3:30 am

Author: angiem, 09 18th, 2011

I haven’t been feeling all that great the last several weeks, dead tired by nine, fast asleep by ten, and wide awake at three. The world is quite different at three in the morning. Every sound magnified, every shadow lengthened. I make my rounds in the dark, check on sleepy heads, careful not to trip over blankets dragging on the floor. In the kitchen I turn on the lamp, settle myself in the big chair and reach for my journal or laptop. Journal usually wins. Because blogging at three in the morning isn’t always wise.

But right now, I feel like blogging, because after dinner last night I picked up Night by Elie Weisel, thinking I’d read a chapter before sleep, and an hour and a half later, I finished the book, tearful and exhausted. There was so much I wanted to say, and don’t know if I’ll remember it all, but all I could manage then was a good cry over all the suffering that goes on in the world. I was so tired, I fell asleep before I even wiped my tears away.

For the last five hours I’ve dreamt only of stifling hot cattle cars and of digging in the cellar for my family’s treasures, my mouth clamped shut over my gold-crowned teeth, afraid the evil dentist was somewhere in the darkness, ready to yank the gold out. It seemed so real! I awoke relieved it was a dream, and that I had no gold anywhere in my mouth.

When I was twelve and reading The Diary of Anne Frank, the pastor at my church - whose daughter was my age and probably reading the same book with her seventh grade class - said that the Holocaust was God punishing the Jews for crucifying Jesus. What shocks me now is that I wasn’t shocked then. I remember that Sunday, the slant of the sun coming in through the windows, the heads in the audience nodding in agreement. All those nodding heads, lacking their own method of reasoning, believing what they were told without question.  Just like me, afraid to challenge what I heard lest I lose friends or I become confused.

When I see how strong the need is to be liked and popular and when I see how much effort it takes to think for oneself, I am not surprised how idly we stand by, how we distance ourselves from the suffering of those different than we are, and how quickly we find reasons to defend our apathy. It’s tragic and I hate it. And I realize that as a mother my role is to teach my children HOW to think, and not WHAT to think. Because there will be plenty of people to tell them that.


21 Responses to “3:30 am”

  1. Corinne Says:

    “And I realize that as a mother my role is to teach my children HOW to think, and not WHAT to think.”
    Yes. That is the most difficult thing to remember, but oh so true.
    I remember reading Anne Frank, and I was so drawn into the history of the time, and the devastation made me literally sick at times. And Night…. what a powerful, powerful read.

  2. Kathy Says:

    I read both those books and feel the same way…
    I agree it’s important to teach our children how to think rather than what to think. Giving them the confidence to speak out against is tough but important…skill.

    I hope you get back to your regular sleep patterns….try warm milk.

  3. Mary Moon Says:

    That was beautiful, Angie. And I am not sure whether I am blessed or cursed but whenever anyone of authority makes a statement, my mind immediately leaps to question it. That is how I am wired. I am so glad that you escaped the mindset you were supposed to follow. It is not as easy and sometimes it’s harder to sleep, but it is the human right to think for oneself. I wish more people did it.

  4. Susan Says:

    I am sorry you were awake so late but I’m glad you wrote this. There is a lot of cruelty happening right now (some of it in the name of religion), as well.

    In our own country, I am reminded of recent cheering for the death penalty & the thought of an ill person dying from lack of health insurance. (The GOP debates)

    People often wonder what sorts were in the crowds cheering the guillotine’s work in France. Who went to the Roman Coliseum to see lions eat Christians? Those sorts of people.


    On that awful note, xoxo to you, Angie.

  5. Ava Says:

    A powerful piece of writing. Very few parents teach their kids how to think. They prefer to teach them what to think. It’s a vicious circle…. our human history. We wonder how the holocaust could’ve happened in this day and age. It’s because we don’t know how to think only what to think. That’s why it’s easy to separate ourselves from those persecuted. We try to justify what happens to them with what we were told.

  6. Char Says:

    Interesting what pops in our heads in the middle of the night. You made a great point with wanting to teach your children how to think not what to think. It’s very rare these days, most often children spew whatever it is they hear in their homes.
    Great writing!

  7. Francesca Says:

    Sorry about your insomnia, Angie - I hope you find a way to sleep better. History and our human nature have many dark sides - we need to teach our children the history of human actions and thinking, as well as how to think.

  8. Ange Says:

    What a wonderful post Angie. Have spent a week in Wales meditating on just that theme. Funnily enough, we’ve come back to just that very discussion with the messmonsters. Fabulous reminder dearie :) Hope you sleep better tonight.

  9. Susan Tiner Says:

    Angie, you have a beautiful open mind and a full heart. Your children are blessed.

    Thank you for this post. I read Night years ago and also wept.

    Why doesn’t insomnia always wake us up at 3:00 am?

