This I Believe

Libby - Lincoln/IL/62656, Illinois
Entered on June 7, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: nature, purpose
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe that the world we see is merely one layer in a world like an onion or a pearl, complex in more ways that we have the ability to see.

In the fall of 1993 I was a librarian at a medium security prison. The prison grounds jutted into a state park and wildlife was abundant. Part of my responsibilities included visiting the segregation unit on the other side of the prison at least once a week to update their small law library or to notarize legal papers. This particular afternoon the walk was very pleasant; I enjoyed the sunny day and crisp temperature, and I noticed several hawks circling in the clear blue sky.

More gathered. None was feeding or landing; all were circling. By the time I arrived at segregation there were more than fifty and still none seemed to have any purpose or destination that I could determine. I notarized the papers that had prompted my trip and started my walk back. The sky was even fuller of hawks.

Then, as quickly as the sky had filled, it emptied. In the ten minutes it took to return to the library, every hawk had disappeared.

I have always wondered what I witnessed and realize I can only guess. What sign told those hawks it was time to gather? What sign said it was time to leave? What changed in their world, but not in mine?

I believe that any conversation about the superiority of humans is anthropomorphic and simplistic. Like every living creature, we dwell on just one layer of existence, believing, not unlike those who once believed in the flat earth, that our awareness is physical truth.

I believe that every form of life has its own limited world view and an intelligence suited to its existence (except perhaps the poor, despised possum!). Any evidence we give of human superiority has to be countered with the knowledge that there is so much more in this world we don’t and probably can’t understand. What I witnessed that day I probably won’t see again but I believe I witnessed a reality and evidence of an intelligence different from my life but no less real and no less significant.