I was just reading “The Next Incarnation,” a recent profile of the Dalai Lama in The New Yorker, and this conversation between author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and His Holiness gave me pause.
One day in the late seventies, [the Dalai Lama] asked for a meeting with Elie Wiesel. According to Wiesel, the Dalai Lama said, “I’m familiar with your work, what you wrote about the Jewish people losing a homeland two thousand years ago and how you’re still here. Mine has just lost its homeland, and I know it’s going to be a very long road into exile. How did you survive?”
Wiesel replied, “When we left Jerusalem, we didn’t take all our jewels with us. All we took was a little book. It was the book that kept us alive. Second, because of our exile, we developed a sense of solidarity. When Jews left one place for the next, there were always Jews to welcome and take care of them. And, third, good memory. Survival takes a good memory.”
Reminds me of my grandparents and great-grandparents who were exiled from Sindh during partition and also just took three things with them — their religious texts and prayers (mostly from the Guru Granth Sahib), their diasporic connections, and their memories of the good things that were.
Words, community, and remembrance. Come to think of it, they are simple things we can all carry with us.