This I Believe

Fineman, Irving

  • Irving Fineman reads his poem, "For a Child" and explains why he feels it is a parents duty to create a better world and why to do so one needs science and faith together.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Irving Fineman abandoned a successful career in engineering for one at least equally successful in writing. He wrote his first novel while teaching theoretical mechanics at the University of Illinois. Five more followed, in addition to poems, plays and short stories. Irving Fineman now lives in Shaftsbury, Vermont, near Bennington College, where he taught literature and writing. Here is his creed.
Poetry is the wine of man's spirit. In a poem, man expresses the concentrated essence of his belief. I can best tell something of what I believe by telling you one of my poems. It is called For A Child.
I tell you this to your bright, sweet face,
Our world is a most precarious place.
Let others teach you to long for surety,
I will train you to know and accept insecurity.
Since you cannot keep life inside a neat fence,
You will learn to lean on impermanence.
You will cherish love and prize all beauty,
Though it break your heart and end in duty.
You will not fear ecstasy's turn to disgust,
You will walk like a lion after crawling in dust.
The ultimate weakness will make you more strong.
You will say, What was right has now become wrong.
You will sow for joy, and reap in sorrow,
But never surrender your wish for tomorrow.
You will take delight in the indrawn breath
That gives you life which leads to death.
I want to wean you from the womb.
Come out, my child, of that warm, dark room.
You will not find its like this side of the tomb.
That poem was written before I had any children of my own. I now have two sons, and I have come to believe that no man and woman have the right to bring children into this troubled and wonderful world unless they intend and strive to live and work together for the peace and welfare of their children and of their world, so that children can feel at home and happy in this world.
I believe in the credo of Hillel, who was a teacher in Jerusalem when Jesus was a child. Hillel said, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?" Like Hillel, I believe that now is the time for men and women of good will to better this world for themselves and for generations to come.
I believe, with Thomas Jefferson, that the main objects of science are the freedom and happiness of man, although he has been foolishly moved to apply that gift to evil uses.
I believe, with Einstein, that religion without science is blind, and science without religion is lame. And I believe that science, while dispelling ignorant superstition, is leading man toward a greater religious spirit than he has ever known.
I believe that in all their creative works--lofty or humble, in their science and art and industry, in releasing the energy of the atom or building a bridge, in making music or shaping a lump of clay, in planting seed or baking a loaf of bread--men and women approach divinity.
I believe that the creator of our universe loves life, though death is a necessary part of the lawful pattern of creation. And I believe that the spirit of man is very great in his courageous striving and aspiration to make a good life on this earth in the face of death. My favorite toast is the Hebrew one, l'chaim, which means "to life," or more exactly translated, "to the living."
That was Irving Fineman, a poet, novelist, playwright and ex-engineer.