There is a saying: “Everyone is born unique … but most of us die copies.” We copy the lies and truth of our families … the joys and betrayals of our lover … the envy and devotions of our friends and relatives, and the myriad people who traverse the landscape of our lives. But we were meant to be more than just copies. We were meant to be co-creators in a universe waiting to rejoice in the magnitude of who we are. We were not meant to settle for less out of fear … shame … or any misguided sense of responsibility. We were meant to be great … and lead extraordinary lives.—Essay, 2008
We were meant to stand for more than just something … and to be more than just anything. It’s been said that, to be born a human being, instead of a snake, is a wonderful opportunity, so whether we know it or not, we are obligated simply by the unique nature of our being to be more.
And we can be.
We start out like everybody else with our likes and dislikes—and we are very upfront and straightforward about them; we trust both ourselves and others to do and be who they say they are. During this childhood, the most honest season of our lives, the nascent defining of ourselves has little to do with outside labels, and everything to do with who we are—deep down in our soul where the spirit is always young and self affirming.
It is our innocence that gives us this extraordinary ability to see the world in a brighter light, but as we grow older, we encounter the ills and foibles of the larger society; we become jaded, and our sense of wonder stunted. On the doorsteps of adolescence, we bare the weight of an awareness that is indicative of our coming of age … the loss of our innocence, and along with it, our emerging sense of self.
Understanding this is crucial in the resurrection of our childhood spirit. Acknowledging that we had surrendered, at some point, to the assault on our psyche, by those who both love and loath us in our efforts to be more, is the hardest confession we will ever make, but one that we must make if we are ever to truly live up to our individual potential.
The truth is simple, we become what we believe … and what we believe in and about ourselves is the substratum on which we will build the indelible character of our person.
Who am I … is more than just a question I ask myself. It is a question that will be asked of me over and over again by the world at large, and in every challenging situation I might encounter. How I answer will depend on what I believe and know to be true about whom I am, and what I stand for—deep down in my soul, where the spirit is always young and self affirming.
So what do I believe?
I believe that being human is a privilege and a gift; with a sense of self and purpose that acknowledges its imperfection while striving to be more.
I believe that honesty, if not the best, is a pretty good policy … and that people who don’t blame others for their personal despairs are probably more fair minded … and those who make no excuses for their failures usually win in the end.
I believe in group affliction and individual triumphs; that there was a holocaust, a middle passage, a trail of tears. I believe we are all prophets in the fulfillment of our own destinies, and that we can always be better than our faulted histories.
I believe that age is but a number, and that black, white, rich, poor, liberal, and conservative are simply generalizations that separate us from one another and make impossible the peace of the world.
I believe, regardless of the evening news that, the world is a benevolent place, that people are basically good, that crime doesn’t pay, and that what we put out into the universe, returns in kind.
I believe in friends to die for, parents to care for, and elders to respect; that the abandon child, the abused woman, the homeless man, and the wounded soldier are all my responsibility … and that I am indeed my brother’s keeper.
I believe in sexual orientation and the love between two people, regardless of gender. I believe in monogamy, and the joys of an exclusive relationship. I believe that loving someone, anyone, is never a sacrifice …a nd that words said in anger are seldom forgotten.
I believe that men are physically stronger than women are, but that doesn’t make women any weaker; I believe that women are emotionally more resilient than men are, but that doesn’t make men any less feeling.
I believe the body is a temple designed to lengthen and enhance our time on the planet, and that choosing to abuse it with unhealthy habits is a desecration that is not readily forgiven.
I believe in making bread from scratch, chopping vegetables by hand, and that supplements are a poor excuse for not eating better. I believe in laughter, giving gifts for no reason, long hugs, and deep kisses; the mending of broken hearts and the forgiving of trespasses.
I believe in fast starts, slow goes, and final finishes; that life is good and filled with a lot of incredible, edifying moments.
I believe in simplicity.
I believe in a past for reflection, a tomorrow full of promise, and a today for being present; that the memory of yesterday is always sweeter than today and that each generation thinks that it is more blessed than the one that came before.
I believe the earth is a sanctuary, of which we were given the privilege of its stewardship. I believe that the changing of the seasons is a cleansing of our destructive ways, and that there will be an ending. I believe in the worth of all living things.
I believe in a Spirit that is constant and kind, and munificent in helping me to make sense of my place on the planet … and that its essence is a deep and enduring affection. I believe that the Bible is the errant interpretation of men, and that its power lies in the poetry of its intent to enlighten and inspire. I believe that miracles happen after a lot of hard work, and that God is not only in the details, but also in all the elements left out and in between. And I believe, in faith, hope, and charity … and that the greatest of these is love.
I believe that this list can go on forever—and that knowing the specific of these things—informs my life, sustains my character, and gives authority to the things I do and say. They have nothing to do with being right, only what I have discerned to be right for me at this moment in an attempt to stand my ground, and not be batted about Willy nilly. To take arms against a storm of disparate judgments, and by opposing them … end them.
This is what I know about myself … this is what I know about being human.