This I Believe

Barry, Gerald Reid, Sir

  • Sir Gerald Barry, Director General of the Festival of Britain, talks about the changes in the world after World War II, his relationship to christianity and his belief that there is no life after death and so one must appreciate and live one's own life to the fullest extent.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Sir Gerald Barry was the Director General of the Festival of Britain. The Festival was for him a personal dream that finally became a reality. Soon after World War II, Barry, who was then a plain civilian, wrote a letter to Sir Stafford Cripps, then president of the Board of Trade. He suggested that the government should organize a national exhibition. In the summer of 1951, all the world saw at the Festival the great past of Britain, and got an insight into the future of that brave,
dogged nation. The son of a country parson, Gerald Barry made his career in Fleet Street. He was an editor of the Saturday Review, Weekend Review, and the News Chronicle in London. Here now is Sir Gerald Barry.
To begin with, I believe there is a terrible, corrosive lack of belief in our Western world today, and it is this lack of belief that is making us all so frightened and unhappy, and driving the world to the verge of self destruction. It affects both individuals and whole communities. I know it affects me. Speaking in terms of world affairs, there was a time before the
Second World War when I knew exactly what I believed, when the world issues seemed crystal clear. One was happy then. Today I find the issues have become blurred and confused. But I believe that at such times in history as this, a particular and enhanced value attaches to tolerant, honest, liberal thought and behavior.
Throughout this long confusion, and amid the rising row of propaganda, there's a temptation to surrender to a comfortable extreme and to begin to debase great and honorable words--words like justice, democracy, and freedom--by bandying them about to justify an emotion, rather than to define a principle. I believe that to do this is to
share in a betrayal of our intellectual heritage--and sorry if that sounds sententious, but it's the best way I can find of saying what I mean. I remember once hearing my father, an Anglican priest, say that there is only one deadly sin, and that is the sin of despair.
In coming now to more personal or religious beliefs, I'm not able to believe the Christian faith as I was taught it as a child. But like most other people, I accept and try to live by many Christian principles. I think perhaps the greatest single contribution of Christianity to the world is its insistence on the sanctity of the individual. And I find myself taking comfort and delight in the
dignity, the courage, and the amazing goodness of simple people. I don't ask myself whence or why it perceives this goodness, and I'm quite as ready to accept the existence of some controlling, creative mind, as not to do so. Disbelief is at least as difficult as belief. I'm not, anyhow, a philosopher by nature, and when pondering the mysteries of creation and the universe I am apt to be content with wonder.
I don't believe in personal survival after death. And this is a consolation to me, for I should be frightened or bored by the prospect of a disembodied eternity. It follows I
suppose that the only reason I have to fear death is simply that it will mean the end of a wonderful experience. For life is obviously something to be enjoyed, and I believe we are almost under an obligation to enjoy it to the fullest extent of which we are capable, to use every moment of it to the utmost of our intelligence and our energies to add something to its happiness, its beauty, or its wisdom.
I believe profoundly in the creative value of human love. I have found very much happiness in my own life and
work, and especially in working with others in the creative stimulus and fellowship of the team. But I know that the truest happiness can proceed only from the serenity of the private heart, and that when a man comes to his end, it is in terms of this alone, not of his public achievements, that his success or failure is to be measured.
That was Sir Gerald Barry, a journalist who was the Director General of the Festival of Britain.