This I Believe

Bill Costello - USA
Broadcast during the 1950s
Themes: change

This I Believe Essay:

As a correspondent, working close to the zones of conflict and tension, the growing points of society, I can never be unaware that newness is not only the warp and woof, but the whole fabric of being. Everywhere I travel, I see yesterday’s world dying and tomorrow’s being born. In all things, in war, in politics, in science, in the realm of ideas, all we are or can be is the sum of each new day’s quest for the other-than. As the years pass and I see new vistas unfolding, depth beyond depth into an illimitable future, I can no longer excuse my feelings as youthful ebullience. At any age, the prospect fills me with a kind of wonder and excitement, transcending everything past and present. If we are right in believing life has a cosmic dimension, how then are we to judge the fact that no single aspect of the universe is static? My answer is that since all things are fluid, man also is most alive and most at home when he identifies himself with the universal ebb and flow.

I believe change is the essence of truth, the ultimate form of triumph in nature and human progress. What I can never believe is that this race of men will consent to crawl back again into the caves and jungles and primeval filth from which we began the struggle toward light and to wisdom. Some do look backward. There is passion and bigotry and crime. There are demigods and cheats, and sadists, confusing self-preservation with morality. In an agony of fear and self-torment, they cling to what was true yesterday. And we are right in calling them barnacles on the inexorable.

I believe security is an illusion, because man has never known security. There is no rest this side of the grave, no easy paternalism which can absolve us of a duty to fulfill ourselves. In the noblest part of the Christian ethic, each of us is his own excuse for being. We do what we can in our own way without hope of vicarious salvation. Man’s noblest hour is when he stands laboring with improvisation, testing himself against the mystery of the unborn moment. He wars against himself when he closes his eyes to the dynamics of evolution. He is least heroic when the deep, inner will to live puts its trust in the formalisms and stereotypes of tradition.

We all know Alexander Pope’s challenge, that the proper study of mankind is man. There is no reason to feel ashamed of such a faith. There is no need to search the galaxies for the nature of man, or to invent metaphysical embroideries. I believe in people as they are, because our capacity for fulfillment demonstrates itself every day. Man is his own best inspiration. He proves it by his innate creativeness, his courage, and his ultimate dedication to reason and faith. From infancy, he breathes an awareness that each new syllable of time is unique, that every hour is an hour of decision. And the more comfortably he lives with this imperative, the more he grows in moral and spiritual stature. This planet, this crowded cavalcade of which we are apart—this instant of creation—may walk through the shadow of atomic destruction, but it cannot efface itself.

I believe what I have seen in the eyes of men in battle, in the halls of government, in the muck of rice paddies, and at the bedside of death. I believe in the restless generations, for they are the triumphant reality of what is yet to be.

Biographical Sketch by Edward R. Murrow:

Bill Costello, a veteran foreign correspondent, scholar, and author, is a member of the CBS Washington News staff. For three years, he headed CBS Radio News in the Far East, living in Tokyo and traveling from one end of the Orient to the other. His present assignment is covering the activities of President Eisenhower as CBS Radio’s White House correspondent. Here is my old friend and colleague, Bill Costello.