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This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women

by

This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women Cover

ISBN13: 9780805086584
ISBN10: 0805086587
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Excerpt

Foreword

Studs Terkel

 

“At a time when the tide runs toward a sure conformity, when dissent is often confused with subversion, when a mans belief may be subject to investigation as well as his actions . . .”

 

It has the ring of a 2006 mayday call of distress, yet it was written in 1952. Ed Murrow, introducing an assemblage of voices in the volume This I Believe, sounded a claxon.

 

It is an old story yet ever-contemporary. In 1791, Tom Paine, the most eloquent visionary of the American Revo-lution, sounded off:

 

Freedom has been hunted around the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear made man afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth is that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing . . . In such a situation, man becomes what he ought to be. He sees his species not with the inhuman idea of a natural enemy, but as kindred . . .

 

It is the pursuit of this truth that appears to be the common tenor of all the voices you hear in this new volume.

 

We need not dwell on the old question: What is truth? What you see with your own eyes may differ from the received official truth. So old Pilate had only one decision to make: find the man guilty or he, the judge, will be sent back to the boondocks. Pilate did what any well-behaved hack would do. Though he had his hands scrubbed and rub-a-dub-dubbed with Ivory soap, 99.44% pure, he could not erase the awful truth of the dirt on his hands. Though Pilates wife pleaded for a show of mercy, he made an objective decision.

 

In our time, James Cameron, the nonpareil of British journalism, dealt with the matter in his own way. “I cannot remember how often Ive been challenged for disregarding the fundamental tenet of honest journalism, which is objectivity.”

 

His bearing witness in North Vietnam during that war convinced him, despite all official Washington arguments to the contrary, that North Vietnam was inhabited by human beings. He was condemned for being non-objective and having a point of view. Cameron confesses, “I may not have always been satisfactorily balanced; I always tended to argue that objectivity was of less importance than the truth.”

 

Errol Morris, film documentarian, who appears in this book, shares the obstinancy of Cameron: “Truth is not relative. . . . It may be elusive or hidden. People may wish to disregard it. But there is such a thing as truth.” What really possesses Morris is the pursuit of the truth: “Trying to figure out what has really happened, trying to figure out how things really are.”

 

The chase is what its all about. The quarry is, as always, the truth.

 

On a small patch of Sag Harbor dirt is a simple stone easily passed by. Nelson Algren is buried there and his epitaph is simple: “The journey is all.”

 

Andrew Sullivan, editor of The New Republic, who appears in this volume, has a similar vision. He and Algren may have differed considerably in their political views, yet here, as to fundamental belief, they were as one. “I believe in the pursuit of happiness. Not its attainment, nor its final definition, but its pursuit.”

 

Id be remiss with no mention of Helen Keller, whose vision we saw and whose voice we heard fifty years ago, a deaf, dumb, and blind child. It was her sense of wonder and her pursuit of truth which she saw much more clearly than sighted people, and heard much more clearly than hearing folk. They were voices in need throughout the world she heard so vividly. Above all it was her faith that the human being was better than his/her behavior.

 

What I believe is a compote of these ingredients. Yes I do have a point of view which I express much too frequently, I suspect. And yet theres always that uncertainty. In all my adventures among hundreds of Americans I have discovered that the rule of thumb does not work. Ive been astonished too often by those Ive visited: ordinary Americans, who at times, are extraordinary in their insights and dreams.

 

I find the labels “liberal” and “conservative” of little meaning. Our language has become perverted along with the thoughts of many of us.

 

“Liberal” according to any dictionary is defined as the freedom to speak out, no matter what the official word may be, and the right to defend all others who speak out whether or not they agree with you. “Conservative” is the word Ive always associated with conserving our environment from pollution, ensuring that our water is potable and our grass green. So I declare myself a radical conservative. Radical, as in getting to the root of things. Pasteur was a radical. Semmelweiss was a radical. “Wash your hands,” he declared to doctors and nurses. He may have wound up in a nuthouse, but he pursued the truth, found it, and saved untold millions of lives. I am a conservative in that Im out to conserve the blue of the sky, the freshness of the air of which we have less and less, the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, and whatever semblance of sanity we may have left. As for faith, Ive always called myself an agnostic. Were Ambrose Bierce alive today, he would no doubt have added to his Devils Dictionary: “An agnostic is a cowardly atheist.” Perhaps. But perhaps I do believe there is a God deposited in each of us ever since the Big Bang.

