January 18, 2010

Luck Is Just A State Of Mind

He had white horses
and ladies by the score.
All dressed in satin
and waiting by the door.

what a lucky man he was

"Lucky Man"
Emerson, Lake & Palmer

Several weeks ago, an ordinary man passed away at the very respectable age of 93.  By all accounts, Tsutomu Yamaguchi led an unremarkable life.  Except in one unlikely aspect.  On the morning of August 6, 1945 Mr. Yamaguchi was visiting Hiroshima, Japan on behalf of his employer, Mitsubushi Heavy Industries when he found himself with a front row seat to the detonation of an atomic bomb dropped by a B29 Stratofortress.  By official account, 80,000 people were vaporized in the blast and 60,000 died within several days of its after effects.

Yamaguchi suffered severe burns on the upper half of his body.  The following morning, he made his way through the radiation soaked city to catch a train home, where he hoped he would receive proper medical care and rest.

Two days later, on August 9, after a painful, miserable journey, he arrived home in Nagasaki.  Just in time to witness the detonation of a second atomic bomb dropped by another Army Air Force B29.

It's interesting to speculate how many times Mr. Yamaguchi looked on his life and pondered whether he had been lucky or unlucky.  Lucky, by the fact that he survived not one, but two atomic explosions.  Unlucky that he had been in the wrong place at the wrong time not once, but twice.  Lucky, because he was officially certified by the Japanese government to receive a lifetime pension for surviving both blasts.  Unlucky, because his son died of cancer as the probable result of the radiation received in the Nagasaki event.

Perhaps he never came to any definitive conclusion.  Or maybe he summed up his life another way.

A 19th century historian once drew up a list of circumstances in where it would be permitted to say the word fuck in polite conversation.  He concluded that one of those occasions would elicit the phrase "What the fuck was that?" which incidentally is reported to have been uttered by the Mayor of Hiroshima immediately after seeing the the bomb flash and feeling the concussion.  One can only speculate if the Mayor of Nagasaki repeated the phrase, as the young Mr. Yamaguchi plodded through his city, trying to get home.

Perhaps at the end of his life, Mr. Yamaguchi concluded that there were a lot of things that occured that were just out of his control.  That maybe sometimes you just have to say ...

What the fuck.

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