I'm a big fan of This I Believe, in all its incarnations going back to Edward R. Murrow in '51 and up to its most recent run on NPR. Jay Allison, the radio journalist who brought it to NPR as host, curator, and book editor, is this afternoon's convocation speaker at my school. Incoming freshmen were to read the first of Allison's book installments gathering some of those short broadcast essays through the years, from the famous and the obscure alike.
A colleague announced yesterday, during our perspirant cross-campus stroll to theannual Fall Faculty gathering in Tucker Auditorium, that he despises the franchise, and turns off the radio whenever TIB comes on. Same for Story Corps, which I also adore.
I was initially shocked, but on reflection not so surprised. Our sensibilities are radically different. I go for earnest expressions of secular spirituality and humanity. Suffice to say, he doesn't. "This I Believe invites citizens to share beliefs." Maybe he thinks we get more than enough of that in our classrooms. I think we need to work harder at understanding the minds and hearts of our classmates and neighbors and especially our antagonists.
For my part, it's not "respect for beliefs" so much as respect for other persons and recognition of the humanity of those who hold beliefs different from my own, that makes TIB so valuable."As in the 1950s, this is a time when belief is dividing the nation and the world," says Allison about life today. "We are not listening well, not understanding each other -- we are simply disagreeing, or worse. Working in broadcast communication, there's a responsibility to change that, to cross borders, to encourage some empathy. That possibility is what inspires me about this series."In reviving This I Believe, Allison and [his TIB partner Dan] Gediman say their goal is not to persuade Americans to agree on the same beliefs. Rather, they hope to encourage people to begin the much more difficult task of developing respect for beliefs different from their own.
I've believed many things at different times, and have even posted some of them for the TIB archive. I believe the exercise of summarizing and sharing core convictions is a life-affirming act.
One more thing: I believe my colleague should submit a TIB essay explaining why he dislikes TIB. Then he should turn his radio back on.