maybe you've been tuning in to npr's new series "this i believe" - the revival of an old edward murrow radio show in which people articulated the fundamental principles by which they lived and how they came to those principles. the first contribution to the new version, from colin powell, was just unlistenable: a little collage of cliches, as in "i believe in america." yeah whatever. but anyway, i decided to have a crack, though i have this funny feeling they're not going to bite. so anyway:
The applicability of principles to situations is always at best inexact, because situations bristle with specificities of which no principle can take account. Indeed, the broader the principle, the wider its application, the more it approaches the status of sheer yammer that no one even hears: it merges into the white noise of politics and advertising, the rote muttering of educators.
Some people, perhaps in a momentary delusion, manage to commit themselves to a principle, or a slogan, or even the merest word, such as "excellence." The problem may not be in the state of the enthusiast's sincerity, but in the absence of anything in the world that corresponds to or causes that enthusiasm: there is nothing out there that attaches itself as the reality to the abstraction that is "excellence." One floats into the term like a balloon into the sky, then pops. "God" is a word like that. "Truth." Even, God or whatever help us, "love."
Principles always have the possibility of imposing or nurturing psychosis: a mere detachment from the real world, life among the abstractions, life that has left the world behind and now is lived nowhere.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in "This I Believe": the phrase, especially under the tender ministrations of, say, Colin Powell, quickly degenerates into cant.
Principles do such a sorry job of finding reality that people have been tortured slowly to death as an expression of love or because of a commitment to human freedom.
I have no idea what principles are worth living for or what the purpose of life is, and perhaps the only real purpose I want is letting go of purposes: immersing myself in the process in all its detail and renouncing the fantasy of transcending or explaining it.
I believe: Children are our future. Believe in yourself and you can do anything.
Freedom isn't free. I believe in the promise of
I believe that I have a dull headache here, right behind my eyes.