 

I secretly envy those who believe in the hereafter and with it the idea that they may once again meet dear ones. They cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there is such a place. Neither can I disprove it. I cannot find the bookmaker willing to take my bet on it. How will one who guesses right be able to collect his winnings? So speaking on behalf of the bookies of the world, all bets are off.

 

Maybe the poet Keats was right after all in the “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” He envied the fortunate youth who is forever chasing his love, never quite catching her. The pursuit is all.

 

And yet there is something which I believe with no uncertainty. There is something we can do while were alive and breathing on this planet. It is to become an activist in this pursuit of a world in which it would be easier for people to behave decently. (I am paraphrasing Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic Worker Movement.)

 

Being an activist is self-explanatory: you act; you take part in something outside yourself. You join with others, who may astonish you in thinking precisely as you do on the subjects, say, of war, civil liberties, human rights.

 

My belief came into being during the most traumatic moment in American history, the Great Depression of the 1930s. I remember seeing pots and pans and bedsteads and mattresses on the sidewalks. A family had just been evicted and there was an individual cry of despair, multiplied by millions. But that community had a number of people on that very block, electricians and plumbers and carpenters, who appeared that very evening, and moved the household goods back into the flat where they had been. They turned on the gas, they fixed the plumbing. It was a community in action accomplishing something.

 

Albert Einstein once observed that westerners have a feeling the individual loses his freedom if he joins, say, a union or any group. Precisely the opposite is the case. Once you join others, even though at first your mission fails, you become a different person, a much stronger one. You feel that you really count, you discover your strength as an individual because you have along the way discovered others share in what you believe, you are not alone; and thus a community is formed. I am paraphrasing Einstein. I love to do that; nobody dares contradict me.

 

So, my credo consists of the pursuit and the act. One without the other is self-indulgence. This I believe.

 

Copyright © 2006 by This I Believe, Inc. All rights reserved.

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, October 10, 2007 (view all comments by )
a compilation of "driveway moments," these are riveting narrations by real people about the things that matter most. Covering a side span of topics, the binding thread is that one person CAN still make a difference.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780805086584
Author:
Allison, Jay
Publisher:
Henry Holt & Company
With:
Gregory, John
Editor:
Allison, Jay; Gediman, Dan
Editor:
Gediman, Dan
Author:
Gediman, Dan
Subject:
Personal Transformation
Subject:
Motivational & Inspirational
Subject:
Celebrities
Subject:
Conduct of life
Subject:
Essays
Subject:
Inspiration
Subject:
Personal growth
Subject:
Inspiration & Personal Growth
Subject:
Self-Help : General
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Series:
This I Believe
Publication Date:
20070931
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
16 pgs bandw photos
Pages:
320
Dimensions:
8.05 x 5.3 x 0.83 in

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This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women Used Trade Paper
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Product details 320 pages Holt Paperbacks - English 9780805086584 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In the 1950s, the Edward R. Murrow — hosted radio program This I Believe prompted Americans to briefly explain their most cherished beliefs, be they religious or purely pragmatic. Since the program's 2005 renaissance as a weekly NPR segment, Allison (the host) and Gediman (the executive producer) have collected some of the best essays from This I Believe then and now. 'Your personal credo' is what Allison calls it in the book's introduction, noting that today's program is distinguished from the 1950s version in soliciting submissions from ordinary Americans from all walks of life. These make up some of the book's most powerful and memorable moments, from the surgeon whose illiterate mother changed his early life with faith and a library card to the English professor whose poetry helped him process a traumatic childhood event. And in one of the book's most unusual essays, a Burmese immigrant confides that he believes in feeding monkeys on his birthday because a Buddhist monk once prophesied that if he followed this ritual, his family would prosper. There are luminaries here, too, including Gloria Steinem, Warren Christopher, Helen Keller, Isabel Allende, Eleanor Roosevelt, John Updike and (most surprisingly, considering the book's more liberal bent) Newt Gingrich. This feast of ruminations is a treat for any reader." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , A welcome change from the sloganeering, political mudslinging and products of spin doctors.--The Philadelphia Inquirer Based on the NPR series of the same name, This I Believe features eighty Americans--from the famous to the unknown--completing the thought that the book's title begins. Each piece compels readers to rethink not only how they have arrived at their own personal beliefs but also the extent to which they share them with others.

