This I Believe

Heard, Gerald

  • Gerald Heard describes his perspectives on moral laws and the freedoms we must obtain to achieve true contentment in our life, free of fears and anxiety.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Gerald Heard is a writer and lecturer. He is the author of a number of books on the philosophy of history, including The Ascent of Humanity. He also writes fiction, and in 1946 won the Ellery Queen Prize for the best mystery of the year. Dr. Heard has a pointed red beard, is of slight build, and dresses conservatively. He has a scholarly look and—more important—a lively mind. Here is his creed.
First a word about what I believe belief to be: Belief isn’t blind. Belief is a choice, a reasonable choice. We are faced with facts. Do they, when we have looked them over, make sense or
nonsense? There are two main beliefs today. One is that everything we see is really mechanical. The other meaning is bigger. It allows that things work regularly, but it adds: things are going in a direction; they’re making for some goal, some all-over meaning. That’s my belief.
For instance: I believe that we can see working five natural moral laws. I believe life asks us five questions: What is force? May you kick a man when he’s down? Sex—or rather the great reproductive cycle? What’s wealth? And is my money my own to do what I like with it? What’s my word? Are promises, like pie crusts, meant to be broken? And what’s my thought? Does it matter if what I say and do is different from what I think?
And I believe there’s proof that if we fail to answer these challenges constructively, creatively, life throws us aside. We fail to live happily and our society collapses. Further, I’ve come to believe by watching myself and others, that during life we have to win four freedoms. We know now, many of us were hurt, psychologically damaged very early in our birth years. We have, then, to gain freedom from that damage, that hangover. Most people realize this now and do something about it, but that’s only the first step.
For then there’s the second freedom to be won: freedom from sickness. Most people have a complaint of some sort—or fear they have. We’ve now learned that the mind is always affecting the body and the
source of true health is mental vitality. The true will to live and to live well. But to have that, we mustn’t seek comfort. Comfort’s always asking, “Am I really comfortable?” finding, of course, that it isn’t. Living strenuously is the way to be well. It’s hard, but it works.
And the third freedom is harder and stranger. We’re even more backward in trying to gain that. It is freedom from the fear of decrepitude. Here again, we mustn’t fear the inevitable: we’ve got to get old. Old age is an art. We can get old skillfully, and we’ve all got to learn that art. Then we’re ready for the fourth and final freedom: freedom from the fear of death.
Death itself is natural, inevitable. It’s the way we face it that makes all the difference. The fear
goes out of death when we know what it means—when we see it’s a second birth. Then when it comes we go out to meet it with glad expectations, as we welcomed each of the other stages of life. Voluntary strenuousness, voluntary old age—these lead to a glad acceptance of death as the completion of the art of living.
That’s my belief. I’m sure it isn’t a private one: I believe it’s the essence of all beliefs that have ever made men creative, happy, cooperative. I believe everyone can prove it for himself. I belief in this faith we have a sanction for a happy life, a sane society and a worldwide civilization. It’s not easy to live. It doesn’t tell you “Just relax.” On the contrary, it keeps you on your toes all the
time. But I found, myself, that even to begin to try and live in that way gives meaning to every day and hour and makes the future and incomparable adventure.
That was an Englishman, Gerald Heard, a writer and lecturer, now of Santa Monica, California.