This I Believe

Eleanor - Topeka, Kansas
Entered on May 3, 2006
Age Group: 65+
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I believe in the internal voice, the source of signals that sometimes contradict reason. When ignored, it can leave us vaguely uneasy. When heeded, it can motivate us to succeed at some endeavor that to others may appear totally out of sync with our skills and inclinations.

In 1980, I overheard a conversation in a shopping mall. The two men appeared to have little in common. One — apparently an aging hippie — emphatically proclaimed to a conventional looking 30-something:

Description never goes to the essence of things.

The words haunted me. They lurked on the fringes of consciousness, ready to surface at odd moments — in the shower, driving to and from work, in bed just before sleep. As I pondered them, I began to comprehend their wisdom: I needed to let go of the “oughts” and the “musts” — in other words, the descriptions — and seek the essence, listen to the voice of my own power. I had nurtured that power, refined it, but then for years I’d suffered the consequences of ignoring it — consequences such as dissatisfaction with outcomes, vague uneasiness, a sense of wasted time and effort. I felt as if I were devoting most of my time and energy to what I was SUPPOSED to do, with little directed toward what I WANTED to do.

I began to observe how that internal voice might influence the people around me. I thought of people I’ve known who died young when they appeared to be in good health and with much to live for. I thought of quite elderly people with so many afflictions that no one could understand how they continued to live. I thought of my friend with AIDS who, his death past due, died on the final day of his brother’s long anticipated visit from Bali. I became convinced that death occurs when the lust for life diminishes to the extent that the internal voice advises them to quit fighting.

I grew up in a Quaker church, and I still believe in its basic message of peace, equity, and justice. But after I was publicly humiliated by a powerful member of that church, I vowed I’d never again affiliate with any religious group. However, some years later when I was working at a radio station my job involved preparation of the on-air copy for public service announcements that included church services. Week after week, I wrote up the information for the local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. The messages grew more and more compelling until I could no longer ignore the little voice telling me to check it out. I listened, and I’ve been a member ever since.

Following the encounter in the mall, I gradually quit struggling with the descriptions that imposed uncomfortable limitations on my efforts. I learned to tune out the external conflicting and confusing dictates that had plagued me for years. I listened to the internal voice. Because I listened, I’m a happier person, but what’s more important, I’m a better person.