This I Believe

Keith - Harper Woods, Michigan
Entered on July 29, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

Last weekend, my daughter competed in a horse show and to our delight she earned enough points to be named champion for that show in both of the divisions in which she competed. The smile on her face that day brings a joyful tear to my eye because, in my estimation, I’ve played a very minor part in her success. My daughter has ridden horses for more than eight years and the success that she is achieving now is due more to her dedication, her patience and her perseverance than anything I could have taught her. Then, of course, there is the little business of my secret. My beautiful, funny, skillful equi-star is actually my stepdaughter.

It has been years since I’ve referred to her as my stepdaughter. I used to throw it in at the end of sentences like an asterisks leading to the footnote. These days however, as she matures into a young adult, we are like peas in a pod. It is hard to tell us apart sometimes as we take turns reciting dialog from movies like “Billy Madison” and “Napoleon Dynamite”. It almost seems odd to reveal my secret because I stopped believing it nearly six years ago when her real father passed away.

My daughter has been apart of my life since she was two years old and I was a fresh-faced twenty two year old just starting on the first rung of my professional career. At the time, her real father was very active in her life and, while I adored her and argued with her as life would have us doing at times, I always knew my place. I respected her real father and his efforts to remain a part of in her life. He came to birthdays. She would spend the weekends at his house. And I knew that my role was to support their relationship. I may have dealt with more of the day-to-day trivialities but the bond between my daughter and her father was something I had to nurture. It was years before his addiction really started to take its toll.

In the beginning, it was a few canceled plans and less phone calls. It progressed rapidly. The last time I saw him, he had come to one of my daughter’s a horse shows. He was so yellow with jaundice that my own stepfather whispered to me: “Oh boy! You see that guy. It’s his liver. You can tell.” He was so unrecognizable that I had to explain that he was my daughter’s real father.

Shortly after his passing, I came to the realization that my world had changed. I hadn’t gained any responsibilities. I hadn’t been granted any new authority. In fact, nothing in my physical world had changed one bit. Nonetheless, everything had changed. I wasn’t able to remain neutral any longer.

Today, this new world is so very dear to me. I stand firm to my commitment, though never voiced, that I will love and protect and teach my daughter. Often, I think of her real father when I reflect on this commitment and I am hopeful that he would approve of the things I have done and will do, though they aren’t always easy or fair or selfless.

Next year, when my daughter turns sixteen, I will not be buying her a car. I repeat: I am not buying you a car. Instead, I have chosen to give to her the only three books that every human being should read twice in their lifetime: “Tao Teh Ching” by Laotzu, “Living Buddha, Living Christ” by Thich Nhat Hanh and “The Religion of Man” by Rabindranath Tagore. Along with these, I will explain to her the belief which has been the cornerstone of my being.

In order to fully understand the riddle of the Bible, I believe it is necessary to view it from above, end-to-end, as a whole and without ego. In the beginning, God created all that exists and into this world he brought forth human life. To his creations, he gave one, very simple rule: do as I command. When they disobeyed him, he banished them from their home.

What became of those pilgrims, and what fills the middle of the Bible, is nothing short of the history of humankind from immemorial to Roman civilization.

At the end of the Bible, God took on human form to sacrifice the idea of justice. Justice has no explicit meaning but is, instead, an undefined term that is born and exists between two beings. Therefore, when God created the first rule and it was subsequently broken by human hands, it was impossible for God to receive justice worthy of God by those human hands. Justice is bounded by the beings involved. Only when God had thoroughly meditated upon this subject did God realize that a resolution was impossible. The distinction between right and wrong is not determined by the defensibility of the rule nor the action that transgressed it. The only possible outcome was a transformation of oneself. This understanding was the catalyst to his awakening. God became human to expound, by human means, on the new glory of an understanding that filled God with a great love for humankind. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is not an absolution from evil but a pattern of awakening. It describes a process, not a product, that is transcribed by father to child and transformed by spirit into love.

I don’t profess to be a philosopher or a theologian. Those endeavors are best left to someone else. I have a poet’s mind, not a historian’s. Nonetheless, this is what I truly believe.