A Reflection on Night, by Elie Wiesel: The Holocaust Reveals the Contradictory Nature of Human Beings


We human beings are paradoxes, bundles of contradictions, full of inconsistencies. We humans have mysterious inner selves; we have the inner, unseen faculty of choice, the invisible potential, the inner capacity, of choosing to do good or evil to other human beings.

We can be so wonderful,
yet we can be horrible,
evil beyond all words.
We can be so gentle,
yet we have the inner capacity to be violent,
destructive of all that is good and right and holy.
We can be so loving,
yet we can be hateful,
choosing to destroy the reputation of others,
even murdering the innocent,
even killing millions of innocent, defenseless people.
We can be so kind,
yet we have the inner potential to be cruel,
the most cruel animals on earth.
We can be so compassionate,
yet we can be unfeeling,
like a stone, piece of wood or clod of dirt.
We can be so passionate about correcting injustice,
determined to see that right be done and wrong be opposed and overthrown,
yet we have the capacity to be indifferent to the suffering and murder of innocent human beings.
We can be so beautiful,
yet we can be ugly,
unrecognizable as human beings.
We can ascend to the life of a “saint,”
yet we can descend to the behavior of a “demon,”
a creature from out of “hell.”

We humans can transcend or rise above ourselves in acts of unselfish love for and service of others; yet we have the capacity to sink below ourselves, acting in ways which are unworthy of the dignity of human persons. Of the two options, of doing good or evil, we humans choose which one shall be ours. That choice is always left up to us – to be living wonders or living nightmares. We choose what we are and shall be!

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