I thought it would be easy, but I was mistaken. “This I believe.” I believe in things, don’t I? Why can’t I say what? Concrete objects, emotional states, metaphysical phenomena…. my mind teemed with articles of faith, but none seemed to reduce down to a real answer to the fundamental question: What do I believe?
This is what I ponder as I sit on the plastic bench of the bus that takes me home after work, my mind worn and my body tired. I sit among workers, shoppers, tourists and others who defy categorization. I glance around at a sea of pants, trousers, and slacks, at the dresses and skirts and kilts and all the legs in all their leggings…. Folk are holding shopping bags, laptop bags, rumpled paper sacks with the necks of bottles peeking out. The floor is a jumble of shuffling boots and loafers and track shoes and even sandals, though it’s been raining. And it is the sight of pedicured toes peeking from this incongruous footwear that triggers my realization, as my eyes rise up to meet those of my fellow riders.
I scan their faces, each one a shared cipher, revealing and concealing character in equal measures. This is what I believe, I now realize – this is what matters. These people are what I believe in. I believe in their weaknesses and their strengths, in their permanence in spite of their transience. I believe that they wake up each morning with drowsy regret for the beds they’re leaving, and that they go out each day with the fatalistic resignation that life is work, or time is money, or existence is suffering, or something along those lines. I believe that they each secretly cherish petty irritations and mad passions. I believe in their desire to be liked, to be needed, to succeed, each in his or her own personal way.
And underlying all this, I believe that each and every one of them believes in something that lifts them above the shards of their shattered expectations and impels them to reach out every day anew. How else could they all bear to be here, week upon week, riding the same bus, fulfilling their same old tattered destinies?
Yet they keep getting up and facing the world, day after day after day. They’ve got to believe in something to do that. And, whatever it is, every one of them has that secret strength buried somewhere inside. Their strength, in turn, gives me the strength to keep up with them. Anyway, that’s what I believe.
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