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NPR series inspires to keep life in perspective


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Driving around southern Indiana and elsewhere, I spend a lot of time listening to my car radio. Just to keep my brain humming, I’m usually tuned to NPR. One of the more interesting things I hear every once in awhile is the “This I Believe” series.

“This I Believe” started out with television journalist, Edward R. Murrow, back in the 1950’s. Whether you catch one of his old essays or a brand-new one, they’re always thoughtful and well-written, with interesting viewpoints. They make you think.

If I were to write a “This I Believe” essay, it would be, “I believe in the human experience.”

I don’t care to believe what other human beings believe. Beliefs are all over the map anyway, all different directions. I don’t believe human beings are all good. Or all bad. Or all the same in much any other way.

But we’re interesting. We all have strengths, weaknesses, hopes, dreams, fears. There are people I love and people I wish I had met. There are also people I wish I had not met — and people I would never want to meet.

But if I could just be a disembodied fly on the wall, I don’t think there’s a single human being anywhere who wouldn’t be interesting. (And maybe heartbreaking.)

We create things. It’s not just that we create “stuff.” We human beings create ideas. We create plans, theories, stories, beliefs, melodies, religions, fears and all kinds of “things that go bump in the night,” all in our heads. We’ve created a withering array of gods, goddesses, ghosts, demons and devils — to love or be frightened by.

All the more fascinating — a great many of our thought-creations turn out to be demonstrably wrong. And we go right on acting as though they were real and right — until they actually become real.

Of all animals I know of, only human beings live most of each day in our own web of thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and fears — most of them more make-believe than real. (Take the very ideas of “Indiana,” for example. Did you ever meet a deer or tree that believed it lived in Indiana? Me either.)

To me, this is what the richness of humanity is all about. It makes us wonderful and sometimes terrible; holy and heartbroken; loving and dangerous. Not just because we think and believe all this stuff, but because for all our differences, we’re on the same wavelength enough, our beliefs become real.

For example, you really could say — the state of Indiana isn’t real. Except that we’ve all agreed to pretend it is — and so it is. That’s pretty amazing when you stop to think about it.

I spend just as much time complaining about my fellow human beings as anyone else. But bless us all anyway. For all the love and loss and argument and conflict and delusion and just plain stupidity of the things we believe, say and do — we’re interesting and lovable.

A rabbi once wrote, God created human beings because God loves a good story. Or did I just believe I read that? Maybe God created us — but what if we created God? I don’t think it matters. Either way, that richness is a holy challenge and a holy inspiration.

Life is hard sometimes. But I believe in being human and the “what next-ness” of being human. I could have been created as a post, after all. Posts don’t feel pain. But who would want to be one?

The Rev. Dennis McCarty is a Unitarian Universalist minister in Columbus. His opinions are his own, and members of his church may or may not agree with them. He can be reached by e-mail at columnists@therepublic.com.

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