So the prompt writers for the Trust30 Emerson Writing Project clearly don’t mess around—as evidenced by today’s prompt. Every morning when I wake up, I check my e-mail first thing to see the new prompt for the day. That e-mail is better than a Christmas present. Quickly the initial feeling of daunted stupefaction gives way to invigoration, the true love of challenge. Like a close companion, the question stays with me all day, and I revel in the pure joy of pondering.

Today, though. Whew. It is time to write, and I am still not sure I have this one resolved as well as it could be.

Prompt #3:

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

The world is powered by passionate people, powerful ideas, and fearless action. What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?

 

Response:

I wake up and read this question. My mind begins searching for a unique belief, one not shared by an intimate. Hm. I start probing my belief systems first, a mistake it turns out. I search my beliefs—my thoughts that, though backed up by both subjective and objective evidence, are nonetheless still not necessarily established as axiomatically factual in the universe—and decide that I must first define belief. (Okay, that’s done: see previous sentence). Feeling confident that I have redefined belief for myself, I begin to parse and sort my beliefs again. Beliefs about physics. Beliefs about human nature. Beliefs about spirituality. Beliefs about purpose. Beliefs about aesthetics. Beliefs about politics. Hm, many of these beliefs are dependent on one another. Separating them into single statements and anticipating explaining them in a reader-response is a massive task.

So far, this is going nowhere for me, and I hear the kiddos starting to stir.

Now it is breakfast time, and it is clear to me that I have a further problem. All of the people closest to me share at least a handful of my primary and even secondary beliefs—that is why I have allowed them to be close. I will either have to restate secondary or tertiary beliefs into axiomatic and dogmatic terms to make them unique and compelling, or I am going to have to deal with this prompt in a different way.

Hm…there is something here about the way we “actively live” our one strong, and (apparently unique) belief. I decide to start sorting through my actions to see if anything unique or different pops up. Can’t be something Bill does or believes. Can’t be something my parents do or believe… Mind is whirring. The kiddos and I are now at the Paperback Shack, scoring recycled book treasures for amazingly little money. (“Look, Katie! They have the Laura books for $2.00 each!!!”)

Then, I remember. I remember something I do and have always done, since I was a little girl. I have never seen anyone else ever do this. At first glance, it may seem frivolous. Some others may not even understand how sincere I actually really am about it. It may even be odd, I don’t know. Please don’t laugh at me. This belief is all me, part of my true essence.

Here is my strong belief:

I believe it makes the Universe a nicer and more gentle place to save worms from frizzling in the sun on the sidewalk. Whenever I go for a walk, especially in the early morning, I save the worms. I always have. You know how worms sometimes creep out from their safe wet places in the early morning? Well, I can’t bear leaving them on the drying sidewalk, knowing the sun will frizzle them. It’s not like I walk all around town looking for the worms, but if I come upon them, I bend down and move them back into the moist dirt, or into the shade, back into the womb of the earth.

In my mind, there is no sense in leaving the worm to suffer needlessly. In fact, the thought of it makes me sad. Why would I leave it there, helpless and dehydrating, when I could transport it back to comfort?  It is the purposelessness of the suffering that motivates me to do this. Since I am a carnivore and do eat meat, I consider myself part of a chain of being which sometimes must grapple with death for a reason. I also cut the grass, pick flowers, and kill dangerous spiders. Saving these worms, then, is not so much about the preservation of life; rather, for me, it is about avoiding needless/purposeless suffering and death.

I see the worm slowing down to a trudge on the hot concrete. I see it has left its safe haven for no apparent reason. The end in store for it, if left on the sidewalk, has no value, has no good result. It is not dying to catch fish. It is not being fed by a bird to a baby bird. Nothing good comes out of the worm dying like that—a torturous way, too. Worms do nothing but help us with our soil. They are innocuous little creatures. Why not put them back where they can thrive?

To make this belief more relevant to broader philosophy, I think it can be argued that I try to look at all life this way. Our co-existence can be gentle if we want it to be. My actions are not always wholly consistent in this, I admit it, but I am more aware of a gentle universe than not aware of it. I know the gentling presence is there, and I try to be part of it. Whether moving worms back to security, or trying not to gossip negatively about people, or working on patience, I truly believe our actions can make the universe a more tender environment for all of us.

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