Sunday, August 12, 2007

What is Important?

I went on vacation. Again. (If anything I have learned in life is that we only have a few moments with our children and with beautiful weather in Michigan. Use ‘em or Lose ‘em. Literally.)

It is one of the times that I purposely plan to read for relaxation. The problem was that I did not have a book to read, so I did what so many others have done and wandered in a Borders bookstore looking for something interesting to read. I happened on “Sea of Thunder” by Evan Thomas. It is the tale of the Naval Battle of Leyte Gulf of October 1944 in the Pacific Theater of the Second World War.

To be frank, even as a college History Major, I had never heard of this battle. Few have. (Have you?) In point of fact, my word processor, while being able to recognize the word “Constantinople” and “Stalingrad” does not recognize “Leyte.” Yet this was a decisive battle within the WWII.

Curious how important it was at that time. How important to the Japanese. Important to the Americans. It filled the papers. Yet here we are in 2007 and even after having studying the very time frame this battle occurred and the very war within which it happened—I did not know of it. I have had numerous college courses for this time—and nothing.

The book follows the lives of four of the commanders of this battle—how they came to be there and why they made the decisions they made. (Needless to say; I highly recommend this book. It draws you in and causes you to be interested in what happens next. Even those not interested in such historic books would find this one good reading. My father happened to pick it up while on vacation with us and could hardly put it down.)

What was emotional wrenching is to see the useless loss of life. Both Japanese and American in a battle that (now) is long forgotten. How men bravely fought and lost fellow mates, limbs and their lives in order to protect their way of life. That a decision recklessly made could effect so many, or a decision made in the heat of a fight could turn an entire course of a battle, and even a war.

After having read this book (and becoming emotionally attached to the characters, their thoughts and the results of their actions) I happened to catch a music video in which a girl was wearing a shirt with the sign of the Battle Flag of the Japanese. (The flag with the sun and the shooting rays.) I thought of what those men would have imagined, having fought, sweated, starved, worked, feared, cried, bleed and yes—died against that flag. Now some person in some random show happens to wear it with little thought to the significance.

And, coming back from vacation, I caught up on my familiar blogs. I came across one that talked of the meaning of life.

How little we of the Internet community know of the meaning of life. Oh—we use it as a philosophical tool to argue some point on theism. How this one fails to satisfy regarding the “meaning of life” or that one fails to logically follow on the “meaning of life.” There are men and women who have suffered horribly and died, simply to preserve life as we know it.

A life that consists of the complete idiocy of making “talking points” of what the meaning of life actually must be in a discussion with some person from Aruba. Can you imagine being a person on a ship, with some repetitive task, such as transporting ammunition, or working a winch, with the sole thought of surviving the next salvo of torpedoes or bombs all designed with the intention of causing you the most harm possible? Either to directly kill you, or harm your ship enough to cause it to sink and hopefully drown you?

And your fate is in the hands of commanders, sometimes 1000’s of miles away, making choices as to where your ship goes, and with whom you will be engaged in said exchange of ammunition? It makes our discussion of “What Is The Meaning of Life” and “Why Atheists Don’t Have a Meaning of Life” pretty pointless, in my opinion.

I know I am supposed to be arguing against theism. I am supposed to be making clever points about how there is no God, or if I am to be more specific, no Christian God.

But today I am morosely reflecting on all those young men and women who have given their ultimate sacrifice to allow me to make such points. And the points seem pretty pointless in that light…


  1. Good post. Kind of leaves you with nothing to say.

  2. The meaning of life and reflection - I think you make an admirable point in the blog - looking back in history and realizing what some suffered for others to have the 'right to speak' - which I also see when I look into the past - but I also see a great responsibility in that (given the gift of freedom as such). Great blog!

  3. I think much of this comes back to those who made the sacrifices, and their "reward," for lack of a better word. If there is no God, no afterlife, nothing aside from what we have now ... then what do we do with the sacrifices? Is that it for them? And what do we do if the person died without knowing the impact of that sacrifice? Did they realize that their death did have meaning?

    It's thoughts like these that help me cling to a faith in something beyond this, and can make me understand why so many do have faith: there is so much needless and pointless death/suffering/injustice in this world, and to think that this is it is just sobering and really depressing.

    On the other hand, those are the same characteristics that can make me doubt the existence of God, too.

    But thank you for this post.

  4. great post! I think that is something great to be reminded of. we can be so separated from true sacrifice, danger, war.

    The points do seem pointless. I guess though that in thinking about life there is value in acknowleging the big questions and not wanting to treat life/belief casually...