Stanley - Durant, Oklahoma
Entered on March 5, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: humanism
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • 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 in opposites. I believe in irony. I believe in shades of grey, not in absolute good and evil. I believe in chaos, not in certainty. I believe in confusion, not conviction. I believe in indecision, doubt, failure and redemption. I short, I believe in humanity.

We all want absolutes, yet they lead to our downfall. We all want certainty, yet we all come to realize that nothing is certain. We all want things to stay the same yet we know that change is inevitable.

The notion which continues to come to mind whenever I think about humans working well together are diversity and cooperation. Others may call this yin and yang. Both concepts bring to mind opposites and similarities; conflict and cooperation; trespass and forgiveness; opposites contained within one another. And that is what we humans are – a whole host of opposing appetites struggling within one body.

Hatred, dogmatism, simple answers to complex questions and following the herd are always much easier to accept and to sell. Simple answers appeal to us because we have a difficult time simultaneously entertaining two seemingly opposite concepts in our minds at one time. Yet we must do so if we are to understand ourselves and the world as they really exist.

The story of the prodigal son is a story of seeming opposites: The son who failed and squandered his fortune was rewarded when he returned home. Yet the good son, who followed the rules, was ignored, his good works seemingly forgotten. However unfair, that the prodigal son needed to be forgiven is a tough lesson for many of us to learn.

We all have the capacity to both fail and succeed. Often these failures and successes are intimately tied together. One success cannot come without its educational failure. We learn from our mistakes and yet we continue to err throughout our lives. For while we will never be perfect, and are likely unperfectable, ironically, we must perpetually strive toward becoming more perfect.

These seeming contradictions provided the insight that lead to the greatest invention of our founders. They understood that government must embrace opposites and contradictions and harness them for the general good. Since we are a government of, by and for the people, by necessity this must be just as true of humanity. We must embrace and develop our ability to deal with contradictions, both within and among ourselves, and harness these opposing forces for our own collective good.

While some people who seemingly have everything despair to the point of self destruction, our ability to embrace our own contradictions allows us to face tumultuous times and almost certain doom with optimism and hope. It also allows us to forgive others and accept the forgiveness of others.

Today the world is full of chaos, confusion and despair. But we have been here before: Civil wars, world wars, depressions, famine, flood, earthquakes… Rather than reject the chaos, I believe I will embrace it. Because I believe in humanity.