A Sort of Unselfish Selfishness

Greene, Ward


  • Ward Greene charts a timeline of faith through an individual's lifetime--accepting as a child, intense as a young adult, and uncertain in middle age--and describes his beliefs in simple truths such as the Golden Rule.
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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. With a few kind and fatherly words of encouragement, at just the right moment, newspaperman Ward Greene has started hundreds of writers and cartoonists on their career. What beliefs have helped him on his own way up? Now, editor and general manager of the huge King Features syndicate, he gives us some answers.
When a man is ten, he has a boy’s faith in almost everything; even Santa Claus is a belief he is not quite ready
to give up so long as there is a chance the old gentleman may really live and deliver. When a man is twenty, he is closer to complete disillusion and stronger conviction than he will probably ever be in his life. This is the age of atheists and agnostics; it is also the age of martyrs. Jesus Christ must have been a very young man when He died on the cross; Joan of Arc, they say, was only nineteen as the flames consumed her. It is in the later years-oh, anywhere from thirty to fifty-that a man at some time stands with the tatters of his hopes and dreams fallen from him and asks himself, “What, indeed, do I believe?”
He is very apt, then, to cling to the words of other men who have written for him the shadowy signposts that come as close as anything to pointing pathways he found best in the past and roads he will trust on the way ahead. These words may be mere copybook maxims: that honesty is the best policy, or haste makes waste. They may be a line from Shakespeare-"To thine own self be true”-or from the Bible-”All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them”–or from the poets-”I myself am Heav’n and Hell.” They may seem a sort of hodgepodge in a man’s mind, yet they can make a pattern not inconsistent and not weak.
So if I believe that I myself am Heaven and Hell, that anything less than honesty to myself and others is a boomerang on them and me; if my translation of the Golden Rule is simple acts of kindness and understanding and compassion, practiced in the hope that they will be shown to me, then I have a way of life that is a sort of unselfish selfishness. The bald statement may sound cynical, but if I can follow that way, I shall not be too unhappy here and I may face death with regret but an untroubled face and a stout heart.
Yet there are blocks and pitfalls in any way of life, even assuming that a man can adhere to it steadfastly despite his own
inclinations to deviate. These obstacles are the work of other men who adhere to other ways. Hence kindness and compassion are not enough.
A man, I believe, must have courage and fortitude and a burning sense of justice, too. There are times we should turn the other cheek, but there are likewise times when we must fight the good fight. When? Well, if a fellow can’t find the answer on the signposts or in his heart, I guess he has just got to pray.
That was Ward Jimmy Greene, native of Asheville, North Carolina, currently a resident of Rockleigh, New Jersey, a successful and human author, editor, and playwright.