This I Believe

Stark, Freya


  • Freya Stark talks about her belief in immortality and the afterlife and how this view of eternity affects her perspective and gives her and affinity for sincerity and truth.
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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. Freya Stark is Britain’s most distinguished authority on the Middle East. A small, frail woman, she has explored alone some of the wildest hinterlands of Persia. She was the first woman to receive the Royal Asiatic Society’s Burton Medal and for her exploits she was also awarded the Royal Geographical Society’s medal. Her books have established her as one of the great travel writers, and her influence in persuading the Arabic peoples to support the Allies in World War II has caused her to be called “The Lady Lawrence of Arabia.” Here now are the beliefs of Freya Stark.
In a rather easy, but nonetheless heartfelt way, I hold to my church’s teaching, and among its points of faith will select, for this short summary, the trust in immortality as that which has the most influence on my business of living as a whole. It must, indeed, make an enormous difference to the architecture of one’s life to have it cooped inside, essentially, or to be freed into eternity.
I feel this, most practically, as I grow older and am enabled to look peacefully on my age as a beginning and not an end, so that the feeling of adventure, which has always made me happy, can still continue with me.
The vagueness of the ideas I hold on immortality does not trouble me in the least. For it would be a poor secret, anyway, that could lie within the grasp of a human understanding.
My godfather, when asked what he felt about a future life, said, that he “trusted to the ultimate decency of things.” And I am content to leave the details to this great decency with a complete faith that we have something wider than time to move into through our gates of being. It seems to me that everything temporal—from our human relations, our smallest daily activities, to the palaces of nations—must be subtly altered, if the scale we work to is that of this life only, or of eternity. And for better or for worse, I believe in the larger scale.
Within this framework, I believe in curiosity, a disinterested delight in the truth of things for their own sake, entailing a dislike for anything in the nature of slogans, advertisements, or clichés—any twisting of words away from their sincerity, any mass production in thought. Anything, in fact, which throws another obstacle on the already so heavily encumbered paths of truth.
But I believe that, under its many facets, the enduring unity inside the world is half hidden, or half seen according to one’s seeking. So that if we have enough sincerity, every smallest act of our days can be a sort of union with what is everlasting.
This is a sacramental view of life, which the church illustrates, building its symbols with everyday necessities like bread and wine, salt, oil, water, and dust—the things that man has used and needed from his earliest times—and this continued sacrament that binds us at every moment of our time to something that is beyond time, and yet within us.
This constant existence in eternity is what I most deeply believe in. Only in this climate underlying time can we get away from the loneliness of life and really meet our fellows. The walls of each self shut us in, in their innumerable variety.
And I believe that it is only in the union or communion beyond self that any human relation—of marriage, of parenthood, of class, ideology, or nation—can eventually stand.
Those were the beliefs of Freya Stark, outstanding English orientalist, writer and explorer.