Explorations of Value
by Thomas Magnell, editor
The essay worth reading in here is “The Photograph on My Mind” by Robert Ginsberg, the moralist’s equivalent of a motivational speech. Research suggests that isolated exhortation has little affect on individuals, but what the hell.
The photograph Ginsberg ponders features a man who tried to escape a Nazi prison barracks as Americans were about to liberate it. The Germans torched the building, and the man died just as he was squeezing out from under a portion of the building, perhaps from burns or smoke inhalation.
Ginsberg marvels that this man who spent months or years in a prison struggling to survive—and make no mistake, life in a Nazi prison was a constant struggle to survive, not an idle wasting away as some imagine—had the strength to struggle for freedom. He did not accept the flames. Yet he died ever so close to freedom. With a few slight changes in the universe, he would have lived—or never been a prisoner. The prisoner did not give in to what others wanted. He might have said, “I’m getting me the fuck outa here. I’ve got too much to live for.”
Speculating on what the prisoner would have done with his life had he a little more oxygen, Ginsberg is confident the prisoner would have celebrated life and lived it to the fullest. With a few cosmic coincidences, we could have been a prisoner. How lucky we are. How lucky that some have fought for the justice that gives birth to our freedoms.
A couple of the essays in here deliver blather about Silence of the Lambs and Dances with Wolves, but I do not remember what they said, and I don’t care to remember. Worth browsing.
—Book review article by J.T. Fournier, last updated June 29, 2009