Featuring many renowned contributors--including Isabel Allende, Colin Powell, Gloria Steinem, William F. Buckley Jr., Penn Jillette, Bill Gates, and John Updike--the collection also contains essays by a Brooklyn lawyer; a part-time hospital clerk in Rehoboth, Massachusetts; a woman who sells yellow pages advertising in Fort Worth, Texas; and a man who serves on Rhode Island's parole board.

The result is a stirring and provocative trip inside the minds and hearts of a diverse group of people whose beliefs--and the incredibly varied ways in which they choose to express them--reveal the American spirit at its best. Jay Allison, the host and curator of This I Believe, is an independent broadcast journalist. His work appears often on NPR and has earned him five Peabody Awards. He is the founder of the public radio stations that serve Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket, and Cape Cod, where he lives.

Dan Gediman is the executive producer of This I Believe. His work has been heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Fresh Air, Marketplace, Jazz Profiles, and This American Life. He has won many of public broadcasting's most prestigious awards, including the duPont-Columbia Award. Based on the National Public Radio series of the same name, This I Believe features eighty essayists--from the famous to the unknown--completing the thought that begins the book's title. Each piece compels readers to rethink not only how they have arrived at their own personal beliefs but also the extent to which they share them with others. Featuring a well-known list of contributors--including Isabel Allende, Colin Powell, Gloria Steinem, William F. Buckley Jr., Penn Jillette, Bill Gates, and John Updike--the collection also contains essays by a Brooklyn lawyer; a part-time hospital clerk from Rehoboth, Massachusetts; a woman who sells Yellow Pages advertising in Fort Worth, Texas; and a man who serves on the state of Rhode Island's parole board. The result is a trip inside the minds and hearts of a diverse group of people whose beliefs--and the incredibly varied ways in which they choose to express them--reveal the American spirit at its best.

This I Believe is also available on CD as an audiobook, in both abridged and unabridged editions. Each essay is read by its author. Please email academic@macmillan.com for more information. To hold this range of beliefs in the palm of your hand is as fine, as grounding, as it was hearing them first on the radio. Heartfelt, deeply cherished beliefs, doctrines for living (yet none of them doctrinaire). Ideas and ideals that nourish. You can see it in their faces, in the photos in this book. And read it in their words. I'm so proud that NPR helped carry this Edward R. Murrow tradition into a new century. And so glad to have it in print, to encounter again and again.--Susan Stamberg, special correspondent, National Public Radio To hold this range of beliefs in the palm of your hand is as fine, as grounding, as it was hearing them first on the radio. Heartfelt, deeply cherished beliefs, doctrines for living (yet none of them doctrinaire). Ideas and ideals that nourish. You can see it in their faces, in the photos in this book. And read it in their words. I'm so proud that NPR helped carry this Edward R. Murrow tradition into a new century. And so glad to have it in print, to encounter again and again.--Susan Stamberg, special correspondent, National Public Radio

