This I Believe

Joseph - Louisville, Kentucky
Entered on August 25, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in perspective; the chance to see the World from a bird’s-eye view. Distance can make the rituals of our lives seem inane, or bring an Impressionistic Swirl into striking relief. A little distance reveals our evils and our beauty.

I have had several moments of intense perspective in my life: a near-death in a car wreck, the revelation of God on a retreat, the death of my uncle, the marriage to my wife – all of these a violent jolt to a place perched far from where I normally live. A place where my mundane material wants flake away to reveal a hidden gem beneath – my heart’s true desire. I have no sole claim to this experience. Everyone has had something jar them from their lives; a loss, a grief, a joy, a pain, love… Some fear these sudden shocking perspectives and the truths they show us, but others embrace them. They show us we are not our jobs, cars or European vacations. We are not the rolling numbers in our bank accounts, or the 3000-square-foot house we spend a lifetime dreaming of and finally afford. We are not a Democrat or Republican, a thief, a racist or murderer. We are not the members of People’s 100 Most Beautiful, or the never noticed high school janitor. We are not presidents, saints, winners, or losers. We are not the things that will wither after we are gone or the titles and labels that cling to our memories. Our worth does not rest in how others perceive our choices, but in the choices themselves. In the final analysis all that we are, are the choices we’ve led our lives by and the beliefs we take into our hearts. Every man and woman lives out their lives with constraints and variability as to its circumstance, but regardless of these things we are left with our own decisions to make. I believe our ultimate judgment rests solely in the hands of something truly capable of seeing the merit of those choices.

At my sister’s birthday party several years ago I was trying to explain this concept to my family when my small nephew Connor asked me what I was talking about. Instead of dismissing his question and continuing with my conversation I thought I would try and explain. I told him this story:

Long ago when Man was first created he was sitting on the top of a high hill and looking at the beauty of the World. After several hours he started to feel an aching inside of him that turned into an endless pain. For days this pain left Man bounded over and reeling until suddenly he opened his eyes and saw a subtle glowing stone resting near his legs. He thirsted for the stone and could feel its power calling him. He stretched and grasped the stone and instantly felt the terrible pain inside him fade. He felt a calm flow through his body and rest softly in his heart.

Weeks passed and Man sat contented on the high hill gazing at the World with the healing stone in his lap. Eventually, Man thought to himself that this stone must have come from the mighty hill he rested on. If this stone is so wonderful there must be a stone far greater buried beneath the hill. A stone that would not only content him but fill him with his every desire. Man had forgotten the pain before the stone, he had forgotten the empty ache inside he had known. He laid the glowing stone on the ground and began to dig into the Earth. Day and night he toiled, digging into the mighty hill. At first he leaned over into the hole he was creating. Then he was able to stand in the hole. Eventually he had to throw the dirt high over the walls he had created to reach the ground above. He became convinced the huge stone of his dreams lay only inches from his grasp.

The hole above him soon became only a small opening that let the sunlight in. He began to feel the old ache seep into him. Man decided he must dig faster and harder to find the huge and wonderful stone of his dreams. He toiled without sleep digging and digging. His fingers bled and the ache had turned into pain. Man franticly searched for the stone he knew must be buried in the hill until one night he could stand the pain no more and fell over. He laid curled in a ball in the hole he had dug looking up through the small opening high above. The night sky filled the opening and Man could faintly see the soft glow of the stone that had filled him with peace so long ago. The glow called to him and the thirst for it reminded Man of what he had sacrificed to dig his hole into the mighty hill.

Man decided that by now he must be closer to the stone of his dreams then to the original stone. He rolled over and worked despite the mighty pain. He stuffed the terrible pain into any place within him that would let him continue his toil into the Earth. Every so often the pain would become too much and he would again curl into a ball and see the tiny hole and faint glow of his original stone. He longed for the stone, but eventually always decided he was closer to the stone of his dreams.

Man never tried to climb back to his original stone, but continued his search into the Earth. Always moving farther and farther from the only thing that could take away his pain.

My nephew seemed sad that Man would give up the stone that had brought him such happiness. He asked me if the story was true and I told him that for most people unfortunately it was. He wanted to know how to find his stone and never let it go. I told him his stone wasn’t hidden, he had heard about it many times before that day. He asked what it was and I said that his stone was forgiveness. His stone was love, selflessness, patience, the lack of judgment, and the belief in truth. His stone was the turning away from the pursuit of wealth and fame. His stone was putting others before yourself, and letting the hatred and pain others may sling at you only feed your desire to love them.

I looked in Connor’s eyes and told him that should he ever lose his way or begin to dig his hole into the Earth that he need only look up to find his way back to his stone.

Every person has a hole inside of them that can’t be filled with the fleeting and material, its shape knows only one key. I believe the moments of perspective we are granted are gifts that show us the key. I have tried to fill this hole with doubt and cynicism. I have labored at jobs I despise to buy the latest new thing in the vein effort of lessening this gnawing ache inside of me. I am scared to make the choice that has been shown to me in stark contrasting light so many times.

If only we had the strength to fill our emptiness with the stone we know is right. If only the moments of our days were lived from that place showing us the path to true happiness. Maybe all we need is the strength to live with a bird’s-eye view.