Louis Zamperini was fast on his feet. His speed on the track was interrupted by World War II where he became a member of the Army Air Force. When his plane went down while looking for another downed aircraft, Zamperini and two of his crew mates ended up in a raft in the shark-infested waters of the Pacific. They waited, wondered, struggled to survive. As the ordeal went on for days, then weeks, one of the men died, leaving the two to carry on. In her NY Times bestselling single volume tome, Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand tells us of an awareness that came to Louis Zamperini five weeks into the ordeal.
As Zamperini and his companion, Russell Phillips, the plane’s captain, were in their fifth week on the raft, Hillenbrand writes of their determination to stay mentally as sharp as possible. The men had turned their plight into a kind of TV quiz show, sharing memories, asking questions, telling stories. Hillenbrand describes the times of silence in the midst of nothing but ocean and sky. No odors other than the singed raft, and no flavors on the tongue. No discernible movement other than the “slow procession of shark fins.” Time was “unvaried and unbroken”. There was no encumbrance of civilization.
“In his head,” writes Hillenbrand, “Louis could roam anywhere, and he found that his mind was quick and clear, his imagination unfettered and supple. He could stay with a thought for hours, turning it about.”
Thus “unencumbered”, Louis found his memory “became infinitely more nimble, reaching back further, offering detail that had once escaped him.”
We tend to fill our Memorial Day weekends with parades and cookouts and marathons. Sometimes, in order to truly remember, we need to be still. And one wonders at times if our hectic schedules aren’t fueled by the fear of what we might remember if life were a bit more quiet.
Jesus, remember me … Luke 23:42
A blessed Tuesday.
May 27 – This Day in History