This I Believe

Douglas - Glenview, Illinois
Entered on April 16, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65

“Whaddaya know for sure?” My dad at his most jovial would greet almost anyone with this, including me. It was embarrassing. I never answered him and I never asked him back. I thought it was the dumbest thing, so corny and clichéd. Today, 30 years after his death, I find it profound. What could be more important, with the world apparently dissolving into chaos, than answering that question?

Over the years I’ve lived and taught in six countries. I understand that most knowing is a perspective. That whatever I perceive is just one small facet on the jewel of the universe. From observation alone I can’t know anything for sure, since how I look determines what I see. All I truly know comes from my personal interaction with the world. I have to feel my way into it, especially when it doesn’t seem to be what everybody else knows. I feel for the truth of what I know by trying to live it. That’s the test. If I can live it, and it works, then I know by the world’s response. We’re in dialogue, dancing, and when we finally synchronize there’s a thrill of confirmation, a shiver of knowing, a deepening trust in life itself. Being kind, acting with conscious intention, taking just enough, giving what you can, being grateful, paying attention, forgiving – these work in the world, sustaining the dance and confirming the trust.

Trusting my own experience can be lonely. But slowly comes a confirmation and joyful gratitude that more than compensates. From long experience fumbling the dialogue, stumbling through the dance, feeling for the truth, I now know this much: I am an essential participant in one huge beautiful living system of systems – from atoms to oceans, from microbes to mankind – in which every single living thing depends absolutely on every other living thing for every second of its existence. I know, like it or not, that I am my brother’s keeper. I know that love is acting consciously from this knowing, and that I have to accept this and all the responsibility that goes with it for the whole thing to continue. I know that the Earth – the solar system, the galaxy, the cosmos – is alive, a conscious, throbbing, breathing, evolving creative intelligence, and that I play a continuous role in its birth, its life, and its collapse back into chaos. And through my consciousness, my intention, and my action I help determine the circumstances of that cycle in time and space. I know that this is a crucial time when I have to be fully conscious, pay close attention, and trust in the outcome. And, finally, I know that I am part of you, and you of me, and we are all in this together. That’s what I know, for sure!

I miss my dad. We were never close, we disagreed on almost everything, and he died before we could talk it all out. But I loved him dearly and I still do. If I could talk to my dad again, I know what I’d ask him. “Hey Dad, “Whaddaya know for sure?” And then we’d dance.