The BF and I returned today from a long trip through the desert (and back through the desert). In the home stretch, we were listening to This American Life podcasts, including one very funny one called "This I Used to Believe," which was a gentle slam on the NPR series of a similar name, This I Believe, and which was far, far better than the oft-mawkish (and sometimes just bizarre) original. (Although I will go on record immediately and loudly as being pro-TIB or anything else that gets people thinking and writing thoughtfully about their lives.)
At one point in the show, Ira Glass gets interviewed by Jay Allison, the guy who led the team at This I Believe, and asked what, if anything, he believed in. (This is what happens when radio producers meet other radio producers, I guess.) It was asked in the context of why Glass had never contributed, something which Glass himself claimed to have wondered from time to time while listening to the show, and what Glass came up with I thought was rather interesting: although as a young man he had believed in a great deal, often with a fervor bordering on obnoxiousness, as he grew older, he didn't think he believed in anything, which is something that deeply resonated with me.
I, too, was a righteously indignant, bordering-on-obnoxious believer (although not a Believer) in my youth, by which I mean, "until I turned 41." There was no opportunity I'd pass over to stand up and tell people what I believed in (and, implicitly, what I was POSITIVE they should); after my umpteenth attempt at proselytizing disguised as "sketch comedy", a hilarious (not) piece about a former prostitute who'd given up the game running into her old pimp, where "prostitute" was "copywriter" and "game" was "advertising", a good-natured friend dubbed me "Soapbox Girl." Which, of course, I took umbrage at. Much of my old journaling is painful to look at not for the endless spooning over boys who quite clearly were not, in the parlance of today, that into me, but for the mind-blowing bloviating I indulged in.
Province of youth, I suppose (although there are an awful lot of old bloviators whose humility hormones never seemed to kick in). You get older, and if you don't spend all your waking hours watching stuff on TiVo, reading crappy novels or going to MLM meetings, you get wiser, too. Or you don't, and maybe you end up an apoplectic old man in a Kingman, AZ, diner raging against The Gays for not letting that nice Miss California have her say (it's her say, right? it's just her opinion, and this is still America, right?) as your wife tries to reason you down off the ledge.
Honestly, who can blame us? It's not like we're raised with lots of "strong opinions, loosely held" teaching in this country (the U.S. of A., for those of you who aren't reg'lar readers). Come to think of it, I'm not sure who is: some of us grow up hearing a lot of lip service to things like "tolerance" and "to each his own," but there are an awful lot of qualifiers. Some things can't be tolerated, as it turns out, because they're an affront at least and an abomination at worst. Gay people, for example, should no more be allowed to marry than black people should be allowed to co-mingle with whites, or women allowed to own property. If you look at it really closely, the one thing you can really believe about holding tight to opinions is that it causes distress somewhere down the line, to someone or another.
I hate to say I believe in nothing, and I'm not even sure it's true. I believe that nothing is permanent, that everything changes. I'm ramping up to a belief in love over hate always, although let the wrong old man say the wrong thing at a diner in Kingman and, as the song sez, see how love flies out the door.
I do know that if I can't see in my heart to see past my own rage and feel compassion for that man, and to understand him and where he's coming from, I'm not ever going to be able to communicate with him. And if I can't be around certain people, what the hell kind of communicatrix am I, much less person?
For now, I say I know enough to know I don't know much. And I'm working on the beliefs thing.
Oh, and Ira? It turns out he does believe in one thing: that the car is the very best place to listen to the radio.
This, I believe...