While struggling to condense my deepest-held beliefs into a neat, compact thesis, or at least choose one from among them, I stumbled upon a small but profound truth: I believe everything.
A little, that is. I’m not particularly gullible, but I believe the following: it’s not enough to listen to people; you have to, however briefly, believe them. I believe that one can take immeasurable leaps towards understanding the human condition by convincing oneself not only to put oneself in others’ shoes, but to immerse oneself in their minds as well—to encompass them, to become a paradox, to, as Walt Whitman famously said, “contain multitudes”; to absorb the depths of their understanding of the world, like the Library of Alexandria, to assemble later if you can; to simply try on their ideas for size.
I believe that there is no experience more freeing than to go to a mosque, a synagogue, and a church in one weekend, and to stay home the next: to bend your knees and bow your head as if the weight of the universe and all of its secrets were pressing down upon you; to spew your deepest secrets into a confessional grate and will God to drain the rising blush from your cheeks; to close your eyes in a synagogue pew and hear 5000 years of human history reverberate around you in the cantor’s song. There is an unparalleled joy and beauty in the experience of lying prostrate and vulnerable before someone else’s God, and of lying naked in the sun believing that there is none at all.
2010 will be the first election year in which I will have the opportunity to vote, but when I do, I will vote for a Republican. My parents have voted for every Democrat since Kennedy, and I hold liberal views on nearly everything. On that day, though, I will stride confidently into my booth and cast my vote, even if only for local office, for a Republican. I will press my pen into the paper and twist it like a knife. I will mean it. I will savor the shared experience, examine the indent as if it were scratched on the roof of the Sistine Chapel itself, and I will walk back resolutely to the box to tip the ballot in knowing that I am that tiny bit closer to understanding my fellow man.
Yes, I try to believe everything. There has been much said for the desire to push the farthest limits of human experience—everything from exotic food to bungee-jumping to drug use. Seeking these thrills in the innermost workings of the human mind, however, is far less common. By immersing ourselves in novel ideas and emotional experiences, we can wade through the dustiest corners of the human mind and emerge better informed and more secure in the beliefs we do choose. Even upon returning to our previously held beliefs, we can still meld them into a complex yet cohesive worldview. This I believe.
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