The Paradox of Vengefulness

It was a long drive home. Over thirteen-hours with occasional quick stops for food and gas. The way home is always that way even though every year we tell ourselves that next time we’ll just enjoy the drive home, make a few stops along the way, explore a little. But without fail, as soon and the vacation is over and the car is pointed homeward, the car turns barn sour and there’s no stopping until it’s parked in the driveway. Besides, I-80 through Nevada is lonely and empty and there’s not a lot of tourist stops along the way. The kids were asleep in the back having finally given in to the monotony of the drive and the scenery. With over twelve hours of travel time accomplished, I should have felt like a tired marathon runner nearing the end of the finish line. But I wasn’t. And it wasn’t because I had exceed the daily recommendation for caffeine consumption.

It was because of the story. My husband and I were still riveted to the story even after having listened to it for nearly 12 hours straight. There was little talking between us as we sat in our anxiety listening to story slowly and sometimes very painfully unfold. But when these lines were declared from the reader, it yanked me out of my audio book trance. I paused the book, then I backed it up and listened to it again, and then a third time, and then I added a digital bookmark.

If you’re not familiar with the story, it will be helpful to know that “the Bird” is the nickname the American soldiers gave to one particularly dangerous Japanese guard in their prison camp.

“The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them believing that their release from pain will come only when they make their tormentors suffer. In seeking the Bird’s death to free himself, Louie had chained himself once again to his tyrant. During the war the Bird had been unwilling to let go of Louie, after the war, Louie was unable to let go of the Bird.”

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. By Laura Hillenbrand