Simon Quotes in The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness
It is impossible to believe anything in a world that has ceased to regard man as man, which repeatedly “proves” that one is no longer a man.
One really begins to think that God is on leave. Otherwise the present state of things wouldn’t be possible […] What the old woman had said in no way shocked me, she had simply stated what I had long felt to be true.
For me there would be no sunflower. I would be buried in a mass grave, where corpses would be piled on top of me. No sunflower would ever bring light into my darkness, and no butterflies would dance above my dreadful tomb.
Although the Radicals formed a mere 20 percent of the students, this minority reigned because of the cowardice and laziness of the majority.
“Look,” he said, “those Jews died quickly, they did not suffer as I do—though they were not as guilty as I am.”
I asked myself if it was only the Nazis who had persecuted us. Was it not just as wicked for people to look on quietly and without protest at human beings enduring such shocking humiliation? But in their eyes were we human beings at all?
“Why,” I asked, “is there no general law of guilt and expiation? Has every religion its own ethics, its own answers?”
Even if Wiesenthal believed that he was empowered to grant a pardon in the name of the murdered masses, such an act of mercy would have been a kind of betrayal and repudiation of the memory of millions of innocent victims who were unjustly murdered, among them, the members of his family.
By holding his hand Simon was being present and being human. Though holding his hand repulsed him after more of the horror story was revealed, still he stayed in the room and listened. Listening was his gift; listening was his act of compassion.
Forgiveness is the imitation of God. Punishment too is an imitation of God. God punishes and forgives, in that order. But God never hates. That is the moral value worth striving for, but perhaps unattainable.
Can we aspire to be as forgiving of each other as God is of us?
Of course, the sin here is monumental. It is still finite and God's mercy is infinite.
If asked to forgive, by anyone for anything, I would forgive because God would forgive.
By our silence, perhaps we acknowledge as much; we own up to our humanness. We concede that we are not gods and that we lack, as much as we might be loath to admit it, the capacity to provide understanding and assurance for every inexplicable moment in life.
We are not contemplating an action in the present, but the place of a past action in our memory. What can we do with evil in the past, how can we put it to use in the service of our moral education?