This upcoming week will marks the anniversary of the surrender ceremony that ended World War II. On September 2, 1945 the eyes of the world focused on history’s stage and a performance that would not soon be forgotten. That was the day General Douglas Mac Arthur (with his Parker fountain pen in hand) conducted a symphony of peace aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. This version of “victory at sea” would be repeatedly captured on film and newsreel.
As Mac Arthur cued the various performers to play their part on this historic day, a nineteen year-old farm boy from Lapwai, Idaho looked on. His is seen in the bottom right hand corner of this familiar photograph. That Marine Corporal looking back at the camera was my father, Edwin Asimakoupoulos.
Before he died twenty-months ago, my dad took great pride describing his memories of V-J Day. As part of the Marine Corps detachment aboard the “Mighty Mo,” he was selected to be one of the honor guards that day. My dad was chosen as an escort for Lieutenant General Kuzma Derevyanko, who signed the treaty on behalf of Russia. By virtue of his privileged assignment, my dad stood about fifteen feet behind Mac Arthur and the other dignitaries.
Although my father is visible in several historic photographs documenting the end of the war, I like this photograph best of all. The fact that he is not facing the ceremony sets it apart and raises questions. Apparently one of the Russian newsmen covering the event dropped his camera from an elevated perch. My dad turned around to see where the noise was coming from.
That picture of my curious father is a reminder to me to be interested in people, places and things. After all, our ability to reflect on the meaning of life is rooted in what we take time to observe.
Blindly going about our routines keeps us from seeing the unexpected and being sensitive to the serendipities around us.
At an ecumenical clergy conference I recently attended, I heard a facilitator challenge we who speak for a living to seek to “be more interested than interesting” as we hone our craft as communicators. What he suggested is good advice for more than just rabbis, priests and ministers. We all would do well to exercise the curiosity muscle between our ears as well as opening our eyes to the wonder of daily life. Our norm is not to.
Leonardo Da Vinci recognized our tendency to not turn around to see where “the noise” is coming from. Five centuries ago this noted scientist and artist waxed theologically eloquent. He described the average person as one who “looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odor or fragrance, and talks without thinking.”
Fifteen hundred centuries before Da Vinci, Jesus Christ invited his followers to be aware of the mystery of life around them. He said, “See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these…” (Matthew 6:28-29 NIV)
Why not open your eyes to your surroundings? The flowers of a summer field. Sunrises and sunsets. Turning leaves. Aging parents. and disappearing veterans. And speaking of those vets, why not take some time this week to hear their stories of the war? Remember, they won’t always be with us.
By Greg Asimakoupoulos
Photo Courtesy of Stock.Xchng