Just what Do You Believe?

Is there anything out there?

Is there anything out there?

If you had to tell someone in 300-500 words what it is you believe–could you do it?

We are nearing the end of our 6-week winter journaling session with author Susannah Conway, and that was the challenge she offered us in yesterday’s session.

“What is it you really believe?”

Seven years ago, a dear friend offered me the same challenge, but I didn’t take it on at the time. She’d written her short essay and submitted it to the NPR folks in 2007. She gave me a copy of one of their published anthology books titled THIS I BELIEVE, and I enjoyed reading the diverse philosophies presented by many well known, and not so well known, people.

National Public Radio (NPR) ran the “This I Believe” writing essay program for several years before deciding to discontinue reading the essays over the air in 2009. The essay program continues on at http://thisibelieve.org, however.

The exercise is dedicated to engaging America and the rest of the world in writing down one’s core beliefs and then sharing them with neighbors, friends and family hoping people will come to understand each other a little better.

Late last night I put my thoughts on the question into my journal trying to come up with one defining thing that I believe in. I figured the only way to really get into it was to draft a working list.

I believe in a ton of things. How to mine it down to the one I might consider explaining in a 500-word essay?

The list looks like this:

  • I believe in being good to people; yes—being nice.
  • I believe in smiling and laughing–a lot.
  • I believe there is a God, even though I cannot tell you what he/she/it looks like, or where to go or how to find the entity.
  • I believe It doesn’t care a fig about our man-made sanctions and rules concerning It.
  • I believe God and the Universe are one and the same; God is Nature. I crave Nature.
  • I believe God speaks best in quiet and solitude, but not only that way.
  • I believe in an existence in another dimension beyond this one because otherwise why should we even bother? Earth is nice—for some of us—but hardly enough for far too many. There has to be something more and better. Just has to.
  • I believe in simplicity.
  • I believe we have to maintain hope, but I also believe that gets harder as we age.
  • I believe we each have a part to play for our being born—good or bad.
  • I believe this is one of the most complicated things to understand and reason through. In fact, I know it is.
  • I believe having expectations will lead to disillusionment.
  • I believe for some reason I was born lucky, but I couldn’t tell you why.
  • I believe standing still watching the sun, listening to birds or studying how snow falls is hardly wasted time.
  • I believe the practice and value of writing should be a life course taught to children as soon as they can print words and continue until they graduate from high school.
  • I believe in synchronicity.
  • I believe in sincerity.
  • I believe you should always try something new; no matter how big or how small.
  • I believe you should like yourself.

You see that it’s not an easy task. It was getting late and I needed to stop for the night.

Today I realized the first item on my list came onto the page without effort. That’s probably a pretty good indicator.

We should be good to one another. And I don’t mind if someone tosses the word nice in my direction.

For those who find this a boring concept, I offer this . . .


You’ve got 3 seconds! What’s your personal elevator pitch?

Can you articulate it in 3 seconds?




You’re waiting for the elevator, and when the door opens the stranger standing inside asks you to tell him what that one thing is that you believe—before the door closes. (You won’t be getting on the elevator.) 

What would you tell him? 

I needed something to read before falling asleep the other night so I reached for a book my late friend, Linda, gave to me the Christmas before she died.  THIS I BELIEVE, edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman (in association with the NPR project by the same name). 

“I had to contemplate for a long time on this,” she wrote to me in the card, “for I believe many things. How does one declare publicly, leaving a footprint, what one believes in 300-500 words? Even for a flash writer like me, it was a difficult task.” 

As I started into the short writings from notables such as actress Helen Hayes, politician Newt Gingrich and scientist Albert Einstein, my mind swirled at the very complexity of that question, and it bothered me a bit that my own thoughts wrapped around more of what I don’t believe so much anymore. 

When we start to gather a few more miles along the pipeline, we—hopefully—get a little smarter, maybe a little stronger, and with a bit of luck– a little more honest.  Hopefully. 

Some of my thoughts after spending time with this book: 

  • I believe politics is just another human game, and the general welfare of the masses is not the central goal.
  • I believe Eastern medicine aims to heal; I believe Western medicine aims for something else. 
  • I believe ministers, priests, rabbis, imams and scientists don’t know the half of It, and the sooner we realize this, the better off we will be. 
  • I believe writers don’t have to apologize for what we write, but we have to own it. Forever. All of it. Tweets/blogs/Facebook/essays/novels. 
  • I believe nothing is ever going to be what I thought it would be. 
  • I believe I will never understand another’s spot on this planet, until I stand in it. 
  • I believe having expectations is the ultimate destroyer of anything. 
  • I believe things with four legs and fur, something newborn, or an honest coating of rich black soil on my hands brings me face to face with God. 
  • I believe the animal kingdom will always be smarter than the human one. 

Ultimately, however, my 3-second elevator pitch to the stranger would be this:

Kindness extended to all forms must reign sovereign.  

How about it?

What would you tell this stranger?