“When it is bottled up inside of you it is worse than reality.”
The pronoun it in the above quotation can represent almost anything. In this case, the it stands for the horror that has haunted Ian Forsyth for 75 years. A 21-year-old tank operator from South Lanarkshire, England, Forsyth had fought from Normandy after D-day, through Europe with a reconnaissance unit, and in April 1945, found himself facing the horrors of Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp. He could not identify the odd smell of the place, and he had no knowledge concerning the starving people standing behind the barbed wire fence, and the people behind the fence did not know who he was. Bodies were, he says, stack everywhere. A young man, he became aware of how low mankind could sink. In a few days, his unit moved on, but what he had seen stayed with him. That and his unanswered questions about the place and its prisoners. After the war, he returned home, but his mother forbade him from talking about the horrors he had seen. Thus, the quotation above telling how his unspoken became worse than reality.
After I read about Mr. Forsyth in an on-line article from BBC, I kept returning to his words: “When it is bottled up inside of you it is worse than reality.” He walked the streets at night he says, and he tells how his wife suffered from his sharing. Yet, all these years later he is still haunted by what he witnessed.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Forsyth has suffered all these years, but we can learn from his suffering. We all have the experience of emotions, not on the level of the horrors of The Holocaust as Mr. Forsyth saw, but emotions from living and sharing life with other human beings. Of course, what we are experiencing with the COVID-19 virus cannot be compared to The Holocaust, but we can benefit from Mr. Forsyth’s words and not allow our pent-up emotions to bottle up and become “worse than reality.”
Each of us, I think, need to remember the words of President D. Roosevelt made famous by President Kennedy. Each of us, I suggest, will be better off if we think of our entire tribe instead of ourselves. Thinking and praying for others will always lessen the inconveniences we feel about ourselves. Yes, there are real dangers present in ours lives. However, if we can focus our emotions on the others who suffer, we will be stronger.
There is no comparison, let me state again, to our situation and that of Mr. Forsyth. Ours is so much less than the horror of what he saw. We are fortunate that we have much, and we may disagree but so far are not disagreeable. Let us pray that that remains so.
In the meantime, look for what is good in life. See the sunrise. See the smile of another. Know that our world has made it through worse times, like that of Mr. Forsyth. But, talk about how you feel. Share frustrations and sorrows and joys and fears around the COVID-19 virus with each other. Talk with one another, don’t chatter in meaningless conversations. Remember that, as is written in my favorite book, “This too shall pass.”
If you have doubts, Google Beatrice Harrison and read how a recording in her garden during WW I inspired a country. We can do this, but by sharing the burden, not casting it off.