List on the 3s. Day. Has a 3 in it. List.
A little less than a week ago, a good friend posted a “redux” of a previous post called “This I Believe.” It was part of a phenomenon publicized by NPR a few years back (with roots in the 1950s attributed to Edward R. Murrow) where celebrities wrote statements of their own core values and beliefs and shared them with the rest of the world. I’ve been intrigued by the idea for quite a while now and have wondered what I would write in such a list. Are there truly principles of faith to which I subscribe? Are these simply crutches from my upbringing and education over the past few decades? Is that necessarily a bad thing? Will my list totally suck?
I was wondering what I would write today after I heard the news on the radio about the shooting death of Dr. George Tiller, a gynecologist who was notorious for his support and providing of late-term abortions. He was gunned down at his place of worship this morning. I also read many of the comments on Facebook, blogs and news articles from people so polarized on either side of the abortion rights debate that made everything seem like unfocused, blurry yelling. I have my own opinions on abortion, but I felt that people seemed to move beyond the core values and started drunkenly brawling for a specific team rather than simply explain their stances. Of course, this happens all the time in public discourse, especially on the internet. But it made me think: what are my values? For what do I stand?
Which is why I give you this list — a work in progress.
This I Believe.
- I believe that people are, on the most part, good. And kind — especially to strangers. Chances are that if you were stuck somewhere without a cel phone and needed to make a quick call home for some assistance — the first person you would run into would quickly lend you his/her own if asked. I believe it’s because we, inherently, want to help others — even those for whom there is no stake in our own lives.
- At the same time, I believe we discriminate too much when not in a crisis mode. It’s much easier for us to look the other way when there isn’t a single person crying for help — even if it’s an entire community looking for assistance. And we find more reasons not to give money to the guy asking for handouts on the side of the road than reasons to do so.
- I believe in laughing at oneself. At one’s community. Gender. Race. Sexual orientation. Body shape. One’s insecurities may still be there, but I believe that making light of oneself can put things at ease when interacting with others.
- I believe in many manifestations and paths towards what I will call “holiness.” To me, I think of holiness as something which is set apart to be the best that it can be. Some would call this being closer to God; I don’t disagree with this explanation but I would amend that it could also be closer to humanity as well.
- I believe in miracles and in science. And I don’t believe that there is a contradiction in believing in both. The notion that a single acorn may have the blueprint for a huge tree stored in it which looks nothing like an acorn impresses me. Just in the same way we perceive a sunset turning all sorts of colors simply because the planet happens to be rotating at a specific time and place and the atmosphere happens to have the right amount of moisture and dust in the air. And don’t forget our own optical receptors and the way our neurological systems interpret it all. There may be a good scientific explanation for it all. That doesn’t make it less miraculous.
- I believe that the overwhelming majority of us inhabiting the world are looking for some sort of connection from day one. That connection, in itself, is drive enough for most: it’s people looking for love. It’s an innate drive to nest and start a family. It’s the way a cat just wants to have its head scratched at just the right moment.
- I believe that our most profound learning experiences are our own mistakes.
- I believe that labels are often quite limiting and judgmental of people. When a headline labels someone as an “abortion doctor,” it’s easy to forget that this person is also someone’s parent, someone’s child and someone’s partner. It’s easy to forget that this person has also helped families bring new life into this world. I believe that a person is not his/her profession; being asked by someone “what do you do?” is simply an excuse to slap on a label.
- I believe that, politically and religiously, very few people live (and die) at the extremes. Most people congregate in a middle-of-the-road “live and let life” mentality. Most people are not willing to hurt or kill others for a cause, and even fewer are willing to die for that cause. It’s the acts of very, very few people which spoil it for the rest of the population.
- I believe that nobody has the exact same belief system that I do. Most people come close, but there are always a few details which will be wholly unique.
- I believe that my alignment with Judaism was a matter of location and circumstance; had I been born on the other side of the world I probably wouldn’t be Jewish. However, this doesn’t lessen my connection to Judaism whatsoever. I believe that my connection with Judaism is moreso one of a connection with a community and traditions which have evolved and continue to evolve.
- I believe that I’m not destined to eat shellfish or bacon because of my alignment with Judaism. I don’t believe that anything bad will happen to me if I chose to eat either of these delicacies. I don’t even feel like I would let my community down if I chose to do so. It’s just something which I’ve chosen not to do for tradition’s sake. Sometimes things don’t make much more sense than that.
- I believe that some things simply won’t make much sense. And that’s okay.
- I believe that my belief system is not, in any way, static. My beliefs have changed throughout the years and continue to do so now. I would be surprised if they don’t shift around a bit in the future. I believe that it is human nature to use life experiences to shape what one believes; as long as I’m still gathering those experiences I’ll spend a good amount of time fine-tuning.
- I believe that there is often a whole lot of room for forgiveness. Except for those times when there is not.
- I believe that I am hypocritical. Not totally; just a little bit. In fact, I believe everyone is just a little bit hypocritical. But I honestly think that we try to keep that trait of our lives locked away. It’s certainly not something we’re proud of, and on the most part we try not to be.
- I believe that the Bible (however one wants to interpret that word) is divinely inspired but written by mankind. Just because I don’t believe that it was written by God, however, doesn’t mean that I don’t find it to be holy. On the contrary — any literature with such a long history and tradition from which people have struggled to find meaning and a balanced way of life commands great respect and reverence.
- I believe that everything is open to interpretation.
- While some may believe that the progress of humanity will lead to our own demise, I believe in the power of humanity to thrive. However, this won’t occur until we learn to trust each other and ourselves rather than keep our guard up. I know — easier said than done. But I don’t think it’s as huge a leap as many do.
- I believe that we have more in common than what divides us.
I’ll stop here for now — and may add more (or simply revise) in the future.