Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Century of Wisdom: lessons from the life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the world's oldest living Holocaust survivor

Last night I finished reading A Century of Wisdom. I'm so glad I took a break from the other things I was reading to make sure I finished this. A really inspiring book, a wonderful lady... who unfortunately can no longer be called the world's oldest living Holocaust survivor... sadly she passed away just recently. Check out my earlier post for a preview of the documentary made about her life called "The Lady in Number 6", which just won an Academy Award for best documentary.

At the back of the book were short quips in Alice's own words; her thoughts and ideas about life and what has helped her live and stay active for so long. Here are my favorites:

I am so old because I use my brain constantly. The brain is the body's best medicine. 

Only when we are old do we realize the beauty of life.

Gratitude is essential for happiness. 

A sense of humor keeps us balanced in all circumstances, even death.

Complaining does not help. It only makes everyone feel bad.

Laughter is wonderful. It make you and everyone else feel happy. 

Love to work. When you love your work you are never bored. Boredom is unhealthy. 

Generosity above all. 

School is important, but what children learn in the atmosphere of their homes lasts for life. The beautiful, intellectual, and musical atmosphere of my childhood has sustained me until today. [this reminded me of Charlotte Mason's philosophy as well].

School is only the beginning. We can learn all our lives. 

I grew up with friendship. I fell in live with my husband's mind and his knowledge.  In marriage, friendship is more important than romantic love. 

I am never tired because my mind is active.

Stay informed. Technology is wonderful. [I didn't really want to hear this, but if she lived to be 110, I need to listen]

Be kind. Kindness is free. It costs you nothing, and the rewards are great for everyone. 

When I play Bach, I am in the sky. 

My world is music. Music is a dream. It takes you to paradise. 

I am richer than the world's richest people, because I am a musician. 

Children must study music. It helps with everything in life. This beauty is always in the mind. 

I love people. I am interested in the lives of others. 

No one can rob your mind. I admire the Jewish people because of their extraordinary commitment to high education. Education of the children is a most important family value. 

Every day is a miracle. No matter how bad my circumstances, I have the freedom to choose my attitude to life, even to find joy. Evil is not new. It is up to us how we deal with both good and bad. No one can take this power away from us. 

Alice Herz-Sommer, world-class pianist who survived the Theresiendstadt concentration camp by playing hundreds of piano pieces by memory, effectively preserving her life and the life of her son, and bringing joy to all those who were able to hear her. 
Life is beautiful. Sitting together and talking about everything with friends is beautiful. 

We do not need things. Friends are precious. 

We need to treasure time. Every moment that passes is gone forever. 

My optimism has helped me through my darkest days. It helps me now. 

The more I read, think, and speak with people, the more I realize just how happy I am. 

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