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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. To look at, Clarence E. Pickett is a mild, pleasant-faced man with gray hair, but in his quiet way, he is a forceful, powerful figure. For twenty-one years he was executive secretary of the American Friends Service Committee, the group which won the 1947 Nobel Peace Prize for its worldwide work in education, reconstruction and relief. Clarence Pickett, who has dedicated his life to peace, illustrates his convictions in an unusual way.
What do I believe? Let me tell you a little story. It happened in the closing days of 1950. Just as General McArthur announced the imminent end of the Korean War, came the invasion by Chinese troops. A delegation from Peiping arrived on the scene at Lake Success where I had been spending most of my time watching United Nations proceedings. The western powers wished to debate peace in Korea; the Chinese insisted on debating what they called “American aggression in Formosa,” and both sides were adamant.
Midnight, December first, one of my Quaker colleagues lay awake wondering what could be done to ease the pressure.
Her mind wandered back to another heated conference in London, between India and the British government, when independence weighed in the balance. Then a little Quaker meeting house had been made available to all conferees for meditation. Gandhi and others used it. Couldn’t something of that sort be done on the Korean question? Might it not be already the time to inaugurate a little meditation chamber at Lake Success?
We asked the secretariat. The response was hearty and immediate. But would any considerable number of countries support such a step? My colleagues and I, who had no official U.N. responsibility of any kind, interviewed a number of delegates.
I shall never forget the experience of talking with British, American, Indian, Pakistan, Canadian, Lebanese, and other representatives. All, with a sense of relief and in a climate of hope, warmly encouraged the move. It was as if a new force had entered to lighten the load. Now the meditation chamber is in use. Great issues still stagger the minds and spirits of men. But almost any time one passes the little chamber now, one sees some harried delegate in meditation or prayer.
There was no room at the inn, and Jesus was born in a stable. Perhaps it is significant that although space at Lake Success is at a great premium, room was found to symbolize the life of the spirit in a world of political tension, where men with heavy hearts and puzzled minds can pause for inspiration, courage, and insight.
As beautiful as it is, many people believe that the story of Christ’s birth has very little application in a world which depends upon positions of strength for its security. But here in the quite unspiritual atmosphere of the U.N. was proof that there is a quality of spirit in men that can change the very climate in which they live and alter their standard of values and make them act differently toward each other. Then the life of the spirit begins to assume a practical quality which so often eludes us. Seeing the way in which this tangible testimony to the reality of the spiritual side of men’s lives comes into being, confirms my conviction that men of all kinds, of all colors, and under all circumstances, have something that can be appealed to,
that can be touched, and that can transform their relations with their fellows. Gandhi once said that he didn’t expect to change his enemies’ attitudes by constantly reminding them of their worst evils. I think Gandhi was right, and believing this I shall do what I can to work for a response to the divine within the texture of the daily living among men and nations.
That was Clarence E. Pickett, a Quaker humanitarian, whose faith in the spiritual resilience of this unhappy world of men makes one realize how easily we could begin to improve it, if we would.