Creating Hope to Survive from Rage,
Creating Hope to Survive from Trust
The energy that fuels our survival comes from different sources. For Louis Zamperini, he starved but survived on a diet of rage at his cruelest captor, nicknamed “The Bird.”
As he went from one terifying ordeal to another, this rage, this battle of not-giving-in affirmed for him, that he had a spirit inside that remained alive. No matter how severe the attack or the deprivation – his spirit remained alive. In Japan in a freezing Japanese prison labor camp, Zamperini remainedd alive with the burning fire of rage inside.
Six thousand miles away, six million Jews and others were executed and toiled in German slave labor concentration camps. There, Viktor Frankl was also clinging to survival. Frankl also powerfully realized, that in deprivation and cruelty, his spirit did survive. He later wrote words read around the world:
Everything can be taken from a man but…the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Man’s Search for Meaning, p. 104
What attitude do you choose to survive and thrive, an attitude of rage for power, of life, of trust?
This is how author Laura Hillenbrand, Zamperini’s biographer in the book Unbroken, described Zamperini’s struggle to survive AFTER liberation.
“What he was dealing with when he was in crisis, in the war, these were all physical things that he had to get over,” Hillenbrand says. “He had to figure out how to get water on the raft; he had to figure out how to catch that next fish. Meanwhile, the damage was being done to him emotionally. It was something, I think, a lot of these men could kind of put off at the time, in the crisis, but once the crisis was over, that’s when it all kind of exploded inside them.”
When Louis Zamperini returned, in expectation of safety and comfort to his home, he could not find peace. For years, his emotional and mental recovery wavered as Hillenbrand described above.
A deeper trust and peace came to Louis Zamperini when he was contacted as a former Olympian. He had run in the 1936 Olympics in Germany. He had alredy carried the Olympic torch again in 1984 and 1996. He had already become a motivational Christian speaker, often speaking of forgiveness.
In 1998 he carried the Olympic torch into the Japanese Nagano Winter Olympics to acclaim, not derision and torture. This experience, he told Hillenbrand, was what prepared him to tell his life story.
Over the years he has spoken to former Japanese war criminals who had been his torturers. He has found peace; he has found trust. He has
survived many years now, not through rage, but through trust.
The man who had met Hitler at the 1936 Olympics and had survived the worst of Japanese prison camps in World War II, had returned to another Olympics, the Japanese Olympics, in peace. We like to pretend our lives proceed in an orderly, linear fashion. Not so, our lives often come full circle. I believe a circle was completed for Louis Zamperini as he carried the Olympic torch into the Nagano Japan Olympic stadium.
The woman, me, who never knew her father to tell of his own Japanese labor camp experiences during World War II, came full circle too. When I sit with my friend Fred, who started to tell his story about five years ago, I hear it all. He tells me about Japanese labor camps in Indonesia.He tells me all about starvation, deprivation, and today – trust. He helps me trust more too.
Are you ready to tell more of your story? Who will you speak to? Tell me here.
Do you think it’s too late to tell your story? Zamperini is in his nineties and is still telling his story. Fred is in his eighties and he tells his story, it’s never too late. My mother is in her eighties and still tells me more stories about life in Nazi-occupied The Netherlands (Holland) during World War II. It’s never too late.