Reading this gives me a feeling about this country I rarely get: a very visceral sense of all the different kinds of people who are living together here, with crazily different backgrounds and experiences and dreams. Like a Norman Rockwell painting where all the people happen to be real people, and all the stories are true. It makes me feel hopeful about America, reading this. Hopeful in a way that's in short supply lately.--Ira Glass, Producer and Host of This American Life My father, Edward R. Murrow, said that 'fresh ideas' from others helped him confront his own challenges. This superb collection of thought-provoking This I Believe essays, both from the new program heard on NPR and from the original 1950s series, provides fresh ideas for all of us --Casey Murrow, Elementary Education Publisher Now, as then, when Edward R. Murrow introduced the idea of This I Believe, this forward-thinking compilation serves as a wonderful antidote to the cynicism of the age.--Daniel Schorr, Senior News Analyst, NPR, and former colleague of Edward R. Murrow National Public Radio listeners have been moved to tears by the personal essays that constitute the series This I Believe. Created in 1951 with Edward Murrow as host, the sometimes funny, often profound, and always compelling series has been revived, according to host Jay Allison, because, once again, 'matters of belief divide our country and the world.' Oral historian Studs Terkel kicks things off, and 80 personal credos follow. Essays from the original series are interleaved with contemporary essays (selected from more than 11,000 submissions) to create a resounding chorus . . . Appendixes offer guidelines and resources because the urge to write such declarations is contagious, and schools and libraries have been coordinating This I Believe programs, which we believe is a righteous endeavor.--Donna Seaman, Booklist In an age of disinformation, spin, and lies, NPR's This I Believe comes as a source of refreshment and useful disquiet. NPR revived this 1950s radio series quite recently, and this collection draws transcripts from both the original series and its newer version, including some remarkable statements from the likes of dancer/choreographer Martha Graham, autistic academic Temple Grandin, writer and physicist Alan Lightman, novelist and social critic Thomas Mann, economic historian Arnold Toynbee, and feminist writer Rebecca West. Wonderful . . . astonishing to hear and astonishing to read and reread.--Library Journal Allison (the host) and Gediman (the executive producer) of the radio show] have collected some of the best essays from This I Believe then and now. 'Your personal credo' is what Allison calls it in the book's introduction, noting that today's program is distinguished from the 1950s version in soliciting submissions from ordinary Americans from all walks of life. These make up some of the book's most powerful and memorable moments, from the surgeon whose illiterate mother changed his early life with faith and a library card to the English professor whose poetry helped him process a traumatic childhood event. And in one of the book's most unusual essays, a Burmese immigrant confides that he believes in feeding monkeys on his birthday because a Buddhist monk once prophesied that if he followed this ritual, his family would prosper . . . This feast of ruminations is a treat for any reader.--Publishers Weekly (starred review) Table of Contents

Foreword

Studs Terkel

Introduction

Jay Allison

Be Cool to the Pizza Dude

Sarah Adams

Leaving Identity Issues to Other Folks

Phyllis Allen

In Giving I Connect with Others

Isabel Allende

Remembering All the Boys

Elvia Bautista

The Mountain Disappears

Leonard Bernstein

How Is It Possible to Believe in God?

William F. Buckley, Jr.

The Fellowship of the World

Niven Busch

There is No Job More Important than Parenting

Benjamin Carson

A Journey toward Acceptance and Love

Greg Chapman

A Shared Moment of Trust

Warren Christopher

The Hardest Work You Will Ever Do

Mary Cook

Good Can Be as Communicable as Evil

Norman Corwin

A Daily Walk Just to Listen

Susan Cosio

The Elusive Yet Holy Core

Kathy Dahlen

My Father's Evening Star

William O. Douglas

An Honest Doubter

Have I Learned Anything Important Since I Was Sixteen?

Elizabeth Deutsch Earle

An Ideal of Service to Our Fellow Man

Albert Einstein

The Power and Mystery of Naming Things

Eve Ensler

A Goal of Service to Humankind

Anthony Fauci

The God Who Embraced Me

John W. Fountain

Unleashing the Power of Creativity

Bill Gates

The People Who Love You When No One Else Will

Cecile Gilmer

The Willingness to Work for Solutions

Newt Gingrich

The Connection between Strangers

Miles Goodwin

An Athlete of God

Martha Graham

Seeing in Beautiful, Precise Pictures

Temple Grandin

Disrupting My Comfort Zone

Brian Grazer

Science Nourishes the Mind and the Soul

Brian Greene

In Praise of the Wobblies

Ted Gup

The Power of Presence

Debbie Hall

A Grown-Up Barbie

Jane Hamill

Happy Talk

Oscar Hammerstein II

Natural Links in a Long Chain of Being

Victor Hanson

Talking with the Sun

Joy Harjo

A Morning Prayer in a Little Church

Helen Hayes

Our Noble, Essential Decency

Robert A. Heinlein

A New Birth of Freedom

Maximilian Hodder

The Benefits of Restlessness and Jagged Edges

Kay Redfield Jamison

There Is No God

Penn Jillette

A Duty to Heal

Pius Kamau

Living Life with Grace and Elegant Treeness

Ruth Kamps

The Light of a Brighter Day

Helen Keller

The Bright Lights of Freedom

Harold Hongju Koh

The Power of Love to Transform and Heal

Jackie Lantry The Power of Mysteries

Alan Lightman

Life Grows in the Soil

"Synopsis" by , A welcome change from the sloganeering, political mudslinging and products of spin doctors.--The Philadelphia Inquirer
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