The Evil of Thoughtlessness

34587.jpgSeveral weeks ago I received a copy of Culture, which is published by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.  I began flipping through this issue (Fall 2008, Issue 2.2) but got no farther than the first article: "Blueberries, Accordions, and Auschwitz."  The article is subtitled "The evil of thoughtlessness."  The author is Jennifer L. Geddes.


What was stunning were the pictures.  (You can see all of these by looking at the issue linked here.)  The picture to the right caught my attention, particularly after I read the opening paragraph.

You would think it was a series of photos from summer camp.  The smiling faces look across a rustic wooden bridge towards the camera, react in mock surprise as the rain begins to fall, and finally run giddily towards the camera.  One of them carries an accordion rather than the typical camp-song guitar, but the mood is one most of us remember fondly from summers gone by.  They are obviously having a good time.


Only after a first glance, do you notice that the campers depicted are not teenagers in swimsuits, but adults in SS uniforms.  The setting, it turns out, is not a summer camp but Solahutte, a retreat center for SS personnel near the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp complex in Poland.  Trips to Solahutte were given to concentration camp employees as a reward for jobs well done.

The article (which contains several other similar pictures) discusses the "thoughtlessness" or the failure to think reflectively about our actions.  The author makes reference to Hannah Arendt and says, "Arendt came to the striking conclusion that thoughtlessness — that is, the failure to think reflectively about the world around us, our actions, and their possible consequences — can be a moral failing of the highest order." (p. 5)


Jennifer Geddes, in the conclusion of this article, writes: "Their example, their failure to reflect carefully on their actions and the consequences of those actions for others, calls us to pay attention and think deeply about what we do, why we do it, and what effect our actions may have on those around us."


This is very sobering.  Of course, it is sobering as I think about our culture today and our failure to reflect carefully on our actions.  I wonder about our lack of reflection in regard to our actions in marriage and as parents.  Finally, I also wonder about the lack of reflection in church today (at least as I have experienced church).


I am interested in your response to this.  What does it mean to live with very little reflection regarding our actions and the consequences of these actions?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

7 thoughts on “The Evil of Thoughtlessness

  1. Jim,Thanks for bringing this to our attention. So very interesting and really sobering. I have to think that the Jesus Creed of loving God and loving our neighbor just has to be at the forefront of our thinking and actions- we must attempt that- all the time. And a key is try to put ourselves in the shoes of others. Difficult one, and good to reflect on as I head out the door.

  2. I will spend time today with people, who have been hurt by the thoughtlessness of others. (In some cases stupidity; some willful sin and much just a failure to give a second thought; in almost all of them a lack of prayer.)   Much of "being still and knowing He is God" is putting life’s toothpaste back in the tube or seeking guidance to properly squeeze in the future.  In time of reflection, I am humbled, challenged, sad, frustrated, motivated and encouraged.

  3. Our pastor once asked our Bible study group, "What is apathy?" No one answered until I purposely piped up with, "Who cares?"  And in our base nature that is every one of us. We are thoughtless, self-centered, selfish, and so on and so on. As a grandparent I am once again, alongside their parents, responsible to instill in the little ones a desire to be thoughtful and kind. Wow, it is not easy!As followers of Christ we are to show others what Kingdom living looks like.  Remember the song, "They will know we are Christians by our love?" Sometimes nowadays we don’t find that kind of love among our brothers and sisters, yet we see it among those who don’t even follow Christ. And we just don’t get it!Starting with my own family circle I want to think of how my actions affect others.  Right now we don’t feel right about spending our hard earned money on a month long winter vacation to a warm place, when our children have hit a rough patch financially and could seriously use our help.  We can’t do both. WWJD comes to mind. Lots of stuff to think on and talk about with others.   

  4. Eddy,I really appreciate your words.  So many, many people carry around wounds inflicted by the thoughtlessness of others.  Thanks for this reminder.

  5. Hi Karin,Your line, "We are thoughtless, self-centered, selfish…." says so much. I think it would do us well to just acknowledge this and then pray that God might give us the awareness to see how this is being played out in our lives.  I think that so often we (myself included) just don’t see this.