On Human Suffering

I managed to read two books this week because I deleted instagram from my phone. Instagram is highly addictive because it contains all sorts of high quality imagery as well as lets you know via short videos what your friends and ‘influencers’ are up to.

I used to use it for fashion inspiration and also to see what nice pictures my friends took on their out-and-abouts, but now my feed is all full of parenting, education and food ‘inspiration’. I must say I have learnt a lot about how to deal with my toddler by following the relevant experts and experienced mothers.

It helps when you’re isolated and can’t really share experiences with many mothers.

However, it is also a waste of time because you can end up scrolling your feed for 45 WHOLE MINUTES after your bubba has gone to bed and not realise the time.

‘That’s it,’ I said firmly last Monday, ‘THAT IS IT. I’m done with this sodding app.’

And because I suddenly had pockets of time free from scrolling, when I picked up my phone I went to the ‘books’ section to see what I’d left to dwindle.

And I found I had two books in there at 0%.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christie Lefteri, and The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.

I know. Deep and heavy subject matter. But I delved in.

I started with The Beekeeper of Aleppo, purely because it was the first option in my library. It read like a sad, haunting poem. The imagery in this book was beautiful. The story was heartbreaking and you really felt like you were in the characters’ shoes. Christie Lefteri is the daughter of Cypriot refugees, and she was brought up in London. And, speaking as someone with Arab blood, I could very much tell that her portrayal of Syrians, their food and their way of life, even the words they used and how they spoke to each other, was very much through an overly romanticised western lens. This bothered me a little, but the story was so well-written that I was completely hooked throughout. Christie Lefteri did a beautiful job portraying the lives of people who are so often vilified in today’s media, and for that alone she deserves five stars. Most people like the Ibrahim family in this book will certainly not have the happy ending they did, but I think more than anything this story was meant to humanise refugees, and show that if they had any other choice, they would not be making these devastating decisions. I couldn’t stop thinking about this book and it haunted me for days afterwards. The author based this story on a collection of true stories she had heard from the mouths of refugees during her time as a volunteer at several refugee camps.

I then moved on to The Tattooist of Auschwitz. It was written well, certainly, but after Christie Lefteri’s haunting writing, this one felt a little monotonous. Like I was reading a screenplay. Throughout the entire book I never knew how the characters really felt, it was like I was being held at arms length by the author. If you overlook that, and just read the book for the sake of the plot (which is based on a true story), then you begin to really feel the story. And there are parts which are absolutely horrifying and I wish I never read, but know that it was a must to know these things. Because these things are happening again to many people around the world, and they always say ‘We will never forget the holocaust’ but they did forget it. Because humans are still suffering in horrible ways today, at the hands of evil regimes, for their religion! I was hooked on this book, I both dreaded each new page and anticipated it.

Reading two books so close to one another, both of which detail human suffering in such explicit ways makes me grateful, so grateful, that I live in ‘peace’. I have a home that isn’t bombed to a shell, my son is not lying dead in my arms with unseeing eyes. My family are not being gassed in chambers or taken away to evil camps. My siblings are squabbling peacefully and my mother is ranting about my sister’s shoes in the hallway. We are going through hard times, for sure. People are losing their jobs, dying, losing loved ones. But opening my eyes to this sort of suffering makes me realise that sometimes I complain too much, and it’s much better to count one’s blessings.

And delete instagram and read real books.

24 out of my 25 books for 2020. I think I am doing quite well.

8 thoughts on “On Human Suffering

  1. It’s amazing how much time we can waste on apps. For me, it’s mindless games. And the world of books gets passed by. You wrote such a beautiful reviews of both of these books, Lenora. I’ve been avoiding the sadness and suffering though I’ve heard they are wonderful and important reads. I just get so deeply immersed in this kind of story that sometimes I can’t bear it. But you’re right that these are must-reads, because human suffering continues today and the world needs more compassion. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true, Diana. My sister too plays mindless games all day, she is studying for a degree and she says she has to hide her phone away from herself in order to get any work done! In response to your avoiding sadness and suffering, I say it’s much needed sometimes. There is so so much going on in the world and to try to think about it all is not good for humanity or for your brain. I don’t think humans were designed to process so much heavy information in such a short span of time. I think it’s important to know these things, but equally as important to find a balance where you’re not entirely consumed by it and do what you can. I wish you all the very best Diana ❤ You have a good heart.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very impressive, all the reading you’ve done, and getting through two hard ones in a row has to take an emotional toll. Completely agree with your take on the time wasting apps. A bit of mindless fun is great, but it’s too easy to take it to extremes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It certainly does take an emotional toll. It might be a good idea to lay off the heavy subject matter for a while now lol. The problem with these apps is that the designers use humans as a commodity, so they use psychological measures to ensure we remain addicted. It’s a vicious cycle, and not good for the generation of young people growing up not knowing any different. Ah well. We shall see where the world takes us.

      Liked by 1 person

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