This I Believe
This I Believe: October 25, 2015
Two weeks ago I started teaching a wonderful class called “Spirituality and Ethics” at the local Episcopal high school. It’s a classic case of being in the right place at the right time—I’m filling in for someone who went on an unexpected leave of absence. It’s been exciting and challenging to jump in with both feet to a class that’s halfway through its semester. The 13 students have been welcoming and, for the most part, participatory.
I inherited an assignment. The students were to write and present a 300-500 word essay based on the criteria found on the This I Believe website. Since I was new, I told them that as an act of solidarity I would write and present one, too.
Below is my essay. It’s 457 words and took much longer to write because of its brevity. I encourage you to check out the website and try your hand at a personal essay founded on one seminal belief. What do you believe?
WHAT makes a person interesting? We may be drawn to people for a variety of reasons. Beauty, athleticism, fame, wealth, charisma, knowledge, talent. But what piques our interest? What keeps our interest?
I am riveted by people who are curious about the world and their place in it. I am charmed by someone’s sense of wonder, by a well-honed inquisitiveness. Not someone who asks questions to divert attention from herself or to appear more capable than he is. But someone who is genuinely mystified by the beauty and complexity of this world. By life.
Albert Einstein once told a friend, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”
I guess it’s enough to be passionately curious about only one discipline. That would make for a fine entrepreneur, an exceptional athlete. Precision compels people to undertake one more scientific experiment, to perfect the business model, change the golf swing. But I think curiosity obliges people to pursue more than a single question. It’s a thirst for all the answers.
My favorite professors were those who remained captivated by the quest to learn. I remember Dr. Peters extolling the delight of philosophical inquiry, saying, “I just don’t think my dog, Hector, sits around all day thinking, What does it all mean?” I named my first dog Hector. And I still wonder what it all means.
I asked my son, Jack, “What makes a person interesting?” He said meeting new people is interesting “Because we don’t know what they can do already. We want to know what they can do.” Jack is six. His comment reminded me of a man I recently met. In the mere 30 minutes we talked we discussed the theory and practice of education, the versatility of the cello, the death penalty, sports, and puppies. Jack would have liked him.
But kids have it easy—every child is curious. An unfortunate by-product of school can be to encourage compliance instead of curiosity. But education—true education—cultivates curiosity. Someone asked Ed Madden, “When did you start writing poetry?” Ed answered, “When did you stop?”
Why do humans resort to violence? Why can’t I appreciate opera unless I see it live? Why does that leaf remain suspended three inches below the water’s surface? Why do we elect self-serving blockheads?
Why can’t I remember the definition of insouciant? Why doesn’t God give faith to all people? Why will my children eat anything if it’s on a stick? Why do colorful fish live in water too deep for sunlight?
One of my favorite prayers promises, “We will know Your power and presence this day, if we will but listen for Your voice.”
Black holes. Sub-atomic particles. Selflessness.
I believe God’s voice is always and everywhere around us.