Having Shed Illusions

Mowrer, Paul Scott


  • Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and poet Paul Mowrer describes the importance of faith and hope to his beliefes, which include first hand experiences of both the good and bad that people can do.
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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. Paul Scott Mowrer is an unusual combination: one of the country’s top war correspondents and a poet. He began as a reporter on the Chicago Daily News and became its editor after many years as a foreign correspondent, during which he won the Pulitzer Prize. He has alternated books on foreign affairs with books of verse. Here are the beliefs of Paul Scott Mowrer.
I am by nature devout. I worship life. Whatever adds to the dignity and fullness of life is good.
I do not know whence, why or whither. But in this great universe of sand and stars, of life and death, there must be some kind of plan; therefore, a planner; therefore—well, people who recognize this call it, each in his own way, God. A God, however, who can be known only intuitively, in those mystical soul-moments when we suddenly feel ourselves at one with creation.
I have suffered great blows, like everyone, and known great happiness. I believe that, within limits that change according to circumstances, my will is free.
To this extent, I mold my own fate. Yet even in the worst that happens to me, there seems to be some good, and in the best, some bad.
I began to lose my illusions at seventeen, when I got my first newspaper job. People were not at all as I had been taught to believe. The shock was tremendous. Since then, in two big wars and several smaller but not less gruesome ones, I have seen man, at his best and worst. I like people, all sorts. But I expect little of them. And expecting little, I am often very agreeably surprised.
I have read, gradually, the literature of the ages, and lived it many lands. There is a great deal of wisdom, solace and pleasure available in men, books, nature and art.
Our material progress has been marvelous. It has not made men happier. Skills, knowledge and culture can be accumulated through the generations. Virtue cannot. Morally, every man starts fresh, and happiness comes from within.
To what is the obvious moral deterioration of the last fifty years due? The wars? Perhaps. But perhaps also to the arrogant attempts man has been making to put himself creatively in God’s place.
I recognize my enormous debt to society. I will obey the laws, defend my country, my friends, stand up for what I think right, and say my say. But I have no wish to force my views or tastes on others.
Having shed, I believe, most illusions, I live now by faith and hope: the faith that life is its own justification; the hope that I shall continue to find it so.
I have feared death, terribly, in war. But the fear was physical, not mental, and so controllable. Why should what comes to everyone be bad for me?
Is this life all? I try to live fully, as if it were. But I am open-minded. I know that, one day, as a good newspaperman, I shall have to accept the assignment, and go find out for myself.
Those were the beliefs of Paul Scott Mowrer, newspaperman and poet of Chocorua, New Hampshire.