Avoiding the Extremes of Life

Levy, David J.

  • David Levy, Deputy District Attorney of Contra Costa County in California, describes how he learned level-headed contentment in order to survive as a POW on the Death March of Bataan during WWII.
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And now, This I Believe, a series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. In 1941, David J. Levy interrupted his legal education in San Francisco to enlist in the army. The experiences he underwent in World War II have resulted in the creed Mr. Levy now expresses.
I have had occasion to test my beliefs not only in everyday affairs but during the three-and one-half years I was a prisoner of war of the Japanese after surviving the Death March of Bataan. I observed that by trying to tolerate my plight,
although not being satisfied, I was able to endure the hardships. By remaining levelheaded at times when it would have been easier to give vent to feelings, I was able to retain this head.
An all-around education, though limited at the time, was essential for survival under extremes and proved itself under the most severe tests of physical hardships and imprisonment. Optimism was a spiritual tonic that acted as a panacea to the will and spirit when the evidence at hand said there was no use in carrying on. Loyalty has proven itself to me as to all, when the results are added, and I see that my country, ideals, and team have come out on top.
Applying lessons I learned during this period to my everyday life, I have found that I can more easily be content by being
satisfied with my station at the present. But at the same time I will not allow my sense of contentment to dampen my ambition and energy, as I must progress so that I will be content with my future position. I have found that in my actions, dealings, and daily habits, I should use a gauge of evenness and levelheadedness, in the sense that no extreme should be approached, neither in abstinence nor overindulgence.
I have found that while avoiding a fixed extreme, I should still sample all of life’s acceptable experiences and be aware of all things within the compass of the average intelligence. I would rather possess the all-around, worldly knowledge gained from a combination of education and experience rather than the highly specialized intelligence that dwells on academic study without experience.
I believe that just as all the leaves on a tree are alike and no two leaves are identical, so with persons. All are alike in seeking happiness in this world, yet no two individuals will seek this goal in the same way, and the number of persons to attain their goal will never be known. As happiness is a relative state, I believe that I can best reach that state and remain such by retaining an optimistic outlook at all times. Even when things are darkest, no matter how serious they may appear, they can always be worse.
I believe that loyalty is a trait that must be protected and applied in every phase of living. Such loyalty must be to family, country, friends, fellow workers, and employees. When there is a conflict between loyalties, as there is bound to be, I must decide what is right, using the teachings I have outlined.
I believe that by my doing what I thought was right, whenever possible, and at the same time guiding such action by reason and temperance, the possibilities of my returning from imprisonment were increased. To all of this, I must add the apparent exceptions that are not explainable under my beliefs but must be left to be explained by a greater authority.
And finally, I believe that by practicing my beliefs of doing right, being loyal, content and optimistic, I am rich in those non-worldly possessions which make me wealthy in obtaining the ultimate goal of happiness, which is the true test of success. I know of no better way to prove to myself that my beliefs are well-founded.
That was David J. Levy of Martinez, California. After his release from a Japanese prison camp in 1945, he completed law school, and today is Deputy District Attorney of Contra Costa County in California.