From the Publisher
“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
“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
“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
“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
In this thought-provoking book, which was based on an NPR series, 80 essayists use the three little title words as a jumping-off point to a discussion of their deepest personal beliefs. The list of contributors includes Colin Powell, Isabel Allende, Bill Gates, John Updike, William F. Buckley Jr., Gloria Steinem, and Penn Jillette; but it also includes relatively unknown people with everyday jobs. A stirring cross-section of beliefs.
Allison and Gediman's newest omnibus highlights 75 more essays from the archives of the successful NPR program, a contemporary version of Edward Murrow's classic radio show. Culled from writers both legendary and previously unfamiliar, each essayist presents what he or she believes in 500 words. From Robin Baudier's tract on "Strange Blessings," detailing her experience living in her parents' FEMA trailer after the devastation of Katrina, to Michelle Gardner-Quinn's credo for "upholding reverence for all life" (Quinn was tragically murdered after completing this essay) to Kim Phuc's essay on "Forgiveness," borne of her experience as that "girl in the picture" running naked, napalm-burnt on a road near Saigon, each micro-essay stuns with its singular beauty, lucidity and humility. Icons like Helen Prejean, Studs Terkel and Elie Wiesel find estimable company in heretofore unknown writers who distill their individual truths with affecting sincerity and admirable aptitude. (Oct.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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 (not complete at the time of review) 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. Astonishing to hear and astonishing to read and reread, this work is a wonderful addition to any library. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/06.] Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
“At a time when the tide runs toward a sure conformity, when dissent is often confused with subversion, when a man’s 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 Pilate’s 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 I’ve 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 it’s 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.”
I’d 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 there’s always that uncertainty. In all my adventures among hundreds of Americans I have discovered that the rule of thumb does not work. I’ve been astonished too often by those I’ve 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 I’ve 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 I’m 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, I’ve always called myself an agnostic. Were Ambrose Bierce alive today, he would no doubt have added to his Devil’s 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 we’re 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.