Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Quiet time

For me the best part of any vacation is time to read. It only qualifies as a vacation if I do not cook, clean, or wash clothes or at least avoid some if not most of those time consuming activities. Plus all of that sitting around on trains, planes, etc., means more reading time. My kids have gadgets and are usually happy to finally play unrelenting amounts of Batman Legos on the DS or when all electronics must be off to draw endless versions of warriors, school girls, or whatever has their current fancy.

My husband urged me to read "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand so having finished off my book by plane ride one, I did. It is a story about Louie Zamperini, an Olympic athlete and prisoner of war in Ofuna, Japan. It is a remarkable story both of survival and of living. It was a bit uncomfortable to read about how awful he was treated just a few minutes away from where I now live. I would look about the plane and wonder would people really do this again? I realize we already have done it- we Americans are as guilty as any other culture at various times in our history too- Native Americans, Slavery, Abu Ghraib, etc. But even more than that was Zamp's own acknowledgement of the starving citizens of Japan he saw when we left the prison and his surprising ability to overcome his horror. It is a good story because it transcends hate and pain. It is also sobering to realize how many deaths were caused by training, by the treatment of prisoners at the hand's of their enemy, and yet still, I was amazed at Zamp's survival story. They floated in the drink for a long time surviving on stories and memories that kept their minds sharp and their spirits high. I loved that he "found that the raft offered an unlikely intellectual refuge. He had never recognized how noisy the civilized world was. Here, drifting in almost total silence, with no scent other than the singed odor of the raft, no flavors on his tongue, nothing moving but the slow procession of shark fins, every vista empty save water and sky, his time unvaried and unbroken, his mind was freed of an encumbrance that civilization had imposed on it. In his head, he 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." Wow! I wanted to be on that raft in that moment.

It is so wonderful to be lost in thought. I love that state of being but it seems there are too many interruptions during daily life to enjoy it for long. I guess that is why the above passage spoke to me- the noisy civilized world. I dislike TV to some degree as I see it pulls me away. Time is so easily sucked up by it. When a TV is nearby such as at the doctor's office or a restaurant, I note that few are able to resist the lure of it even if it is mindless drivel. Peace and quiet! Oh, how I love the quiet life.

I started reading Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World." It is a vision of the future with voices droning through every stage of human development about what your thought should be- programing everyone from infancy onward to consume to keep the state going. Scarily a book about the future written in 1932 seems to have imagined some things accurately. All that noise keeps us busy avoiding our own intellectual development. Mmm, more quiet time is in order- I just hope I don't have to float on a raft in the pacific to find the time.

I love when books dovetail together and thread thoughts along. Just before reading about Zamp's story above, I read "Born to Run" so it seemed fitting to start a book about a runner. Sometimes I wish for a book group that discussed the books I read. "Brave New World" is worthy of long thought and discussion.