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"I believe in the inherent goodness of people without holding anybody but myself accountable for living up to that belief."

Humans seem the most remarkable beings. We believe, belief being a kind of conviction requiring no supporting factual evidence. The highest, most treasured beliefs, insist upon, even brag about, being utterly unsupported, and necessarily so. Two generations ago, Stafford Beer named Firm Belief as one of the four antagonisms encumbering a firm's success; as with the firm, so also with the individual therein (and thereout.) We easily victimize ourselves with our beliefs, fueling certainty with the equivalent of gold-plated air. I'm not knocking this curious ability, but rather noting just how curious it seems. My more reverent friends seem especially blessed with their firm beliefs, confidently striding through a world that seems mostly overwhelming to the rest of us. The more self-aware of these readily admit that their doxology contains hefty bits of pure fantasy, easily disproven by even the most ineptly skeptical observer, and they also recognize the evident power their belief brings them.

The rest of us seem to struggle along beneath leaky balloons imperfectly elevating us. We seem to lose more altitude than we ever gain and scrape ground with some regularity.
We expect our beliefs to betray us and prepare accordingly. We have good days and bad days but we learn not to take either too seriously. Turbulence seems the nature of this airspace and we outgrow our native ninny-ness through apparently inescapable repetition. We learn to distinguish between lofty dreams and grounded reality and thank whatever passes for our god for the great gift of prayers unanswered. We're capable of suspending our disbelief, much as any experienced audience does, to enhance the quality of any performance, but we recognize that we're stretching reality out of reasonable bounds whenever we do so. We expect every performance to end. And while we might cheer for a curtain call or three, we rather gratefully shuffle back toward the subway once the show concludes.

Beliefs naturally fall to the ground like exhausted leaves near the end of Autumn, to nurture that ground somehow but also to leave those trees barren and bare naked through the harshest weather of the year. Trees, too, seem not to take this cycle too personally, hardly ever growing grudges and refusing to sprout fresh leaf cover the following Spring, though they certainly must understand that their leaves, like our firmly held beliefs, will one day utterly abandon them without apparent remorse or gratitude. They will simply leave.

My own beliefs are mostly not granite, but much more delicate than that. I am not very much of a true believer, and consider myself a tad too sophisticated to be caught up in very many of the more popular delusions of our time. Nor do I consider myself cynically overly-skeptical. I sometimes pine after my more innocent times, when I could believe more effortlessly, when my own firm convictions provided at least a decent illusion of my having a backbone. I'm rustling in the breeze now, still attached at one pivotal point, but imminently capable of becoming separated and rudely tossed by more forceful wind. I belong to no society. I am nobody's patriot. I believe in the inherent goodness of people without holding anybody but myself accountable for living up to that belief. I recognize that I, too, will one day fall and hope that my demise might nurture another's ground, and that whatever tree I'd once found myself attached to won't lose its belief in the inevitability of a coming Spring.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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