This I Believe

Eddie - Belfast, Maine
Entered on January 28, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: golden rule

I believe in The Golden Rule…

Back in the late 60’s at the University Of Florida, a bunch a students, myself included, gathered in men’s dorm rooms for late night rap sessions. Given the times, a Beatles’ album and a stimulant often kick-started the sessions.

These rap sessions included every topic imaginable from girls to music to Karl Marx to Groucho Marx to alien beings – you name it. ”Why are we here?” had a big following. “We’re here to love one another. Right on, man.” And, “Is there a God?” was never out of fashion. “Hey, what if this is all just a dream, and we’re not really here? It’s freakin’ me out, man.”

But one of those rap sessions hatched a memorable quote from a fellow student that I carry with me to this day. A former high school football star commenting on a student that was just beaten up on campus for no other reason than being a nerd said, “You don’t beat somebody up just because you can.” From a jock? Whoa!

Well, in spite of these late night departures, I actually graduated college – barely squeezing out an English degree. But I’d argue that I got more out of those informal tribal gatherings than I ever did from reading “The Wasteland” or “Paradise Lost.” Teaching me a thing or two about life. And, ultimately, sewing the seed of an unshakable belief.

I believe in the Golden Rule. I don’t always practice it as well as I should, often acting purely out of greed and self interest. I believe that practicing The Golden Rule is an evolutionary process. It’s something I strive toward. But not for heavenly reward. In fact, I’m an unapologetic agnostic.

I believe you practice it with the understanding that the only reward lies in the deed itself. Nothing more. If you’re walking down the street and you see a bottle behind the tire of a car, you pick it up, even though you’ll never meet the owner of that car. As you hope he or she would do for you. I believe that true philanthropists donate their money anonymously – without the stipulation that a building be named after them.

For centuries, the great religions of the world have preached the Golden Rule as a way to get into heaven. On the contrary, I believe the reward for practicing the Golden Rule is purely earthbound, purely personal. And if it turns out, as my fellow student feared, that this world is nothing more than a dream – well, at least we left it a better dream.

I don’t know for sure if there is a God. I leave that discussion to others. But I am sure of one thing. You don’t beat somebody up just because you can.