This I Believe
Thomas Jefferson was convinced that dogmatic beliefs would create dissention among the citizens of the newly formed United States so he diligently cut from the pages of his New Testament any possible reference to Jesus as divine. Ethical teachings would help unite people, but claims of divinity would only divide. Dwight Eisenhower affirmed that religious faith and belief was critical to the well-being of the country and stated that everyone should have a religious belief and he did not care which one it was. W.C. Fields is alleged to have said that everyone should believe in something and, for himself, he believed he would have another drink.
For myself, I believe in putting one foot in front of another. This may seem like a rather innocuous belief, perhaps akin to Jefferson’s desire to have beliefs not be offensive or more like Fields in that it has no religious or even spiritual content at all.
But on the other hand, if one does not put one foot in front of another, one never gets anywhere or does anything. Putting one foot in front of the other is a daily event and one that moves us in a particular direction.
The poet Gerard Manly Hopkins expressed the depths of the significance of this everyday act in his poem The Windhover when he said: “sheer plod makes plough down silion shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear, fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.” The everyday act of plodding onward turns over the ground, reveals the mystery of its depths, turns over our life and begins a process of transformation. Plodding may not be always exciting, but it gets us started to where we are going. As the Chinese proverb has it, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” It may be a sprightly step, it may be a hesitant step, it may be a fearful step, it may be a joyful or courageous one, but it is the step that gets us started.
Samuel Beckett’s profound play “Waiting For Godot” is a meditation on not putting one foot in front of the other, a study of those who stay. The final line of the play is an invitation and a stage direction: “Let’s go. (They stay).” On the one hand the profound question of the play is what one does while waiting, but on the other hand it is a study in frustration because no one ever puts one foot in front of the other.
One foot in front of the other. We won’t get anywhere unless we do that. And if we do, we put ourselves on a path that takes us in a direction and we are changed by the path, by whom and what we meet along the way, by what is required of us, by the challenges we meet as we continue to put one foot in front of another. If we believe this, we will begin our journey.
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