As I’ve listened to ‘This I Believe’ on the radio, I’ve done what I imagine most people do—ask myself what I would say I believed if given the chance. But, how do you figure out what your most deeply held beliefs are? I think one’s most deeply held beliefs and desires are most apparent in a moment of mortal fear. Who do you save when the building is on fire?—that sort of thing. Whatever you really believe the most governs your thoughts and actions in such a moment.
So, what I say to myself in situations when I think, rationally or not, that there is some chance I won’t come out again, must be what I believe. In my drab modern lifestyle, such fear only hits me as I sit on an airplane ready to take off. They say the drive to the airport is the most dangerous part of the trip, but, to make a slight digression, that is something I don’t believe. Some would disagree that truth is to be found in the face of death—Karl Marx is supposed to have said on his deathbed that ‘last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.’ Counting myself among those fools, here is what I think to myself:
Do I believe in God? I don’t know. I’m an agnostic. But, if there is a God, and I could say just one thing to Him, I would say: thank you. Thank you for this life, thank you for the fact that I am conscious. If you read a physics textbook it says nothing about consciousness, and yet I’m conscious. After all the laws of physics were set in stone, something else had to happen so that consciousness would be possible. So, if that was You, then thank You. I have seen the color red, heard the sound of violins playing, tires screeching, felt softness of velvet and the pain of a skinned knee, smelled coffee and rotten eggs, tasted toasted bagels and those bitter pills I used to take. Thank you for the pain and happiness I have felt. But most of all thank you for the fact that I can feel at all. So, if this is it, and the plane is about to crash, and there is no afterlife, that’s ok, it’s more than ok, it’s great, because I’ve seen and heard and felt and smelt and touched and loved. It would be impolite to ask for more. However, here’s the thing, I’m greedy, so though I am thankful for everything, it’s all been so great that I want more. I believe that one must love this life, and loving it so, one must hope for more—in this life or the next.
Then, having thought this to myself, I feel ok. The plane takes off—I’m still nervous, but when I look out the window of the plane, instead of just being afraid of falling, I enjoy the view.
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