A decisive moment, Christmas in prison

Almost everybody has encountered decisive moments in life.

I had such experience, being hardly 4 years old, while imprisoned in a Japanese concentration camp. That day we were allowed by the Japanese camp commander, for the first and only time during all three years we were imprisoned, to celebrate Christmas.

I remember the beautiful bible verses and community singing of that evening.

At the end of the evening something must have happened to my soul, when the famished women and mothers started singing Praise the Lord. No doubt that the chorus with the words Peace on Earth and Happiness to the People has never before been sung with such intensity and feeling for these special words.

Apparently because I had listened so quietly, a completely strange woman offered me a packet of chocolate –no doubt, saved by her in these days of famine and hardship for an extra “rainy” day- and I was happy to accept it, but also utterly confused.

At the end of the evening, the Japanese commander decided, unexpectedly, to address the women in Japanese and he did so in the characteristic, shouting manner of which we all were accustomed and afraid. The solemn atmosphere of that evening suddenly became fearful and all thought what could have gone wrong this time in his eyes! His words were translated: the commander wanted to say that he was very touched by the gathering of this evening and deeply impressed by its serenity…

The spiritual and soothing power of music has forever stayed with me: music became my mission and musicology my profession. The values of quiet serenity, music and words as sources of emotions and subconscious wandering thoughts, inner-observation and dedication, modesty, all these I nowadays find in the Yasna method of meditation, which is based on silence, serenity and simplicity.

All this started at that incidental Christmas Eve in that Japanese concentration camp.

With thanks to the Japanese commander!

Barend Wijtman, December 21st , 2012