This I Believe
Schauffler, Bennet F.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Sometimes it seems as if life were filled with nothing but conflict, from wars and major strife down to the petty bickering of everyday existence. Bennet F. Schauffler is one of the men who devotes himself to the positive task of composing conflicts, of getting people to work and live a little more harmoniously together. For seventeen years he has been with the National Labor Relations Board. During World War I he commanded the U.S. Navy sub-chaser number 42 in the Atlantic. He had a labor relations job in the men’s clothing industry in New York in the rough-and-tumble times when the late Sidney Hillman was organizing unions in the trade. But one of the most impressive things about Ben
Schauffler when you meet him is the sparkle in his eye. It makes you want to listen to his observations about life.
I have good reason to remember a certain evening long ago, the grubby basement of a little hall in a Massachusetts textile town, a riotous clamor of a dozen cheerful boy scouts horsing around and playing prisoner’s base. And I recall a half-hour later, the comfortable softly-lighted dignity of an old New England house where four over-privileged undergraduates were boring themselves trying to have a good time at a flaccid game of bridge. As I stood in the doorway, suddenly, as vital truth often comes, I came to understand that doing things is fun, in contrast to the calculated pursuit of passive
pleasure; that the search for amusement often defeats itself.
The world is full of people doing things they don’t really want to do. Suppose we were all as genuinely interested in what we are doing as a good violinist and his fiddle, or a crack engineer and his locomotive. I believe our days would leap cheerfully and exactingly from one to the next and we couldn’t be so easily distracted into over-asserting our own little personalities by baiting strangers or going to war. I believe this strongly. War is bickering; even some bridge games are diseases spawned in boredom, discontent, and unsatisfied aggressions.
What is important? What is important about importance? Consider that our education too often inflicts
the virtues of the conventional and the static. Most of us live in passively accepted patterns, striving for wealth, power or leisure, influence, respectability, or some recognized status. The fact is we are constantly changing. Biologists say we renew our body cells every seven years. What of our personalities? Whether humans or mushrooms or Douglas firs are getting better or worse, I don’t know. But any sap knows they are changing. And the nature of the change is vastly interesting.
Speaking as a microscopic part of this fluxing human pattern, I keep on reaching for better understanding. The sculptor understands his clay and bronze; the carpenter turns to wood; the poets and philosophers know their way around in words. For me, people are infinitely and excitingly diverse. And
in the human medium we have no usable word to express the act or the effort of one person in trying to see things from another person’s point of view. The psychologists have a fifty-cent word called empathy, for the imaginative projection of one’s own consciousness into another being. When we do achieve that, even relatively, we realize that people are at their best when they work—especially when they work together; they have more fun and they like each other better.
Granted the difficulties and complexities of life, pain, tragedy, and frustration are inescapable. There is much to be learned even from these. Many of our deepest satisfactions are accentuated by contrast with adversity. I ask myself, what are the comforts and joys of certainty compared to the
challenge of the great unknown? Perhaps unknowable. As for fear, I hope to face the greatest threats and disasters of this life well set to do the next thing, next.
There you have heard the personal beliefs of Bennet F. Schauffler, Philadelphia Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board—an individual who, in our humble judgment, comes about as close as one can in these times to being a mature and happy man.