Experience does not force learning upon us. Yet every event and experience has the potential to teach us if we are receptive. Still, even in the best of well-planned events, the outcomes are never guaranteed. This is why I stress that the more present we are, the more each event/experience is potentially loaded with meaningful lessons from which we may benefit. The point to make here is that if we are not present in the moments of an experience, we may miss its lessons. Allow me to share a profound experience and what I learned about myself.
Those of you that read my book know that in September of 1945, I was on an LST in the middle of the Pacific heading for Okinawa. An LST is a small vessel that displaces only about 10 feet of water and is built to land on shore with tanks and trucks. As fortune would have it, we were heading directly into a large Typhoon. Due to the storm’s size and the type of ship we were on, the only course of action was to deal with the storm, which meant heading directly into it.
The ship was loaded top to bottom, and everything was tied down, including all hatches leading to the deck. As we drew closer to the storm, the captain announced over the” bitch box” that prayer services were being conducted in the mess hall and directed that all crew head into the bowels of the ship. I decided to witness the typhoon, and if we went under, I would be witness to that too.
The space between the hatch and the deck was roped, so there was no getting out on the deck, but I could get outside the hatch and stand between the rope and hatch. Through the hatch window, I was full witness to what was to take place. It was the most awesome experience I have had. Briefly: Cigar-shaped clouds began to rush towards me; waves began to grow until they were totally above my head. I was looking at all water, watching the waves and water disappear as we were lifted to the very top of a mountain of ocean.
We were a cork, riding on the crest of each wave or bobbing in its valley. I am sure I fell asleep for brief periods being overwhelmed by the experience, but I witnessed a power of nature beyond anything before and since. As the storm grew in intensity, I began to feel no fear of death. In fact, I felt a certain strength that I do not remember having before this event. It was a sense that whatever life threw at me, I would be able to handle.