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Thursday, June 28

Then & Now

I've started a new book, written by the author of Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand.  Her new book, titled Unbroken, is the tale of Louie Zamperini and World War II.  Hillenbrand has a gift for taking history and transforming it into a wonderfully entertaining written account.  I remember picking up Seabiscuit, at the urging of others, and thinking to myself how little I knew or really cared to know about racing horses.  But, with great surprise, I couldn't learn enough or get enough of the author's tale.  As I continue through Unbroken, I can tell already that it will be the same experience.  The criss-crossing of personal experiences and the world's stage as a backdrop create an appetite for more.  As many of us know, everyone has a story; but, we're just not all lucky enough to have a gifted author like Hillenbrand to properly convey the story and make it so interesting.  

As I rounded out the first 100 pages of the book last night, all that kept passing through my mind is how all of the technological advances made between then and now have totally changed the way humanity thinks and exists.  The resourcefulness demonstrated by the group of airmen with whom Zamperini is stationed is like nothing else I've seen or experienced in my lifetime.  That is not to say we do not have brilliant thinkers to this day.  It's that, in many cases, these men had to depend on their own independent, innovative and novel approaches to their individual tasks aboard their B-24 or else there could be major disaster.  There was no master plan or manual that answered all of their questions, leaving them to a rather mechanical task.  Between Hillenbrand's telling of Zamperini's youth and his entry into the draft and, subsequently, the war, it becomes clear that there was far less "noise" in the world at that time.  By noise, I refer to all of the technological distractions of today, easily-accessible entertainment outlets and excess of money making a lot more possible to take advantage of all that is out there.  Simply put, this generation had a lot more free time on its hands to fill in more interactive, not to mention, challenging ways.  Nothing at all was a simple click away.

Today, things are so easily accessed.  We want music, we download it from iTunes;  just a decade or so ago, I would have still had to at least wait until I could make the trek to a music store, which is now almost unheard of.  We want a book, we either download it instantly to one of our many devices or order it, knowing it will arrive within a few days.  There isn't even really space for desire when it comes to learning about current events and news anymore.  The space that used to be inhabited by curiosity or anticipation has all but disappeared now that we have instant gratification (oftentimes before there is even a chance for desire to be born) through Twitter, Facebook, e-mail alerts, etc.  My only fear in contemplating these things is that there is a certain creativity that came out of having to really figure out how to access these things before.  Because they weren't readily available, there was a certain appreciation for them, and in the meantime, there was an appreciation for what was already there--in most cases human interaction and socialization with family and friends.

I'm sure that Hillenbrand's thought-provoking tale will only continue to dig this hole of thought even deeper in my mind.  While there is no way to revisit this time incarnate, I'm super grateful to have the opportunity to experience it through her writing and Zamperini's perspective.        

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