Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Day 269 Zamp
The life story of Louis Zamperini is an inspirational and mostly painful journey through the Olympics, WW II POW camps, forty-two days in a life-raft and a return to civilian life after the world thought he was "lost at sea."
He was relentlessly beat to a pulp by forces both human and spiritual. He paid a huge price physically and physiologically. He lived to suffer another day.
I, we, have no real measure of the suffering he endured. There is nothing in our modern society that comes within a mile of the torture Louie faced on a daily basis at the hands of the Japanese as a Pacific POW.
Every night as I poured through another chapter I would close the book amazed at how strong he was and conversely, how weak I am.
I would have quit. I would have taken the Steve McQueen route. I would have fought back even if it meant more beatings. I would have cried for mercy.
Interestingly, one of the traits of the successful endurance athlete is in the ability to withstand pain. To recognize it, accept it and move past it. Get to the next experience, even if that means enduring five minutes or five more miles of agony.
Louis was an Olympian. He ran a 4:16 mile. He was so good that in an Olympic trial, a group of competing athletes conspired to 'cut' him in the race, boxing him in and hacking his shins with super sharpened spikes. Bloodied but determined, Louis won the heat.
We talk about military personnel being keenly aware of the powerful combination of training, discipline and success on the battlefield. Be that battle on land, sea, air or an arena, field or gym.
I was pleased then to see in the book's epilogue, under the section entitled "Questions and topics for discussion' number four:
Do you think that Louie's athletic career helped prepare him for what he would face in war?
My answer is an unequivocal, yes. And vice-versa.