This I Believe

Yolande - Tampa, Florida
Entered on September 11, 2006
Age Group: 65+

This I believe-

Growing up in a small town in eastern Connecticut in the 1930’s, I was unaware that millions of people didn’t share my Christian beliefs. Graduated from high school at sixteen, I took a job in the big city, Hartford, and attended evening school at Hillyer College, now the University of Hartford, where I met students of many religions and nationalities. It became obvious to me that one’s religious beliefs depend largely on where a person is raised. Eventually, I no longer took seriously much of the dogma I learned in my early years, but I still enjoyed the spiritual experience of hearing the choir’s singing reverberate through the dark shadowy arches high above the pews in the grand and stately old Saint Francis Cathedral.

After I went off to college full time, I seldom attended churches. It was not until I took an astronomy class at Harvard one summer, that I had another deeply moving spiritual experience. Our professor, the famous Harlow Shapley, arranged for us to view the heavens using the 100 inch reflector telescope at the Harvard Observatory in Oak Ridge, Massachusetts. This was an opportunity not to be missed. It is simply awesome, the first-hand view of the swirl of stars in the vastness of space, that we know constitutes an extragalactic nebula. The beauty of it, and the realization of where we are in relation to it, evoked what was doubtless the most profound spiritual experience of my life. Churches did not come close.

I’ve had may other experiences that one could call spiritual: sunsets over the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Parks, from a motu looking toward the island of Bora Bora, from a hilltop in the Virgin Islands. But many experiences I could call spiritual have been experienced as a cell biologist looking at the wonders of nature through microscopes. Can you imagine looking at fibers weaving around in a droplet of cytoplasm from a pond alga, while realizing that those fibers are composed of filaments of protein similar to their counterparts in human muscle, to the extent that only two amino acid subunits out of about 142 are different from those in your biceps? Can’t you imagine that this would make you feel like you’re an integral part of a huge, marvelous collection of things we call nature? When I experience some of these marvels—an iris popping open on a spring morning, a tadpole swimming in a sun-dappled creek, a butterfly perched on a blossom, I’m inclined to exclaim: “Look at this!”

And even if nobody can hear, at that moment, I love everybody.