This I Believe

Andy - Nashville, Tennessee
Entered on June 6, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: death, family, love
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This I Believe – Belief Itself Evolves

As a filmmaker I have come to believe that belief itself is always evolving. This is not only because, as a student of impressionable age, I had seen Akira Kurosawa’s film “Rashomon,” which told a story of how one event can be seen completely differently by people who bring their own perspectives and values into their interpretations, but because after having lived a couple of decades since seeing that film, my own beliefs, and the beliefs of almost everyone I have ever known, have adjusted over time as more experiences have accumulated. I have come to understand that life, like a film, is a sequence of images, sounds and experiences where change occurs, to greater or lesser degree, from beginning to end. The most moving and memorable films are often the ones where the beliefs of the central characters significantly change over time. Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life,” David Lean’s, “Lawrence of Arabia,” Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” are all examples of the transformation of belief and how that powerfully affects our lives. These films are most moving because we, as audiences, can identify with them in our own lives. After having spent a number of times in the hospital as a child, by the time I began studying film as a medium to be used both for expression and for the exploration of truth, my fundamental belief was that we humans were no more than by-products of the natural unfolding of chemical and sub-atomic processes that had been going on for billions of Earth revolutions around a burning mass in space that was itself moving around a spiralling collection of other burning masses. I believed that billions of people on the planet all had slightly or vastly different beliefs, and that therefore belief itself had little to do with the facts of what might actually be going on in the cosmos, one way or the other. Ultimately, questions about an afterlife and God took hold in me like they must for every human that comes into this world who on the surface postures a self-confidence like they know it all but are actually as anxiety-ridden as everyone else in the privacy of their own uncertainties. And since I saw that some people believed that there was no God, while others believed there was a God, but many of those either mistrusted, hated or even killed believers with different versions of what they deemed the one true God to be, once again, my understanding of belief itself went back to the film “Rashomon” – that belief did not necessarily have anything to do with any reality outside of the believer. I came to feel that if there was no God, then quite frankly, life itself had no meaning, despite the most persuasive secular, existential dogma about finding responsibility, creating meaning in the temporal world, and making the best of it before getting snuffed out. I also thought it seemed as much of a belief to “know” that there is no God, because by what presumption can anyone know this as fact. Science has repeatedly claimed to be on the verge of solving everything, only to repeatedly realize that its models of reality had once again in large part become obsolete. Conversely, I wondered that if there was a God, would that entity want believers to kill or go to war based upon whatever version of Him, Her or It they happened to believe? Like the characters in “Rashomon,” it seemed that people’s views on reality were primarily based on how they wanted reality itself to suit them. It seemed we gauge truth by what makes us most comfortable, whether that comfortability is in the desire for Heaven, or in scientific theories, or just wallowing in personal angst. But a few years ago, my mother passed away. Because I am an only child, she and my father have been my two best friends in this world. Her passing was the single most devastating experience of my life. Yet since her passing my alignment with the cosmos has evolved. Many things have occurred that I cannot explain through conventional means, though I’m sure that everyone around me could offer their own religious or scientifically based explanations of those phenomena; once again, based on their own beliefs or faith in what they call objective evidence. As a result of these unexplainable occurrences after my mother’s passing, my life has come to be grounded in a strange kind of fearlessness. My heart has gone to zero and infinity simultaneously. I care about nothing in particular yet care about everything altogether. And while I have always felt that belief primarily affects the believer, rather than than anything outside, it has become increasingly apparent that perhaps there is some greater cosmic effect caused by belief, itself. Stephen Hawking and others have talked about a version of the anthropic principle where the universe becomes what we imagine it to be. Arthur C Clarke, in his book “Childhood’s End,” wrote of a new generation of children who could collectively focus on the moon, and turn it on its axis in space. I now believe it may be possible for each individual to create their own micro-cosmos and turn their own personal moon on its axis. And I therefore further believe that someday humans might create a collective macro-cosmos, and turn the burning mass on its axis. This is the inverse of what “Rashomon” was all about, not looking at belief as interpretation but as a causitive agent. So perhaps there may be a greater Being throughout the universe, something that expanded everywhere from the moment of the Big Bang. And perhaps it is possible that my mother’s being is among a collection of beings, working among the sequence of images, sounds and experiences, causing occurrences as yet unexplainable by the conventions of narrow-mindedness. I do not know this as fact, and am not really sure about the nature of facts themselves anymore. And yet, at the very least, I now believe this to be possible. My belief has gone to both zero, and infinity.