This I Believe
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And now, This I Believe, the living philosophies of thoughtful men and women, presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. That phrase, “the New England tradition,” means many things. In the life of Bradford Smith of Shaftsbury, Vermont, it has meant a sincere, simple faith in men. Educator, Guggenheim Fellow, writer, Mr. Smith makes his beliefs a blend of his background and his eager outlook on the world.
What is belief good for? To me, a faith, a belief, is good only when it leads to action. Like
most Americans, I have a strong strain of pragmatism in me. I want to see results. My faith starts with existence itself. The created world is fashioned with such incredibly perfect design—from the motions of the stars, to the harmonizing motions within the atom, in the beauty expended even upon every transient snowflake—that I’m humbly content to be part of the force that fashioned it.
To be a part of this magnificent creation, to be a healthfully functioning part, is a big job for a man because if you have this reverence for life, you are impelled to do something about it. You want to use every minute, every bit of energy, every talent of that portion of life which is you. You want to use it to the best advantage for yourself, your loved ones, the neighbors you know and those you don’t
know, in this suddenly shrunken world where all men are neighbors.
You want to use this creative energy, too, for those who will inherit the world you leave behind. Isn’t this immortality enough for any man, the knowledge that by the works he does, he can leave his impress upon the world forever? No matter how small that mark may be, and whether for good or ill, it is there, a stain or a glory upon the universal picture for all time. If I had to find a name for my belief, I would call it creativity, a faith in the immense fecundity and beauty and productiveness of life itself, and an urge to enhance the happiness which lies waiting for mankind, if we use to the fullest, the capacities with which we are created.
When I was a child, I used to lie on the green grass and look up into the endless depths of the sky trying to grasp the thought that there was no end to the blue space up there, that it went on forever and ever. But I think we need not worry too much about the infinite. It is a part of the grand design of creation, too, but it is beyond our grasp. Let us attend to that part of creation which lies within the human orbit and we will be doing our bit toward the infinite.
I believe very strongly that no individual is a whole person within himself. I believe that he finds fulfillment and satisfaction only within the life of the groups to which he belongs: the family, the neighborhood, the world. Therefore, I believe in sharing with my neighbors what I have to give them and
what they have for me, in the plain country neighboring of our Vermont community: in forums, discussion groups, social service, politics.
In order to have something worth sharing, I also believe in the necessity of a healthfully exercised mind and body and in the refreshing and recreating gift of music, both heard and played. I believe that democracy is the political equivalent of my faith in creativity, for only under its guarantees can human creativeness be fully exercised.
And most of all, I believe in the power of love as the personal expression of creativity, the renewing binding force by which we overcome the terrible loneliness of the individual person and start the
building of that firm chain which binds us from the smallest physical cell of our bodies, through all the larger organisms of our personal relationships, to the great and shining wonder of a world which is a universe. That is, a world made one through an emergent constantly-evolving pattern. I stand, therefore, with all men as my brothers in the arena of an infinitely promising adventure.
That was Bradford Smith, author of the recent book Bradford of Plymouth, a biography of his ancestor, a Puritan governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Proud of his heritage, but un-cynical of his fellow man today, Mr. Smith obviously believes that the principle of give and take is neither trite nor unimportant.