That Look You Get

Harsch, Joseph C. (Joseph Close)

  • Joseph Harsch describes his beliefs in the value of always moving forward (rather than stagnating) and in the importance of helping others.
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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. Joseph C. Harsch is one of the nation’s foremost journalists. For many years foreign correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, he is now its Washington columnist. As radio news analyst he has few equals. He is the author of “Pattern of Conquest” and “The Curtain Isn’t Iron.” Here is the personal philosophy of Joseph C. Harsch.
Everyone, I suppose, tends to define his own beliefs in terms of what he has found in his own experience to have the highest value; those being the things which cause him to go on working, rather than to quit and give up and just vegetate. I never did much vegetating. When I tried it, I got bored. I have kept working. And that means that I did believe in a number of things even during my younger years when I was not overly conscious of what I did believe in. Now that I try to sort them out, I think they fall in this order. I have found two separate and distinct sources of satisfaction in life. One is the satisfaction of being in forward motion. It has not mattered so much how far I got as that I did get along.
This process of being in motion has something to do with the kind of society in which we live. I think I have figured out what makes it valuable to me. Our western society is marked above all by its diversity of peoples, and forms of government, and ideas. I have been moving, with personal satisfaction, in a diversified society. I like it. I am happy moving among people who frequently disagree with me, and who lead very different lives from mine. Therefore I conclude that there is virtue of both material and spiritual kind in a diversified society of diversified man. My political instinct is therefore to aid and to abet in what small way I can the further evolution of diversified man.
I believe that it is good, healthy and stimulating to do this, and that the doing of it is as good a way as any I know to show respect toward the Deity whom I conceive to be a diverse concept itself manifesting activity in diversity.
Then there is the memory strong in me of the occasions when I have seen a glance of surprised appreciation in the eyes of another person. Don’t misunderstand me. I never did anything spectacular in the way of kindness for others. But sometimes we do do things which spring from an understanding of the needs and feelings of others. People always seem so surprised when you do that sort of thing, and so very grateful. And that look you get is a vast reward.
It is the other great source of satisfaction. It comes from being considerate, even in very small ways. So from that sort of experience I have evolved a belief that there is virtue in being considerate, in being kind, in occasionally remembering the Golden Rule. And what does that prove? To me it proves that there is something decent in this thing we call the human spirit. It’s a good thing; it must be, because it brings a little light into human eyes. Why is that good? I suppose it’s because the ability to give kindness and receive appreciation in return is the one thing which really proves that man has climbed up out of the jungle and gotten hold of something higher than just the satisfaction of survival.
The net of this is that I know that I do believe in several things. I believe there is merit in life. I believe there is particular merit in the way diversified western man lives. That seems to me to represent progress. And I believe that because men have learned to give kindness and to receive appreciation that there must be something higher leading us on to more compassion and more consideration for others within the context of human activity. In short, the process of thinking through this exercise has made me realize that I really do believe in the existence of that something we are all groping for when we use the word God.
Those were the beliefs of Joseph C. Harsch, radio commentator and Washington columnist of the Christian Science Monitor.