To draw an analogy: a man's suffering is similar to the behavior of a gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the "size" of human suffering is absolutely relative.
It is not for me to pass judgement on those prisoners who put their own people above everyone else. Who can throw a stone at a man who favors his friends under circumstances when, sooner or later, it is a question of life or death? No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.
...everything that was not connected with the immediate task of keeping oneself and one's closest friends alive lost its value. Everything was sacrificed to this end. A man's character became involved to the point that he was caught in a mental turmoil which threatened all the values he held and threw them into doubt. Under the influence of a world which no longer recognized the value of human life and human dignity, which had robbed man of his will and had made him an object to be exterminated (having planned, however, to make full use of him first - to the last ounce of his physical resources) - under this influence the personal ego finally suffered a loss of values. If the man in the concentration camp did not struggle against this in a last effort to save his self-respect, he lost the feeling of being an individual, a being with a mind, with inner freedom and personal value. He thought of himself then as only part of an enormous mass of people; his existence descended to the level of animal life.Martin Heidegger - Hölderlin's Hymn "The Ister"
...everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.
Friedrich Hölderlin - The Ister (Der Ister)
(Translated by Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover)
Now is the time for fire!
Impatient for the daylight,
We’re on our knees,
Exhausted with waiting.
It’s then, in that silence,
We hear the woods’ strange call.
Meanwhile, we sing from the Indus,
Which comes from far away, and
From the Alpheus, since we’ve
Long desired decorum.
It’s not without dramatic flourish
That one grasps
What is closest
To reach the other side.
But here we want to build.
Rivers make the land fertile
And allow the foliage to grow.
And if in the summer
Animals gather at a watering place
People will go there, too.
This river is called the Ister.
It lives in beauty. Columns of leaves burn
And stir. They stand in the forest
Supporting each other; above,
A second dimension juts out
From a dome of stones. So I’m
Not surprised that the distantly gleaming river
Made Hercules its guest,
When in search of shadows
He came down from Olympus
And up from the heat of Isthmus.
They were full of courage there,
Which always comes in handy, like cool water
And a path for the spirit to follow.
That’s why the hero preferred
To come to the water’s source, its fragrant yellow banks
Black with fir trees, in whose depths
The hunter likes to roam
At noon and the resinous trees
Moan as they grow.
Yet the river almost seems
To flow backwards, and I
Think it must come
From the East.
Be said further. But why does
It hang so straight from the mountain? That other river,
The Rhine, has gone away
Sideways. Not for nothing rivers
Flow in dryness. But how? We need a sign,
Nothing more, something plain and simple,
To remind us of sun and moon, so inseparable,
Which go away — day and night also —
And warm each other in heaven.
They give joy to the highest god. For how
Can he descend to them? And like earth’s ancient greenness
They are the children of heaven. But he seems
Too indulgent to me, not freer,
And almost scornful. For when
Day begins in youth,
Where it commences growing,
Another is already there
To further enhance the beauty, and chafes
At the bit like foals. And if he is happy
Distant breezes hear the commotion;
But the rock needs engraving
And the earth needs its furrows;
If not, an endless desolation;
But what a river will do,