  10. Elisabeth Stewart Says:

    Love this line – “…as a mother my role is to teach my children HOW to think, and not WHAT to think. Because there will be plenty of people to tell them that.”
    You are right on the mark.

    I hope you feel better…

  11. Anya Says:

    Diary of Anne Frank” was a life changing book for me when I was 14. I do understand how you feel about looking back at your reaction at your Pastor’s words - they are shoking to my ear. I think that, ultimately, it takes a very strong, well educated, well read person to stand on its own when it comes to very sensitive issues. It is much easier for most to just submit to the general opinion . It is shoking to me now looking back to remeber how enthusiastic I was about being born in a Soviet country, how much I hated Western world - I was a child and my mind was shaped by very powerful propaganda machine of that time. But it doesn’t really change anything for me. I still think I could have somehow see what was going on around….
    Sweety, you need to get some rest. If little vcation is impossible right now, maybe try to take a day out of the week just for yourself It always works for me :-)

  12. Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita Says:

    I’ve been off the last few weeks too, so I sympathize. I had two great nights sleep, and then off again. Hope we’re both back to right as rain soon! And your words about teaching your children how to think - beautiful! Don’t beat yourself up for the 12 year old you not knowing better at the time. This was someone in authority you were taught to respect. The important thing is you grew, you learned, and you will never espouse that view yourself.

  13. Christie Says:

    Another profound post. I absolutely love the perspective you bring, so true that we need to teach our children how to think, not what to think.
    My grandmother often speaks of The Diary of Anne Frank; Grandma was the same age as Anne at the same time, only living a completely different life in the U.S.
    Crazy what mankind can do when we don’t think for ourselves.

  14. Julie Says:

    Beautiful Angie
    I can’t read a book or watch a movie re the holocaust without weeping either.. [I must get this book you mentioned]

    It’s hard for me to even discuss sometimes.. I don’t know where this pain comes from other than just common sense to feel horrified at the senseless destruction of lives…

    Although as you say.. as a child we can be influenced to think some things are acceptable.. or to want to fit in with the thinking of others.. When my niece was 12 I realised she didn’t know what the holocaust was!! Seems incredible.. I think this was before the movie ‘Schindler’s List’ which introduced a new generation to the issue.. I lent her my copy of Anne Frank’s Diary as it seems important to me to ensure every generation to come is aware..

    Change of subject..Did I miss your birthday??? Hope it was fabulous and that this coming year brings only the best of everything into your world..

    ciao ciao xxx Julie

    PS thanks for sweet comments my way..

  15. Mrsbear Says:

    You are as brilliant, thoughtful and compassionate at 3 am as you are at any other hour. You’re absolutely right. I wonder sometimes too if as a group, humanity is any wiser overall now. Some of the things we are still capable of…

    You should get some rest though.

  16. Susu Paris Chic Says:

    Yes how to think… and the rest shall follow. Being bold enough to think freely. To seek for what is the best. For us and for others. Only if we feel fulfilled can be reach out.

    Love your morning pondering. Sweets!

  17. laura Says:

    Hello, my friend, how wonderful to see your name in my inbox not too long ago and see your thoughts here. I am so far behind on life that I am giving up my expectations! But I am happy today and that is something.

    The wee hours do strange things to my thoughts too–especially when keeping company with a book that moves. Sounds like you found one, difficult as it was. I haven’t read that one, but may have to pick it up based on your deep reaction.

    The world is full of tragedy. Your words make me think of that thing Ghandi said: Be the change you want to see in the world.

    I guess this is the first step to making a difference.

    So much love to you.

  18. pamela Says:

    Such heavy thoughts for such a late hour. But then, they always seem to visit us then, don’t they?

    As important as they are, try to take a break and read Wind in the Willows before bedtime for a few nights!

    And I hope you’re feeling better!

  19. Maggie May Says:

    I re-read Night recently because my son was reading it at school, and had the same thoughts as you, Angie.


  20. Jeanne Says:

    Well said Angie. I have not read ‘Night’ yet but remember very similar experiences. When I was a teenager of, my best freind moved to town. I did not know it at the time. She was Jewish and I could not have cared less all I knew is that she was funny, loved the colour purple, like the same music and was looking for a friend. I held out my hand and have never looked back. We are both 54 and for my birthday she sent me her favourite CD… Lucy Kaplansky..so nice that some things never change. I guess my story is a bit different but at the time, I was hurt by what people were saying and made a point to shield her from it.

    Thank you Angie…I have not thought about those early days for a very long time. I am off to write my friend a postcard…thinking of her, thru you. :)

    Thinking of you too Angie. xx

    Jeanne xx

  21. krista Says:

    i worry so much about how my kids will handle the pressure. because i know i caved on more than one occasion. i wasn’t the one who stood up for other kids getting picked on. i didn’t want to stand out that much, lest i be the one to get the negative attention. i hope my kids are so so different.

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