“I feel like a fugitive from the law of averages” – a US cartoonist
At least for Mr. Tsutomu Yamaguchi it would feel that way.
Here, we drive for an afternoon stroll, my husband, our kids and I, and in the dullness of a very ordinary afternoon, my husband tells me this story about luck that he heard on a podcast.
“So, here’s Mr. Yamaguchi, a young, Japanese engineer working in a Mitsubishi factory in Hiroshima, who wakes up in the morning of August 6th, 1945. He leaves for work but then remembers that he has forgotten some work papers, so he goes back to his home to get them. He goes to work late, evidently, but before he actually reaches to the factory, around 8.15am, he notices, in the clear blue sky, a plane. The strangeness of the plane triggers weird thoughts in Mr. Yamaguchi’s head, nevertheless he is determined to go to his work as soon as possible, being already late. He looks again and notices that from the belly of the plane a tiny little thing takes course towards land. ‘A bomb’, Mr. Yamaguchi realises. He ducks and plugs his thumbs into his ears, what little he knows for protecting himself from an unexpected bomb on a very ordinary morning on the way to the Mitsubishi factory, and remains lying down on the open ground.”
At this point, I’m thinking, the guy was lucky somewhere.
It’s just that I’m still not getting it.
He won’t be that lucky right where he was – in the open field.
But let’s see.
“The bomb”, my husband continues with an inkling that the lucky part is coming, “explodes. White light blinds Mr. Yamaguchi; the strong tremor of the ground, along with the blast itself, pushes Mr. Yamaguchi off the ground and carries him farther away in the fields. He remains unconscious for a while. When he wakes up, Mr. Yamaguchi, is in a cloud – literally – everything looks dark, dusty, desolate. He doesn’t know how long he’s been unconscious for, but quickly resumes position and urges himself to head towards the Mitsubishi factory – he’s got to get to work.”
Here, my subconscious and my mind play ‘peekaboo’ or some other silly game, trying to figure out where Mr. Yamaguchi was sooo lucky.
I refrain from interrupting my enthused husband, and after shushing our noisy kids – the passengers in the back seats of the car – he continues with his sweet narration.
“When Mr. Yamaguchi reaches the factory, the factory is actually gone. It’s not there – it’s been destroyed completely by the bomb. The guy remains reposed, despite all the dead bodies and torn limbs scattered all around him, in the fields, on the streets, and thinks what he should do next. From the survivors that he stumbles upon on the streets he hears that there are trains taking people out of the city, so Mr. Yamaguchi fervently streams ahead with the one and only aim – to get to one of those trains and get to his family who live in the south. And, so, Mr. Yamaguchi goes to????”
To which, I nearly scream the answer, “Nagasaki????”
And my husband and I explode (not a good word right now) in a frenetic, nervous, uncontrollable laughter.
Not because of the story, but because of the story about luck – which I still couldn’t see.
“So, the guy”, my husband collects himself after the maddening 1 minute laughing, “goes to Nagasaki and gets to the Mitsubishi factory there, to continue his devoted work. Alas, a second bomb drops, just two days after he was bombed once already.”
While I was still delirious from the laughter and disconcerted from the story, my husband proposed the wild explanation that the guy was a complete idiot to have wanted to go back to work, only two days after he was “bloody bombed once, only to be bombed a second time”.
Just to stress again, the laughter had nothing to do with the terribly sad story.
It’s just the way the story about ‘luck’ went that made it so confusingly, obscenely weird.
The effects from such bombs are so severe that they literally ‘wipe’ out a person’s DNA.
To put it in the simplest of languages.
For that reason, back then, people feared that the children of those who suffered and survived the bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, would be born with terrible birth defects.
Alas, Mr. Yamaguchi had two healthy daughters and a son.
Mr. Yamaguchi lived to the age of 93.
He was a teacher, he worked again in the Mitsubishi factory, and he seems to have had a full life, in spite of all the terrible consequences these bombs had inflicted upon the hundreds of thousands of people.
Call it luck.
Despite that Mr. Yamaguchi rarely gave interviews, as this New York Times article says, he openly called on president Obama, and at the UN, for the abolition of nuclear bombs.
After we got home from our very average-turned-surreal stroll, I listened to the podcast myself and then looked up for more information online on Mr. Yamaguchi and the bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The podcast depicted a real nightmare, much more than I could expect from an audio.
The stories that I came across over the internet shook me to my very core.
All of that (and Mr. Yamaguchi’s story) made me think so much about what we, the peaceful societies of today, are endowed with; about how we pray for ‘lucky’ occurrences; how we complain about ‘lack of luck’ some times; how we want someone else’s ‘luck’, at others.
I wondered what ‘luck’ actually is.
What life gives us to count as ‘good luck’ and as ‘bad luck’.
Where was Mr. Yamaguchi lucky, after all?
He, kind of, figured it for himself by saying, “I could have died on either of those days.Everything that follows is a bonus.”
And thought, that’s how I’d like to see it as well – everything as a bonus.
I guess, if we look at everything as a bonus, we could appreciate everything so much more.