This I Believe

Ferrence, Lillian


  • Lillian Ferrence describes a moment of spiritual revelation in the sculpture court at the Brooklyn Museum, and her beliefs in God's tie to beauty, the importance of considering the feelings of others, the use of humor to dispel anxiety, and the brotherhood of humanity.
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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. Alaska remains the twentieth-century American frontier for many adventurous people. Lillian Ferrence is one who acted upon her pioneering spirit and has found new roots in this young, rich land. She and her husband live rather primitively, eleven miles north of Ketchikan. A commercial artist by profession, Mrs. Ferrence says that the greatest influences in her life have been libraries and museums, as footnotes to people. Here is the creed of a young and thoughtful person.
When I was about 15 years old, I had a sort-of combined religious and aesthetic experience. I have never recovered. Early one summer morning, I wandered alone through the Greek court, then slowly passed a few remnants of ancient Egypt, until I came into the sun-drenched sculpture court of the Brooklyn Museum, while an anonymous organist played Bach’s music. This realization must have been forming for some time, because I recall going through the tortures of rejecting, then doubting, until that special moment which suddenly affirmed the reality of God and His inseparability with all beauty and great works.
A later discovery, probably at a more modern museum, showed me that art could not exist without perpetual creation, just as man
could not. However, though this may seem paradoxical, I do believe a good deal that is wrong with the world might be alleviated by a bit of slowing down. Reflection and meditation seem to be as outmoded in practice as they are as words. In our haste to get to the day after tomorrow, we are apt to ignore yesterday and today. Progress would not be halted, nor even stunted, if we were to take time out to examine that which is already in our possession and use it as a foundation for further enlightenment. It might even be clarified. Wisdom does not spring full grown from the minds of men, as Athena from the brow of Zeus.
Also, each moment spent in considering someone else’s feelings is well spent. There’s no need to hurt another by word or gesture.
I have never found lesser or greater people to ignore or cultivate, as the case may be, because each individual human is a being of great importance.
In times of extreme distress, I’ve discovered that time, hope, and humor were the finest antidotes for anxiety. This geode still serves me faithfully. Another source of great comfort to me has been the ancient Hindu, I think, tale about the ruler who searched throughout his kingdom for some panacea to dispel a period of great tribulation, perhaps similar to this era. After all the others had failed to suggest a cure, a wise, old holy man came forward to say, simply, “and this, too, shall pass away.”
This old world has been a longtime in the making and has an infinite time to go. It is, in considering the wide expanse of space
and time, one of the great gifts of mankind that we can gather renewed courage to learn as much as is individually possible, to point out not only the differences but the similarities that all men of goodwill possess. In doing so, we discover the brotherhood of mankind that defies artificial caste and differences of skin tone. There is a saying in the Koran: “The East and the West is God’s. Therefore, whichever way ye turn, there is the face of God.” This I believe.
That was Lillian Ferrence, a native of Brooklyn, whose talent for painting may be seen on a group of totem poles in her newfound home in Alaska.