Eugene Sledge was a United States Marine Corps veteran and author of the book “With The Old Breed At Peleliu And Okinawa”. In his memoirs, he discusses how to not miss life. His advice is incredibly inspiring for those looking to live an authentic life.
Eugene Sledge’s Advice On Not Missing Life is a quote from Eugene Sledge, who was an American soldier during World War II. The quote says: “Don’t miss life because you’re busy living.”
The soldiers of the 1st Marine Division couldn’t believe it when they learned of Japan’s surrender in WWII. The concept that the war was finally done appeared too wonderful to be true to the battle-hardened warriors who had been recovering from tough warfare on Okinawa and preparing for yet another invasion.
Private Eugene Sledge, a survivor of the horrible, blood-soaked fights on both Peleliu and Okinawa, was among those who absorbed the news with “a combination of calm relief and astonishment.” On the island where they were now camping, about half of Sledge’s division had been killed or injured, and his thoughts strayed to those who had perished, as well as what lay ahead for the surviving.
The guys wished they could be taken home right soon, but it seemed like they would be transferred to Japan for occupation service. While occupation duty was really the straw that broke the camel’s back, Sledge and his fellow Marines were going to North China.
The guys were transported to Peiping after a time in Langfang (now Beijing). The old city was full of strange sights, sounds, and scents, completely undisturbed by Western influence and, of course, free of swarms of visitors. The Marines remained away of Peiping’s red light district at first, having been given a video on the hazards of venereal disease before to their arrival. Instead, they spent their time checking out the intriguing places and enjoying the delicious cuisine (cherished after months of subsisting on field rations). “The guys were just so stunned by the idea that they had returned to civilization,” Sledge recalls, “that many of them had little appetite to carouse.”
As Sledge’s squad got into a pattern and the novelty of the city faded, the guys began to drink and forget about their fears about VD. Sledge, on the other hand, retained the luster of Peiping. While he didn’t pass judgment on how his enlisted comrades unwinded, he wanted to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by seeing more than the insides of a few pubs and brothels.
One of Sledge’s favorite pastimes was strolling around Peiping’s streets, soaking in the daily lives of the Chinese people. Tung Ssu Pai Lou – “a vast gorgeous arch of wood with a tile roof that spanned the entire roadway” – was a frequent stop for him. He’d sit or stand off to the side, trying to blend in as much as possible so he could monitor the flow of traffic without raising a commotion (the Chinese would often mob the US Marines, thanking them for their service).
Sledge took pleasure in seeing the many people, rickshaws, pony carts, bicycles, and even camel caravans headed by Mongols pass past. He felt that he was “in the center of a multitude of intriguing folks living in the eighteenth or nineteenth century” as “daily life flowed unhurriedly along.” He “saw jugglers, tinsmiths, chinaware repairmen, pedicurists, peddlers, and numerous other folks who joined to create Peiping’s street sceneries the most intriguing one can conceive” among these fascinating personalities.
The Forbidden City, on the other hand, was Sledge’s favorite spot to visit. The Chinese imperial palace, which was built in the 15th century and was just a short walk away from the diplomatic office where the Marines were stationed, was visible. Sledge “felt like a kid again, staring at a mythical castle in a fairytale” when he first saw “the early light gleaming off those golden roofs.” Sledge sought every every chance to “sneak away from people and ramble around alone” after that:
“I could gaze in mute wonder at everything, thinking about how old the building was—the enormous walls, exact stone walks and railings, and the beauty of the covered walkways and gardens.” I used to sit in the Throne Hall for hours, staring up at the indescribably gorgeous carved ceiling, and getting a stiff neck as a result. When I considered the hours, or more likely years, of artistry necessary to create such beauty, intricately carved wooden screens, columns, and frescoes kept me enthralled.”
Sledge returned to the palace on crisp autumn days and chilly winter mornings, believing that “the remains of ancient Chinese civilization would obviously keep an American fascinated.” “I should say’most Americans,’ since when I left Peiping after more than four months there, I knew numerous guys who were still making the rounds of every bar, dive, and fleshpot and had never set foot in the Forbidden City, which was barely two blocks away,” he continued.
Most of us believe we would have been like Sledge if we had been in his shoes — that we would have sought out all the beauty, intrigue, and amazement that such a one-of-a-kind event had to offer. Even more so when the beauty was so visible and so near by! And yet, how many of us overlook a great lot of beauty that, even if not on such a grand scale, may nevertheless pique our attention and is there in front of our eyes?
Distractions for the Marines in North China came in the form of drinking and sex. Other enticements, on the other hand, tempt us away from higher goals and toward the fulfillment of our baser impulses. How many moments of your children’s life did you miss this year because you were engrossed in your phone, scrolling through Instagram photos that are now a haze in your mind? How many early bike rides have you missed due to inability to get out of bed? How many chats with your partner were you unable to have because you were engrossed in a TV series? How many microadventures did you pass on because you wanted to watch football all day again on Saturday? How many novels did you lose out on reading this year because you were too busy browsing to clickbait stories that you can’t remember now?
When done in moderation, none of these activities — drinking, sex, web surfing, and anything else that appeals to our “natural man,” our reptile brain — are harmful. When they become our primary want and interest, though, they may distract us from being completely present in our lives, recognizing beauty in the mundane, and experiencing delight and amazement everywhere we go. Distractions like this may impede us from making the most of our experiences, so the only thing we end up seeing is the light of a screen rather than the four walls of a pub.
The remedy to controlling one’s cravings is to counteract them with a strong feeling of curiosity and an unending sense of amazement. When you’re really interested about the world and can constantly find new things to learn about and consider, choosing between seeing a magnificent landmark and becoming passed out drunk becomes a no-brainer. This way of looking at the world isn’t a collection of random choices, but rather an attitude – a way of thinking that one must nurture throughout one’s life. Sledge’s insatiable curiosity in the world followed him home from China, and it actually aided in his recovery from the traumas of war. He received his Ph.D. and became a professor after returning to the United States, finding great delight in “concentrating intently on some tough subject in biology or biochemistry.” His wife recalls him saying, “He enjoyed the out-of-doors, and he didn’t simply stroll, he paid special attention to every bird, every leaf, every insect that he met.” Inside every book, behind every tree, and around every corner, Sledge knew, there were wondrous castles to be uncovered.
Consider the year that is about to come to an end and how you have spent it. Then ponder the following question today and in the future:
Do you long for the Forbidden City?
Do you long for the Forbidden City?
E.B. Sledge’s China Marine
Eugene Sledge was a United States Marine Corps officer who served in the Pacific theater during World War II. He is best known for his memoir, “With The Old Breed: At Peleliu And Okinawa”. Reference: eugene sledge the pacific actor.
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