On January 9, 1965, the 15th episode of Gilligan’s Island featured the story of a Japanese soldier who arrived at the island, didn’t know WWII was over and who proceeded to hold the castaways prisoner.
While Americans watched and laughed at the episode, somewhere on an island in the Philippines Hiroo Onoda was living a version of that story for real.
Decades after the end of WWII, he still held down his jungle post in a war he believed was not over.
It wasn’t until 1974 that he came to accept the news that the war was over, he was relieved of duty, and he could go home to Japan.
Hiroo Onoda died last week at the age of 91.
That same day, in a strange coincidence, actor Russell Johnson, who portrayed the professor on Gilligan’s Island, died at the age of 89.
That strange coincidence got me thinking about how we handle our own moments of isolation caused by the storms and wars in our lives. How do we pursue our own survival when we find ourselves in an awkward spot?
Well, both the pretend professor and the real soldier found themselves in stressful and dangerous situations not of their own making.
That can happen to us, too.
Both the pretend professor and the real soldier had limited information from the outside world as they navigated the task of deciding “next steps.”
We can face the same situation. Sometimes it’s because there is limited information available. Sometimes it’s because we don’t seek out additional information.
Both the pretend professor and the real soldier called on their training and preparation in order to survive their circumstances.
The pretend professor used the materials at hand and his scientific knowledge to help himself and the others survive and to seek rescue.
The real soldier used the materials at hand and his military training to survive and to carry out what he still believed to be his honor-bound duty and avoid capture.
So are we prepared to face our own storms and wars?
What steps are we taking now to be ready when the storms and wars come?
They will come.
Sometimes we will need to survive physical threats, such as the loss of access to clean water.
Sometimes we will need to survive emotional threats, such as coping with the loss of a loved one.
In all circumstances, preparing in advance and remaining open to new information can make the difference.