This I Believe

Kristoffersen, Magnus K.


  • Magnus Kristoffersen describes how reading has shaped his life, and describes the lessons he has derived from stories: from Sutton Vane's Outward Bound, he has learned that he must give a final account of his actions, and from Selma Lagerlof's Jerusalem, he has learned that trying to save one's life at the expense of others merely backfires in the end.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Though English is not his native language, Magnus K. Kristoffersen is an expert on our literature. He was born in Jutland, Denmark, and directed the Central Library there before coming to the United States, where he now heads the Hartford, Connecticut Library. Here now is Magnus Kristoffersen.
Since this is a worldly world, I think that some of my beliefs must be worldly, or I could not live a useful life. The final motivating power behind all living things, of course, is God. But I won’t be helped unless I help myself. Every morning, I wake up to a new day, and this day’s mine to shape and to hold, to live earnestly and to the best of my abilities.
I have been a librarian for almost a generation. From my earliest years, books have been important to me, and I have found in them both escape and help when I needed it. When I came to this country, it was not to seek fame and fortune but to find a chance to continue my work, in a wider sense. I have not been disappointed, although it meant to start up from the bottom in my adopted land. It did not take me long to discover that people are generous and kind, wherever they may be.
Experience has also taught me that the day’s work, in all its forms, whether with hand or brain, is, no doubt, the greatest blessing ever. And so, I believe in work. There can be little strife or bitterness or dissatisfaction or deep unhappiness where people are honestly tending to their work.
During my years in Copenhagen, some 30 years ago, I saw Sutton Vane’s Outward Bound, on the stage. That play left a deep impression on me. The action is concerned with boat passengers, from many walks of life, underway on a voyage. Nobody seems to know how he came on board until it dawns upon every single person present that he’s dead, and that he’s to meet the stern, but just, examiner before debarking on the other shore. This story comes back to me often, at odd times and in odd places, reminding me that I am responsible for my actions and will have to account for them in good time.
I believe that I should not harbor fears in any of my doings, and that I must face, with courage, issues as they arise.
Selma Lagerlof describes, in a poignant incident in her memorable book, Jerusalem, where a great passenger boat is in the process of sinking and there ensues a general stampede for the lifeboats. A woman passenger makes for an out-of-the-way, empty boat. Upon reaching it, she watches humanity, from her vantage point, scramble selfishly to save themselves, and pushing each other in the water. She congratulates herself on her safety and on having arrived at this comfortable location. But while sitting there, suddenly it occurs to her that the ship is about to sink and that her lifeboat has been forgotten. She herself is to die as the others, whom she has been smugly watching only moments before. A more real
illustration of the words of Christ, that “He who tries to save his life, shall lose it,” could hardly be found.
Yes, I believe in reading. Reading has colored and literally made my life. I have always had my nose in some book, first as a student, and later in my job of dispensing knowledge. I am reminded of Cowper’s words, “Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much. Wisdom is humbled that he knows no more.” I believe that the Creator of heaven and Earth has put me here for a purpose. It’s for me to use the talents that were given to me, use them to the best of my ability.
That was Magnus K. Kristoffersen, who was born in Denmark and lives in Hartford, Connecticut. He has learned well to apply the lessons he finds in literature to the problems of everyday life.