Growing in the Middle Ground

Phipps, Anne


  • Anne Phipps describes her ongoing transition from a belief simply in outward things--such as the beauty to be found in nature, art, dance and literature--to a belief in her inner soul.
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And now, This I Believe. The living philosophies of thoughtful men and women presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. The human spirit is an elusive thing. It rarely shows itself in public for what it really is. But when it does it sets up a wave of communication with kindred spirits, powerful beyond the measure of kilowatts. Here is an eighteen year old sophomore at Bryn Mawr College, Anne Phipps, daughter of a New York City banker, to share with us some of her intimate beliefs.
I believe that my beliefs are changing. Nothing is positive. Perhaps I’m in a stage of
metamorphosis, which will one day have me emerging complete, sure of everything. Perhaps, I shall spend my life searching.
Until this winter, I believed in outward things, in beauty as I found it in nature and art. Beauty past—swift and sure—from the outside to the inside, bringing intense emotion. I felt a formless faith when I rode through summerwoods, when I heard the counterpoint of breaking waves, when I held a flower in my hand.
There was the same inspiration from art, here and there in flashes; in seeing for the first time the delicacy of a green jade vase, or the rich beauty of a rug; in hearing a passage of music played almost
perfectly; in watching Markova dance Giselle; most of all, in reading. Other people’s creations, their sensitivity to emotion, color, sound, their feeling for form, instructed me. The necessity for beauty, I found to be the highest good, the human soul’s greatest gift. But there were moments when I wasn’t sure. There was an emptiness inside, which beauty could not fill.
This winter, I came to college. The questions put to me changed. Lists of facts—and who dragged whom how many times around the walls of what—lost importance. Instead, I was asked eternal question: what is beauty, what is truth, what is God? I talked about faith with other students. I read St. Augustine and Tolstoy. I wondered if I hadn’t been worshipping around the edges. Nature and art were the edges, and
inner faith was the center. I discovered—really discovered—that I had a soul.
Just sitting in the sun one day, I realized the shattering meaning of St. Augustine’s statement that, “The sun and the moon, all the wonders of nature, are not God’s first works but second to spiritual works.” I had, up till then, perceived spiritual beauty only through the outward. It had come into me. Now I am groping towards an inner, spiritual consciousness that will be able to go out from me. I am lost in the middle ground. I’m learning.
What you have just heard was the sound, so to speak, of an American girl growing up; the stirring process of self discovery by Anne Phipps of Westbury, New York, now a student of Bryn Mawr.
She says she is learning. Already she has taught us something of the exciting wisdom that comes with maturity to a thoughtful person.