This I Believe

Hamilton, Mary Agnes


  • Mary Agnes Hamilton describes her belief in the soul and the bond it creates between fellow human beings, and her belief in absolute values that remain true despite the evils of Nazism and Communism.
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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. Mrs. Mary Agnes Hamilton is editor of the English-speaking world, and a former Labour member of Parliament. Her journalistic career dates back to an association with The Economist, which she left during World War I because of her pacifist views. Between world wars, she served as a member of the British delegation to the League of Nations, and as Clement Attlee's parliamentary private secretary. She has also been a London alderman, a governor of the BBC and an official of the British foreign office. This is Mary Agnes Hamilton's creed.
Malvolio, in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, puts it in a nutshell. He’s in prison in the dark. He’s being cruelly teased by Mariah and Sir Toby Belch, who have entrapped him there. But what he says is: “I think nobly of the soul.”
I agree with Malvolio. When I ask what makes me go—which is another way of indicating the central supreme of one’s thought—the answer is a conviction that there is in man a divine spark, something that connects him with the infinite and creates a bond between him and his fellows. This spark is at once the inspiration of great art and the core of human sympathy and compassion. To give it scope and room to grow is the aim of democracy, which rests ultimately on faith in the human animal.
All of us, of course, are mixtures of the good and the not so good. If one looks in, it’s easy to be disheartened (not if one looks out, onto companions on life’s journey). I know that a tendency to like people and to feel a warm kinship with them is, in part, a gift, something one starts with or without. In my case, experience—and a pretty diversified experienced, at that—has confirmed an inclination implanted by a very happy childhood. I adored my father and mother, and they deserved it. I have always enjoyed and got on with my brothers and sisters. My friends are, by long odds, my most precious possession.
But liking is not enough. Once, I thought it was. I was brought up as a rationalist and entirely outside the churches, and I thought that man was not only the measure of all things, but in his own independent right the creator of values. This, when I came down from college, made me a member of the Labour Party. I am still a member of the Labour Party. I believe that to what men can achieve if they act together—each for all, and all for each—there are no limits, or very few. But what they do depends on what they think and what they feel.
I don’t pretend that Nazism was not a potent of evil force. I don’t pretend that Communism, based as it is on materialism and contempt for the human soul, is not a threat to everything we cherish. Both represent manmade systems
of values. I have come to believe in absolute values, deriving not from any given group’s transitory interpretation, but from the inalterable existence of God. The form may vary. The substance is independent of time, place, circumstance. It is true whether or no it works.
What happens to one’s self, of course, doesn’t matter, so long as one can see a meaning, something far more deeply and diffused in the whole affair—so long as, to use the contemporary phrase, “the universe makes sense.” It makes sense because there is at work in it something immortal and unchangeable, something which is reflected in the human creature.
There the beliefs of Mary Agnes Hamilton, a leading British politician, journalist and author.