This I Believe

When I first starting hearing the audio submissions for NPR’s “This I Believe” project, I wondered if I were given the opportunity, what would I say?

In this confusing season, with wildly contradictory messages being pushed in from all quarters, I thought it was time to sit down and say…

This I believe…

I believe it is every persons right to be given equal opportunity to succeed according to their own capabilities. Barriers should not be imposed by social stigma, political intervention, economic class, or personal ambition.

I believe there is an inherent imbalance in the world as it exists today, that success and personal worth are measured by dollar signs and power, not by personal or societal worth. Any society that rewards a car manufacturer that creates pollution and perpetuates a materialistic worldview, while social workers and school teachers remain underappreciated and underpaid is a world that I believe has an imperfect definition of ‘worth’.

I believe that as individuals our highest goal is to understand ourselves, and by doing so, allow us to understand and help others. By understanding ourselves, we can best know what we can accomplish. Nosce te ipsum. By knowing what we can accomplish, we can visualize our place in the world, and strive to fill that place to the best of our abilities.

I believe that the apparent need for people to apply mysticism and deities to the world around is one of the great mysteries in human evolution. Why objectivity and reality is cast aside and unsubstantiated, self contradictory myths are created and embraced by even intelligent, educated, objective people completely baffles me.

I believe in the wonder of the natural world and the complexities all around us. I celebrate the solstice as a point to mark the continuance of the year. There is no mystical power, no magic, nothing fantastical about it. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel a wonder and joy at the steady turning of the seasons, but I don’t understand the need to create gods and fantasy to make it any more ‘real’ or ‘joyful’.

I believe the capacity of the human mind is limitless. I believe we only know a fraction of what is going on around us, both internally and in the universe, but that as we grow, we will learn, and the wonder will only increase.

I believe I am mortal. I believe I am fallible. I believe I am incomplete. I believe I can and will continue to grow and learn.

This I believe.

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A wandering geek. Toys, shiny things, pursuits and distractions.

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7 thoughts on “This I Believe

  1. It sounds to me like you’re not really interested in understanding why humans might seek religion, either in general or in particular, and you’re totally entitled to that disinterest 🙂 If I’m misinterpreting, though, there’s a vast body of work on the human religious experience in panorama, as well as in particular, and if you’re interested in it, you might check William James (Varieties of Religious Experience) and Mircea Eliade (The Sacred and The Profane).

  2. @Sarah – no, you’re interpreting it correctly. I’m interested in understanding why people seek it out, but I think we don’t really have an answer yet. I believe that the answer is something in the human psyche that needs ritual and social connection, my issue is gilding that need in some externally defined moral structure of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, coupled with mysticism and fantasy. Why do we need these things?

  3. Indeed – if you’re actually interested in the answer to that question, there is lots of good study about it, and reading some of it before saying “i don’t think we know” might be appropriate.
    Also, i think what you really mean is “why do other people need these things?”

  4. @cat – actually, I do mean ‘why do people need’ – I see the need in myself as well as in others, so it’s not “they all feel this, I do not.” I get choked up listening to gospels. I feel reverant in churches. I am awed by a sunrise. I feel the need for community sharing and worship, I just don’t understand why.

  5. It’s the part where you need to disbelieve “it’s real and important stuff” in spite of the evidence of your senses that surprises me 🙂

  6. “Why objectivity and reality is cast aside and unsubstantiated, ”
    Because there is no such thing as “truth”?.
    Everything is subjective.

  7. I believe that the apparent need for people to apply mysticism and deities to the world around is one of the great mysteries in human evolution. Why objectivity and reality is cast aside and unsubstantiated, self contradictory myths are created and embraced by even intelligent, educated, objective people completely baffles me.

    Maybe because the alternative is pretty bleak?
    I mean, take these together

    There is strong evidence that all species go extinct.
    With a very few exceptions, most people fade from general memory after a century or two. The exceptions are relatively recent compared to the total scope of human history, and we’re not even sure if they actually existed. (I’m thinking of Gilgamesh, Abraham, and the Yellow Emperor, who *might* be based on real people, here.)
    When put in the scale of the cosmos as a whole, nothing human beings do as individuals, or as a group, means much of anything.

    Whenever I think about that, I go into a profound funk and find it hard to motivate myself to do anything because, hey, it’s not that important and it will be utterly forgotten by the rest of the insignificant species I belong to in a very short period of time.
    Maybe people have that need to believe because it gives them a sense of some importance to their lives.

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