This I Believe

PAAGES AND ITCOVERS MORE REFER - LUXEMBURG, Wisconsin
Entered on September 15, 2006
Age Group: 65+

IT WAS JANUARY, 2004. I FOUND MYSELF RETIRED AFTER MORE THAN 60 YEARS OF STUDYING, WORKING AND BEING INVOLVED IN PUBLIC AFFAIRS. NOW THERE WAS A VACUUM. WHAT DID IT ALL MEAN? WHAT HAVE I LEARNED OVER THOSE ALL TOO FLEETING YEARSTHAT GIVES MEANING TO LIFE AND THOSE VALUES WE HOLD SO DEAR? SHOULD SOMETHING BE SAID? BUTWHO SHOULD SAY IT? WHAT SHOULD BE SAID? MOST IMPORTANTLY, SHOULD I BE SO BOLD AND PRESUMPTUOUS TO SAY IT?

SUDDENLY THOUGH, THE IDEAS BEGAN TO FORM. I REMEMBERED MY JUNIOR AND SENIOR ENGLSH TEACHER, MRS. LUCILLE HIGHLAND KOTAS. HER LOVE OF LITERATURE AND POETRY HAS INSPIRED ME ALL THESE YEARS. I USE IT ALL THE TIME WHEN I WRITE, SPEAK, OR JUST ENJOY THE WORDS PASSED ON SO LONG AGO.

THE IDEAS BEGAN TO APPEAR. SLOWLY, THE VACUUM WAS BEING FILLED. I BEGAN TO SEE ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS RAISED ABOVE. EXPERIENCES OF THE PAST AND PRESENT BEGAN TO MERGE. I BEGAN TO WRITE. HERE IS ONE PERSON’S STORY.

A PERSON BEGINS WITH AN UNDERSTANDING OF SELF. ONE CANNOT HOPE TO UNDERSTAND THE WORLD WITH ALL ITS DIVERSITY IF HE/SHE DOES NOT UNDERSTAND WHO HE/SHE IS AS AN INDVIDUAL. THIS REQUIRES SOUL-SEARCHING -ADMISSSION OF BOTH STREHGTHS AND WEAKNESSES. ABOVE ALL, IT REQUIRES TRUTH. THIS IS VERY WELL EXPRESSED IN THE ADVICE POLONIUS GIVES HIS SON LAETES IN HAMLET:

THIS ABVE ALL: TO THIE OWN

SELF BE TRUE,

AND IT MUST FOLLOW AS THE

NIGHT THE DAY,

THOU CANST NOT THEN BE

FALSE TO ANY MAN

THUS, A PERSON BEGINS WITH INTROSPECTION, WHICH THEN FORMS THE FRAMEWORK FOR THAT UNDERSTANDING OF SELF. IT IS THE BASIC FOR TRUE SELF IDENTITY, FOR HOW CAN ONE RESPOND TO ANOTHER AND SEEK THE TRUTH IF ONE DOES NOT KNOW THE TRUTH IN HIMSELF/HERSELF? WITHOUT THIS SOLID FOUNDATION WITHIN ONESELF THERE CAN BE NO PEACE. ONCE ONE DOES, HOWEVER, ACHIEVE THAT PEACE THERE IS HARMONY OF THE SOUL. ONE NOW HAS THE COMFORT AND CONFIDENCE TO MOVE ON TO SEEK HIS/ HER OWN DESTINY. ONE CAN NOW FOLLOW THE EXAMPLE OF THE PHILOSOPHER HENRY DAVID THOREAU:

I WENT TO THE WOODS BECAUSE

I WISHED TO LIVE DELIBERATELY,

TO FRONT ONLY THE ESSENTIAL

FACTS OF LIFE AND SEE IF I COULD

WHAT IT HAD TO TEACH,AND NOT,

WHEN I COME TO DIE,DISCOVER

THAT I HAD NOT LIVED.

THOREAU CHALLENGES US TO SEEK INDEPENDENCE, TO RECOGNIZE THAT TRUTH ABOUT OURSELVES EXPRESSED ABOVE. HE URGES US MAKE OUR CHOICES AND NOT BE WILLING TO SETTLE FOR THEIR BEING MADE FOR US.

