This I Believe

Jamie - Bethesada, Maryland
Entered on December 26, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
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I believe in many things. Some are simple, uncomplicated nouns. ‘Trout,’ for instance: God’s perfected combination of beauty, speed, strength, grace, and uncanny intelligence. ‘Adobe’ is another thing I believe in: it’s natural, economical, cooling in summer, warming in winter, and it recycles itself. ‘Tears’ are the cleansing of the soul and express emotions that run the gamut from despair to giddiness—pretty impressive!

But none of these nouns (or others that I pass through from time to time) is quite what Archimedes was referring to when he invented the lever and crowed, “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth!”

So maybe I need something more… specious. ‘Sunlight,’ for example, but then do I not equally believe in ‘moonlight?’ Or how about ‘forgiveness’ or ‘patience’ or ‘family;’ each is an example of something I believe in that is constructed of more metaphorical DNA, but no one of them is really the fulcrum of my entire belief system.

There are the things I think I believe in. ‘Evolution,’ for example. I don’t think God actually made the world in six days; it makes much more sense to me that eons, electricity, and random accidents turned the primordial soup into, say, opposable thumbs or Grace Kelly, but how then do I account for a process that also produced results as random, differentiated, and adapted to the vagaries and realities of life on our planet as a ladybug and a rhinoceros? ‘Mutation’ or ‘survival theory’ hardly seems up to the task; ‘creationism’ is simply more plausible even if it does stretch the limits of meager my imagination.

Some things provide too easy a target for belief: ‘love,’ ‘children,’ ‘chocolate,’ for example. And anyway each is relative: we all know love is blind; some children are brats; and some people are allergic to chocolate so I can’t pin my credo on that. (Well, I suppose I could, but that seems pretty selfish.)

Maybe the existentialists among us had it right: nothing matters. That surely is something to believe in, but sadly, it doesn’t work for me. Things do matter, and if just one thing matters, then no amount of waiting for Godot will ever make it otherwise…for me, at least.

Were I of scientific bent, I’m sure I could distill the essence of my belief by the simple alchemy of listing and then eliminating possibilities. Start the list: apples, baseball, charity, deposits (bank, not mineral or fatty), eggplant parmesan, the fandango, Gandhi, the Hubbell telescope….you know what? This isn’t going to work either; an alphabetical ordering of beliefs just won’t cut it because I don’t really believe in anything beginning in ‘x,’ not xylophones or xenophobia or Xavier Cougart or even x-rays…all those radiation particles milling around the room make me squirm.

“So what does it all hinge on?” I ask myself. Cogito ergo respondere: the Peace Corps. It was a good idea back in the 60s and still is today. It doesn’t require an exit strategy. It doesn’t cost much. It illuminates our better selves. I speak with some experience here: I spent six years as a Peace Corps Volunteer and when I think back on those years in that village, I think that is where I found my place to stand that moved the earth.