I have come across a most remarkable book, And There Was Light: Autobiography of Jacques Lusseyran, Blind Hero of the French Resistance (originally published 1963), that I highly recommend. One of the heroes of the French Resistance in World War II was a teenager who had been blind from age seven yet who discovered within himself that blindness is not necessarily what it is thought to be. His story — particularly the story of his months as prisoner of the Germans and his survival (by the skin of his teeth) remind me in some ways of George Ritchie’s story of the Polish prisoner the liberating Americans called Wild Bill Cody, as told in My Life After Dying.
A couple of germane quotations (for this book is not really about the war or the camps so much as about the human spirit as a reality). First this:
And there were the poets, those unbelievable people so different from other men, who told anyone who would listen that a wish is more important than a fortune, and that a dream can weigh more than iron or steel. What nerve they had, these poets, but how right they were! Everything, they said, comes from inside us, passes through things outside and then goes back in. And that to them is the meaning of life, feeling, understanding, love. (p. 71)
And now, in conclusion, why has this Frenchman from France written his book in the United States to present it to his American friends today? Because today he is America’s guest. Loving the country and wanting to show his gratitude, he could find no better way of expressing it than in these two truths, intimately known to him and reaching beyond all boundaries.
The first of these is that joy does not come from outside, for whatever happens to us it is within. The second truth is that light does not come to us from without. Light is in us, even if we have no eyes. (p. 311- 312)