IAM BACK IN MRS. KOTAS’ CLASS AS THE WORDS OF THE POET JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER COME BACK TO SUBSTANTIATE THOREAU:

FOR OF ALL SAD WORDS

OF TONGUE OR PEN, THE

SADDEST ARE THESE:

“IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN!”

HOWEVER, THIS IS NO EASY TASK. WE MUST DO IT. IT CANNOT BE DONE FOR US. WILLIAM ERNEST HENLEY GIVES US NO ROOM FOR EXCUSES WHEN HE CONCLUDES HIS POEM INVICTUS:

I AM THE MASTER OF MY FATE;

I AM THE CATAIN OF MY SOUL.

HENLEY PLACES THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR SELF RIGHT UPON US. LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO DABBLE IN THE MIRE OF PROCRASTINATION, REGRET, OR NEGATIVISM.HENLEY’S ADVICE IS NOT TO HAVE TO LET THE FATE OF LOT”‘S WIFE BE OUR DESTINY OR LEGACY.

BUT WE CAN NOW MOVE FROM TTHE BIBLE TO OUR OWN NATION. THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE MAKES CLEAR THE PATH WE CAN TAKE AS WE SEEK THE TRUTH OF WHO WE ARE:

WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE

SELF-EVIDENT: THAT ALL MEN

ARE CREATED EQUAL;

WE ARE MOVINGFAST AS THE EARLY AMERICAN WRITER THOMAS WOLFE ADDS MORE CHALLLENGE IN HIS POIGNANT AND STIRRING ESSAY, “THE PROMISE OF AMERICA”:

SO, THEN TO EVERY MAN,

HIS CHANCE—TO EVERY

MAN, REGARDLESS OF HIS

BIRTH, HIS SHINING GOLDEN

OPPORTUNITY—TO EVERY

MAN THE RIGHT TO LIVE,

TO WORK, TO BE HIMSELF,

AND TO BECOME HATEVER

THING HIS MANHOOD AND

HIS VISION CAN COMBINE

TO MAKE HIM—THIS SEEKER

IS T HE PROMISE OF AMERICA.

PROCEDING FURTHER INTO CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY, THE LATE SENATOR ROBERT KENNEDY GIVES US AN APPROACH, AND AGAIN, A STRONG CHALLENGE:

SOME MEN SEE THINGS AS

THEY ARE, AND SAY “WHY?”

I DREAM OF THINGS THAT

NEVER WERE AND SAY

“WHY NOT?”

NOW WE ARE AT THE BRINK:

TRUE TO SELF (POLONIUS)

LIVE DELIBERATELY (THOREAU)

“IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN!” (WHITTIER)

“I AM THE MASTER OF MY FATE;

I AM THE CAPTAIN OF MY SOUL”

(HENLEY)

ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL

(DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE)

THE PROMISE OF AMERICA (WOLFE)

WHY NOT? (ROBERT KENNEDY)

THE ANSWER BECOMES CLEARAS WE TURN, SURPRISINGLY, TO THE FAMILIAR, THAT BELOVED CHRISTMAS TALE “”A CHRISTMASCAROL”, AS THE GHOST MARLEY REPLIES TO OLD EBENEEZER SCROOGE’S LAME XCUSE, “BUT YOU WERE ALWAYS A GOOD MAN OF BUSINESS, JACOB”:

“BUSINESS! CRIED THE GHOST,

WRINGING HIS HANDS. MAN KIND

WAS MY BUSINESS. THE COMMON

WELFARE WAS MY BUSINESS;

CHARITY, MERCY, FOREBEARANCE,

AND BENEVOLENCE , WERE ALL MY

BUSINESS.”

THIS , THEN IS OUR MEANING IN LIFE. IT IS FOR US TO MOVE FROMTHE SELF TO MANKIND, TO HAVE THE WILL AND DETERMINATION TO RECOGNIZE OUR POTENTIAL FOR THE GOOD OF ALL. IF WE CAN DO THIS, THE WE CAN ANSWER POSITIVELY THE CHALLENGE THOREAU POSED AND KNOW THATWHEN WE COME TO DIE WE HAVE TRULY LIVED.