I believe in … nothing.
Although this fact might sound bleak to many people, it doesn’t shield me from feelings so profound they remind me of my early days as a devout young altar boy. I want to fall on my knees before the sun as it sets over the Olympic Mountains, or before that red breasted sapsucker on the dogwood trunk outside the kitchen window. I bow my head before King Lear and Nat “King” Cole. I am awed by the majesty of the Lincoln Memorial, or the wisdom of the Supreme Court debating two words in the Pledge of Allegiance.
I feel humbled by the determined generosity of the Gates Foundation, and by the impossible talent of Roger Federer. I am blessed by a perfect ear of corn from my September garden, and made eternally grateful by the airplane that brings my daughter safely home from France. My sense of communion with my fellow man at a Mariners game makes me stand up, wave my arms, and shout out my emotions. The constant love of my wife and the promising beauty of our grandchildren fill me with silent reverence.
All these experiences, which I share with other humans past and present and perhaps with other life forms as well, require nothing behind them or beyond them to make them inspirational. What they do require is some attention on my part, some time, and an openness to being moved.
Perhaps these feelings are close to those which inspired humans to create religions in the first place. I therefore have no problem with those who believe in god or gods and who chose to gather together to express that belief. In fact, I sometimes find their belief itself inspirational. But once again, I don’t feel need for god in order to find the inspiration.
St. Paul tells us that we must have faith, hope, and love. Although I have none of the first, I certainly meet my quota for the second. I hope we will restore a peaceful and stable Iraq to its people; protect our planet from our own shortsightedness; make our public schools places which all children, even the rich, want to attend; and replace the Seattle viaduct with a tunnel. I hope the Huskies will turn around their football program. I hope my children and grandchildren will outlive me.
As for love, sometimes it seems to be everywhere I look, and sometimes elusive. But personal experience has taught me to know and appreciate its power, and I try to do what I can to express it as often as possible.
So if love is the greatest of these three, perhaps even the venerable St. Paul would give me a passing grade of 70 on the great exam of life. That’s good enough for me.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.