Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An S is an S is an...

On one of the worst nights of all the worst nights of the Iwo Jima campaign I fell into a shell hole saturated with the cold rain. In a moment, from out of the darkness, another Marine fell into the hole beside me. In the next few minutes no less than three other Marines took refuge in the hole. In the cold and darkness and steady rain the five of us fitted our bodies together and tried to sleep. We were a human 'S' of bodies, when one turned we all turned. We knew nothing about the 4 others beside us, but in our compactness, we gave warmth and comfort to one another. All this was done without a word being spoken.

"Why," asked the Confederate general James Longstreet during the Civil War, "do men fight when they are meant to be brothers?" I wonder that myself. Some of the worst verbal battles I've seen in my life have been in church meetings. A clergy friend of mine knocked a board member to the floor. Catholics and Protestants in colonial New England, having both found freedom in the new world, proceeded to try to deny that freedom to each other. Husbands and wives, having promised to love and cherish one another, kill one another.

One day, when I was a child, I heard, and probably saw, my first radio. I was told the voices coming from the set were from little men inside. I believed it! My knowledge now enlarged by years and experience tells me the voices I hear come not from the outside but from the inside and that if we are ever to rise above our worst natures we will learn better how to listen to our best natures. This may well consist of not making asses out of ourselves with others but rather making "S's" with them.

I tell you for a truth, an "S" in a shell hole can be amazingly warm and life giving.

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