and windows were shattered in all of them. German authorities, police officers, and citizens in the communities where the attacks took place did nothing to stop the destruction or come to the aid of the Jewish citizens.

Some years later (1960) William Carlos Williams also wrote a poem in response to Brueghel’s “Landscape With The Fall of Icarus.” Quite different in structure and with greater concision, it also recognizes the world’s indifference to the tragedy of Icarus.

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring
a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry
of the year was
awake tingling
with itself
sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax
off the coast
there was
a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning


Stephane Hessel


Stephane Hessel died early this week. He was 95. I admired him greatly. Yet it was only two years ago that I first heard of him. This was true for most of the readers of his 2010 impassioned pamphlet Indignez Vous, later published in English as Time for Outrage. I wrote about Hessel soon after I read the book.

In an instant he captured a feeling, a belief that I had been harboring for years: Beliefs are not enough unless they are translated into action. Hessel wrote:

“The motivation that underlay the Resistance was outrage. We, the Veterans of the Resistance movements and fighting forces of Free France, call on the younger generations to revive and carry forward the tradition of the Resistance and its ideas. We say to you: take over, keep going, get angry.”

Hessel clearly believed that historical progress is made by successive challenges to injustices and that each individual is responsible for contributing to this task. The great challenges he feels most outraged against are the immense gap between the very poor and the very rich, “which never ceases to expand,” the gradual eroding of human rights and “the state of the planet.”

He felt passionately that “The worst possible outlook is indifference that says, “I can’t do anything about it: I’ll jut get by.” And throughout it seems that he is primarily addressing the young. “To the young, I say: look around you, you will find things that make you justifiably angry—the treatment of immigrants, illegal aliens and Roma. You will see concrete situations that provoke you to act as a real citizen. Seek and you shall find!”

In a talk to students at Columbia Hessel urged them to find their own personal outrage and then do something about it. “You will find something, and when you find it you must commit.” It is entirely too easy to do nothing. Hessel argues this is not a time for apathy, rather this is a time for outrage. “Never give up, never be indifferent.”

I write again about Hessel because of my own failures to act at various times in my life. It isn’t that I’ve been indifferent. Rather it’s that my beliefs, my convictions even when they were strong, were never followed by actions.

Hessel was of German Jewish ancestry and with his family moved to France in 1924. While serving in the French army in 1940, he was captured, sent to a POW camp, eventually escaped and joined de Gaulle’s band of Free French resistants.

The Gestapo captured him while serving in one of the resistance networks, sent him the Buchenwald and Dora concentration camps. He escaped from both. After the war he was a key figure in drafting the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

His short manifesto became a rallying cry to the Occupy Wall Street movement that has all but been forgotten about now. But surely this is just as much a time for outrage and active resistance as it was two years ago.

Hessel’s death reminds me, perhaps reminds everyone of the truths he so clearly enunciated.