Evan Marczynski/The AS Review
Do you prefer your glass half empty or half full? I have never liked questions like this. The questions that try to judge whether or not you are one of those folks who always looks on the bright side of life, or one of those seething, sardonic cynics who never finds anything without a negative aspect to ridicule.
I never like these kinds of questions because although optimism and pessimism play large roles in daily life, I am never able to truly classify someone as just an optimist or pessimist. People are just not made that way and shades of both positive and negative outlooks on life show up in everyone.
These thoughts have been circling my mind ever since I heard Noemi Ban, a Holocaust survivor, speak last week here on campus.
I have listened to Noemi tell her story before, so what she had to say was not particularly new to me. What was surprising was how hearing her speak again evoked entirely new thoughts and emotions in me, particularly ones that hadn’t crossed my mind the first time I heard her speak.
There was one moment during her story that has been ingrained in my mind. Noemi—with all of her charm, wisdom and grace—talked about how people were always so surprised that she was able to live through the most horrific, unimaginable depths of human hatred and yet come out of it all with a desire to still live life, the most important thing that had been stolen from so many of the others that went into the death camps with her.
She said the reason she was able to move on after so much hardship was the fact that as long as she was alive, there would always be hope.
I do not believe I have ever heard a more honest, thoughtful and amazing case made for optimists everywhere. It was astonishing. I hear people make deeply interesting points all the time, but it is so rare to hear someone say something that is just so undeniably true.
One thing I have learned since leaving home after high school is that life can be scary. There is never a day that goes by where I do not feel doubt, pressure, lack of interest, lack of fulfillment and so many other pessimistic attitudes and emotions. I have always wondered why it seems so easy to get swallowed by negativity and why it is so hard to pick yourself up after a bad day.
The truth I have come to realize is that there is no answer to why life works that way. It is just how things are.
I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to hear Noemi tell her story once again and share her outlook on life, history, family and overcoming hardship. Human beings are capable of surviving even the most shocking forms of injustice, and Noemi is living proof.
Of course there were many different things others probably took away from hearing her that night. Things such as the importance of preserving living history, of ensuring the stories of people who have lived through humanity’s most trying times or understanding that racism and intolerance can be unimaginably devastating when allowed to be carried to their most gruesome ends.
However, I will always remember this about Noemi’s story: love will always defeat hate, hope will always defeat despair and a glass half full looks so much better than one half empty.