I used to believe I could fly.
When I was young, my parents had a garage with a roof flat enough and accessible enough to serve as a fantastic launch pad for flight. At six, I’d never heard of concepts like distance, velocity and acceleration. My aeronautical know-how stemmed from watching birds and planes in flight—and I brilliantly deduced that the reason birds and planes can fly that both have wings.
Armed with a pair of wings I’d fashioned from cardboard, rubber bands, duct tape, and, of course, glitter, I climbed up to that roof and prepared for take off. If memory serves, my baby brother was sitting in the grass below, looking up at me with amazement and wonder, eager to tell the whole neighborhood, “My sister can fly!” Either that, or he was eager to run inside and tattle on me for a) climbing on the roof without permission—disorderly conduct I felt was justified by the fact that I was about to make history—and b) leaving him out.
The actual voyage itself was not technically a flight, since a flight consists of both an ascent and a descent, but two skinned knees, some bruises and a mouthful of dirt later I learned I had a new belief—a belief in gravity.
I believe in the unyielding power of belief. That belief itself shapes and molds the world and all its inhabitants. Throughout our human history, peoples and nations have accomplished great works and committed grave atrocities in the name of deep-seeded beliefs. Good or bad, right or wrong, their potential power is undeniable.
A belief can compel an individual to wake up each morning to go to a job he hates, because there is honor in a hard day’s work. Another’s belief in her own superiority might prevent her from making connections with individuals who otherwise could have been her good friends. A nation’s demonstrated belief in compassion can have the power to change the world. Even the simple belief that one will wake up the next morning allows him to fall asleep at night.
That day my earnest belief in my own ability to fly (and apparent disbelief in my own mortality) compelled me to hurl my six-year old self off of a roof. I should note that today I believe in the hand of God that broke my fall and prevented me from breaking my neck.
Although my life is no longer ordered around a personal belief in my ability to fly, and I’ve since been introduced to the laws of physics and gravity, I can’t help but remember that even beliefs that can be disproved still have power.
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