Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
Two of the most fascinating days of my life included a tour of Auschwitz concentration camp and an American highlights tour of the Normandy beaches. Shannon and I haven’t been on a trip like that one since having children. Safe to say our sense and use of time has changed. Free time in the summer shrank from the months of June and July to the hours between 1:30 and 4:00 every day (on good days). Generally, we spend the girls’ nap time working on house projects and making phone calls. Until this week when Unbroken transported us back to World War II, this time in the Pacific Theater. If you haven’t read Laura Hillenbrand’s book, move it to the top of your summer reading list. Neither of us could put it down. We burnt the candle at both ends and then in the middle. It consumed us. The account follows a bombardier, from his youth as an Olympic runner to his days floating in a raft in shark filled waters and beyond.
I recommend reading the one and a half page preface on Amazon. Go here and then click on the picture of the book cover.
A couple quotations from the book:
Without dignity, identity is erased. In its absence, men are defined not by themselves, but by their captors and the circumstances in which they are forced to live.
Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body could have surrendered it. The loss of it can carry a man off as surely as thirst, hunger, exposure, and asphyxiation, and with greater cruelty.
The Pacific POWs who went home in 1945 were torn-down men. They had an intimate understanding of man’s vast capacity to experience suffering, as well as his equally vast capacity, and hungry willingness, to inflict it. They carried unspeakable memories of torture and humiliation, and an acute sense of vulnerability that attended the knowledge of how readily they could be disarmed and dehumanized. Many felt lonely and isolated, having endured abuses that ordinary people couldn’t understand. Their dignity had been obliterated, replaced with a pervasive sense of shame and worthlessness. And they had the caustic knowledge that no one had come between them and tragedy. Coming home was an experience of profound, perilous aloneness.
The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when they make their tormenters suffer.