National Public Radio produces a regular series of short essays submitted by listeners called This I Believe. The series is based on a 1950s-era radio program that was hosted by Edward R. Murrow . In the spirit of the series, I present my own original essay, aptly titled This I Believe.
I believe in life. In all its glorious complexity, ambiguity, and paradox, I believe in life. Life is not a clean-room; it’s a junkyard. Life is not a binary series of ones and zeroes; it’s analog, not digital.
Like an old vinyl record, life is punctuated by hisses and pops, bumps and ridges, smudges and skips, crackles and snaps. Many audiophiles insist that vinyl records sound better than digitally produced music in spite of, or perhaps because of, these imperfections. A music file on my Ipod sounds exactly the same every time it is played. A vinyl record, though, with its superior dynamism, generates a new experience with each journey round the phonograph spindle.
Life is disruption, surprise, and chaos. Life is not black and white; it’s a fireworks display.
A human being is life in microcosm—beauty and wonder and miraculous complexity mingled inseparably with vulgarity, pain, and darkness. Like the earth seen from space, the body viewed from a distance is a singular thing, parts working seamlessly together in a semblance of perfect union. But beneath the veneer of order is disarray and decay. The illusion of design gives way upon closer examination to a vision of messiness—blood vessels cavorting this way and that, electrical impulses careening through neurons and synapses. And so it is with the world—as The Temptations called it, a “ball of confusion” spinning wildly in precarious orbit round a second-rate star in the suburbs of the Milky Way.
Each of us is an individual spinning through life like that record on the turntable or the earth circling the sun—our personal thoughts, emotions, and acts imbued with ambiguity, wrapped in riddle, pierced by paradox.
I embrace the hisses, pops, smudges, and skips I see in my own life. And I take pleasure in the bumps, ridges, crackles, and snaps I observe in others. Sometimes we expect reason and order to reign in our minds and hearts when we ought to revel in the depth and dimension that randomness, irony, and whimsy yield in our souls. Partners in intimate relationships too often judge one another’s thoughts and desires as if such things can be made to bow before the throne of sensibility and sense. In a committed partnership, no thought or feeling ought to be out of bounds, no genuine sentiment worthy of censure, no passionate desire left unexpressed because of a misplaced sense of guilt or fear of rebuke. I believe this is the key to deep, lasting, satisfying intimacy.
When I view myself as I really am rather than as others would like me to be a vibrant, beautiful world opens up. I am filled with a sense of relief, at peace with who I am and my human limitations. I no longer need to maintain an illusion of adherence to some artificially imposed standard of thought and behavior. I am freed from judgmentalism and hypocrisy. I become capable of defining the boundaries of my marriage relationship around mutual trust, admiration, love, and respect. My intimate companion is able to burst from the chains that tradition and dogma have clamped on her soul. I accept the flaws, weaknesses, incongruities, and magnificent mysteries she embodies. I rejoice in her ambiguities, complexities, and paradoxes. And she can know that I love her all the more because of them.
This I believe.