Attuning the Listening Ear
Taft, Charles P.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Charles P. Taft is a distinguished lawyer, the son of William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States. He enlisted in the First World War, serving in France where he won a commission. Then back to the civilian life and the Yale Law School, where he was an outstanding student and athlete. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1922 and started his career in association with his brother Robert. During the Second World War he received the Medal of Merit for his contribution to the war effort. Active in many charities, he is also a leading political figure in his state. Here is Charles Taft.
Occasionally in old speech notes I find a few persistent threads of ideas which I still use. Are these beliefs, or are they merely a crystallization of past preaching?
One of those ideas seems to me a basic premise of my beliefs, I must be ready to sift out from the expressions of others whatever may have come to them from God’s inspiration. It is easy to spout; it is far harder to cultivate a truly listening ear.
The listening ear implies humility, for it assumes a readiness to accept upsetting new ideas. The listening ear in which I believe also implies an eagerness for participation of others, both in discussion and action.
These qualities, the ear that listens with humility and the eagerness for participation of others, are the essential lubricants of our lives as social animals, in families or groups or communities, and all our organizations also represent a complete denial of absolutism in any form, including the hard-and-fast party line.
But how can one be humble and receptive, and yet have convictions that are worth anything?
There is one standard of absolute love, and I do have convictions about how it affects me. This is the spirit of God, a person of generous love and affection whose characteristics I can see in Jesus. For me God does no self-starting miracles while I sit quiescent, for He does His work only through people when
we suffer or cause suffering, either through our own perversity, or ignorance or some unexplained residue of evil, and He suffers with us. Always He welcomes us and gives us free choices to come from us and we have to approach this with full understanding of how far short of His perfect ideal we have fallen. I think of God, therefore, as essentially democratic, seeking our participation in His love, not as an autocrat.
But I live usually on a level far below that, where I act by more matter-of-fact rules of thumb. I find in myself the desire to excel by hard work, which I try to make creative by using all my acquired know-how, and all the ingenuity I can muster, with a taking of risks that I try to calculate. That adds up
to a determination not to be stopped by the usual obstructions, or the unusual ones either.
I try to find the tie between this commonplace and the sublime by subjecting these rules of thumb to God’s standard of love and generous spirit.
I try to test my course of action and my decisions by these refined rules of thumb. Every so often I stop to wonder whether the turning I took last year, or many years back, under the impulse of one of those incentives was the right turn. And I may occasionally get that sinky feeling at the pit of the stomach at the thought of where I go at death, quite irrespective of what turns I took.
But this fear of death, and perhaps also the urge for personal salvation, seem to me essentially
selfish, however natural and human. Our goal is the accomplishment of God’s broad purpose in friendly souls working without haste and without rest. This I believe, and I believe in it above all for anyone who has had more than his share of God’s blessings.
That was Charles P. Taft, who lives in his native Cincinnati with his wife Eleanor. They have six children and nine grandchildren.