Look, see, feel

A friend asked me how I feel when reading books about World War II, the Third Reich, and the Holocaust. 

“Do you ever get a feeling of—”
“Despair? Sure.”
Awkward silence.

In the days that followed this brief exchange, I thought more about my immediate reaction to what I thought was going to be his question. Why did I go straight for “despair”? Is that normal, justified? I came to the conclusion that it is. Despair is a reasonable response to reality. After all, it’s possible to sift through the silt of the past and see nothing but pain and suffering. Heck, it’s possible to load up Twitter and see that in the present as well. But at the same time, it’s possible to see triumphs, victories, progress, acts of goodness and greatness; evidence, in short, of hope. 

How we look determines what we see, and what we see determines how we feel. Which means despair is normal. As is hope. As are feelings of anger and feelings of appreciation. In fact, all emotions and sentiments are valid for they are all part of the inescapable baggage that comes with being a sentient creature living amongst other sentient creatures on a small, fragile planet, adrift in the Cosmos.