9/27

The so-called time of testing had come, and I cannot say that it found me better prepared, worthier, or superior to anyone else. What distinguished me from others at that time was only that I lacked the great compensation so many others possessed: enthusiasm. For that reason I came to myself again and into conflict with my environment, I was once more put to school, had to unlearn my satisfaction with myself and with the world, and in this experience I stepped for the first time over the threshold of initiation into life.

 

  II have never forgotten a little encounter during the first year of the war. I had gone to visit a large military hospital in the hope of finding a way of fitting myself in some meaningful fashion into the altered world - something that still seemed possible to me at that time. In that hospital for the wounded, I met an elderly spinster who had formerly lived on a private income in comfortable circumstances and was now serving as a nurse in the wards. She told me with touching enthusiasm how happy and proud she was to have been allowed to witness this great time. I found that understandable, for in this lady's case it had taken the war to transform her indolent and purely egotistical old maid's existence into an active and useful life. But as she expressed her happiness to me in a corridor full of bandaged and shell-crippled soldiers, between wards that were full of amputees and dying men, my heart turned over.