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Lions Roar : March 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2008 86 wit, imagination, and self-deprecating humor, he devoted himself to a “children’s republic,” complete with its own parliament, news- paper, and court system. Instead of punching one another, chil- dren learned to yell, “I’ll sue you!” And every Saturday morning, court cases were judged by five children who weren’t being sued that week. All rulings rested on Korczak’s “Code of Laws,” the first one hundred of which parsed forgiveness. He once confided to a friend, “I am a doctor by training, a pedagogue by chance, a writer by passion, and a psychologist by necessity.” In 1940, when Jews were ordered into the ghetto, the orphanage moved to an abandoned businessman’s club in the “district of the damned,” as he described it in a diary written on blue rice-paper pages that he filled with details of daily life in the orphanage, imagi- native forays, philosophical contemplations, and soul searching. It’s the reliquary of an impossible predicament, revealing “how a spiri- tual and moral man struggled to shield innocent children from the atrocities of the adult world during one of history’s darkest times.” Reportedly shy and awkward with adults, he created an ideal re- public with the orphans who called him “Pan Doctor.” At night, lying on his infirmary cot, with remnants of vodka and black bread tucked under his bed, he’d escape to his own private planet, Ro, where an imaginary astronomer friend, Zi, had finally succeeded in building a machine to convert radiant sunlight into moral strength. Using it to waft peace throughout the universe, Zi complained that it worked everywhere except on “that restless spark, Planet Earth,” and they debated whether Zi should destroy bloody war-mongering Earth, with Doctor Pan pleading for compassion given the planet’s youth. His blue pages stitched together sensations, fancies, and ma- rauding ideas alike, but he didn’t relate sinister ghetto events, for example the deportations to the death camps that began on July 22, 1942, his sixty-fourth birthday. Instead of all the clangor and mayhem on that day, he wrote only of “a marvellous big moon” shining above the destitute in that unfortunate, insane quarter. By then, as photographs show, his goatee and moustache had grayed, bags terraced beneath intense, dark eyes, and though he of- ten endured “adhesions, aches, ruptures, scars,” he refused to escape from the ghetto, despite many offers of help from disciples on the Aryan side. It creased him to hear the starving and suffering chil- dren compare their ills “like old people in a sanitarium,” he wrote in his diary. They needed ways to transcend pain, and so he encour- aged prayers like this one: “Thank you, Merciful Lord, for having According to legend, the Thirty-Six Just Men, through their good hearts and good deeds, keep the too-wicked world from being destroyed. For their sake, all of humanity is spared. SUPERB SERVICE FOR ALL YOUR REAL ESTATE NEEDS 507 WEBBER STREET • SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO (505) 983-5668 • FAX: (505) 983-5734 We proudly participate in the Independent Brokers Network, a community-based real estate alliance For Inspiring Properties in Santa Fe We believe you’ll want to know us SUSAN C. HARRIS QUALIFYING BROKER, GRI, CRS MAR 78-107.indd 86 MAR 78-107.indd 86 12/19/07 2:43:28 PM 12/19/07 2:43:28 PM