Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What Do You Believe?

Did you hear about the Associated Press study done recently? Over a third of those interviewed said they believe in ghosts. And one in four says they actually believe they have seen a ghost. Maybe it’s just that time of year, with Halloween here and all. Or, maybe it’s that the human need to believe in things beyond what we can see and understand is so powerful, we’ll reach into the supernatural to satisfy that craving.

I listen to National Public Radio a fair amount. I am struck by a series called, “This I Believe. “ It is based on a 1950s radio program inspired by Edward R. Morrow whose own intense belief in the power of the freedom of speech pushed him into the limelight during that difficult period of McCarthyism, racism, and the specter of atomic war hung heavy on the nation.

The series host, Jay Allison (pictured right), and producer, Dan Gediman, draw parallels between those years and now. They note that we are not listening well to each other; in some cases, not at all. Our times are complex and require true dialogue. Their goal: “A public dialogue about belief…one essay at a time.” Anyone can submit a 350 -500 word essay. They read them all and post all of them on their website, thisibelieve.org. They choose several per week to air on various NPR shows. It’s remarkable to me how diverse, funny, poignant, terrifying, satisfying are our beliefs. Every time I hear one, I find myself musing about beliefs – my own, yours, the ones we believe together.

What draws the line between belief and hope, I wonder some days. When do we first believe? Is it simply part of being human, an instinct of sorts, or do we learn how to believe from those around us? How many of us express our beliefs through the lens of religion or spirituality? How many through the grit of the every day? Do beliefs change? What separates believers from non-believers? Can anyone be either all the time?

If you take a tour through some of the essays, or spend a day listening to your co-workers or family members, or watch the World Series, you see it, you feel it. (I was so taken with the faces of fans at Coors Field on Sunday as they continued to believe, to hope, to will a win for their team. Eyes closed or open, hands clasped or flailing, voices hushed or shouting. It was all about believing right up until the last swing of that bat. And when spring comes, there’ll be plenty more again!)

Belief is as much a part of who we are as the color of our eyes, the food we eat, the goals we set. The line is thin, I think, between believing and hoping. It might be an academic question, of course. But, we’ve all met someone who seemingly has neither. And recognize instantly, one who has plenty of both.

One of the “This I Believe” essayists, James Sheehan, firmly exclaims: “I believe in barbeque!”

So, when I read that a 33% of Americans believe in ghosts, I smile. That’s it! We are compelled to believe. It’s in our human code. This I believe!

What do you believe? Give us your comments and musings, especially if you believe in ghosts.


Jim said...

This is my favorite WIB, ever. Who would have thought that Robert Fulghum would be so fun?

Anonymous said...

I do belive in ghosts, if only to satify the 'unknown' factor in my mind.