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March 15, 2010 / theoldsilly

Our Noble, Essential Decency

A couple days ago I was driving and listening to National Public Radio – another one of my favorite driving pastimes. The show featured Sci-Fi legendary writer, Robert A. Heinlein – author of so many great classics, his (to me) crowning achievement being Stranger in a Strange Land. I’ve read that book probably five time over a period of forty years and still derive an awesome experience when I read it.

So they had a narrator recite Heinlein’s essay, “This I Believe.” I’d never read or heard it before, but was so taken with its down-to-earth philosophy and oh-so-positive tenor I felt it worthy of sharing with you today. If you’ve never experienced this before, you are in for a real treat. I give you, posthumously, Robert A. Heinlein …

This I Believe

I am not going to talk about religious beliefs but about matters so obvious that it has gone out of style to mention them. I believe in my neighbors. I know their faults, and I know that their virtues far outweigh their faults.

Take Father Michael, down our road a piece. I’m not of his creed, but I know that goodness and charity and loving kindness shine in his daily actions. I believe in Father Mike. If I’m in trouble, I’ll go to him. My next door neighbor’s a veterinary doctor. Doc will get out of bed after a hard day to help a stray cat—no fee, no prospect of a fee. I believe in Doc.

I believe in my townspeople. You can knock on any door in our town, say “I’m hungry,” and you’ll be fed. Our town is no exception. I found the same ready charity everywhere. For the one who says, “The heck with you, I’ve got mine,” there are a hundred, a thousand, who will say, “Sure pal, sit down.” I know that despite all warnings against hitchhikers, I can step to the highway, thumb for a ride, and in a few minutes a car or a truck will stop and someone will say, “Climb in Mack. How far you going?”

I believe in my fellow citizens. Our headlines are splashed with crime. Yet for every criminal, there are ten thousand honest, decent, kindly men. If it were not so, no child would live to grow up. Business could not go on from day to day. Decency is not news. It is buried in the obituaries, but it is a force stronger than crime.

I believe in the patient gallantry of nurses, in the tedious sacrifices of teachers. I believe in the unseen and unending fight against desperate odds that goes on quietly in almost every home in the land. I believe in the honest craft of workmen. Take a look around you. There never were enough bosses to check up on all that work. From Independence Hall to the Grand Coulee Dam, these things were built level and square by craftsmen who were honest in their bones.

I believe that almost all politicians are honest. For every bribed alderman, there are hundreds of politicians—low paid or not paid at all—doing their level best without thanks or glory to make our system work. If this were not true, we would never have gotten past the Thirteen Colonies.

I believe in Rodger Young. You and I are free today because of endless unnamed heroes from Valley Forge to the Yalu River. I believe in—I am proud to belong to—the United States. Despite shortcomings—from lynchings, to bad faith in high places—our nation has had the most decent and kindly internal practices and foreign policies to be found anywhere in history.

And finally, I believe in my whole race—yellow, white, black, red, brown—in the honesty, courage, intelligence, durability, and goodness of the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters everywhere on this planet. I am proud to be a human being. I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth—that we always make it just for the skin of our teeth—but that we will always make it, survive, endure.

I believe that this hairless embryo with the aching oversized braincase and the opposable thumb—this animal barely up from the apes—will endure, will endure longer than his home planet, will spread out to the other planets—to the stars and beyond—carrying with him his honesty, his insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage, and his noble essential decency. This I believe with all my heart.


Well said, Mr. Heinlein. And while I know this was written decades ago, before Watergate and other public political embarrassments, like Billy Clinton’s daily Monica mouth hugs and other blatant misuses and abuses of power, I still agree with him that for every corrupt politician there are scores of good people trying to make our great system work, and that the media gorifies all the bad in our world and does little to headline all the good deeds people do for each other all the time, hmm?

What are your thoughts on this?

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  1. yvonne lewis / Mar 15 2010 7:53 am

    A wonderful blog Marvin, we as a nation are by and large good people, sure there are some who like to destroy this wonderful world
    but there are also people who will help anyone or thing without a thought for themselves. Your blog illusterates this as you mention certain people you believe in. A pleasure to read…….as always.


  2. Stanley Berber / Mar 15 2010 8:32 am

    Great to hear this kind of essay and attitude. If we all returned to that kind of trust and compassion for each other rather than fear and suspicion we’d have a much better world.

  3. Cactus Annie / Mar 15 2010 8:49 am

    Never had read or heard that essay either. Wow – really inspiring, and a great reminder to follow the LOA – what we focus on we get more of. Thanks for posting this, Old Silly!

  4. unwriter1 / Mar 15 2010 8:57 am

    All I can say is Amen to this essay. My beliefs echo this.

  5. Barbra Kelser / Mar 15 2010 9:01 am

    Amen! We need more of this kind of thinking, feeling, and believing in this world!

  6. John Standish / Mar 15 2010 9:07 am

    That’s one powerful and straight from a true heart essay. All’s I can say is, “Agreed!”

  7. Thelma Banks / Mar 15 2010 9:38 am

    Wonderful! I’m a BIG Heinlein fan, I also treasure Stranger in a Strange Land as one of my all time favorite books in my library – but I’d never read this essay before. Very heartening – thanks for sharing/posting this, Old Silly!

  8. tashabud / Mar 15 2010 9:49 am

    The Beautiful American and Human Being. His words are powerful and inspiring. I do so agree with him. Thanks for sharing, Old Silly.

    Have a great wee,

    • theoldsilly / Mar 15 2010 11:48 am

      LOL, I have a great “Wee” 😉 – at least my wife tells me that, and I also enjoy a great “Whee!”

      Freudian slip, hmm? 😉

      • tashabud / Mar 15 2010 2:45 pm

        Your reply made me laugh so hard. Ahh…It’s going to be a great week. I can feel it.


  9. tashabud / Mar 15 2010 9:52 am

    Sorry, Old Silly. I meant to say, “Have a great week.”

    Have a great week,

  10. AmyLK / Mar 15 2010 10:33 am

    I like this! We certainly need more people believing this way.

  11. Karen Walker / Mar 15 2010 11:00 am

    This is beautiful. I’ve stopped paying attention to the news because it’s all bad. And that’s not my experience. We don’t hear enough about the good, honest, loyal, wonderful people of our country. Thanks for reminding us with this essay.

  12. Leeuna / Mar 15 2010 11:33 am

    Thanks for sharing that essay, Marvin. I hadn’t read it until now. I too believe in mankind, however my faith gets shaken from time to time. And yes, you’re right in that the media rarely reports on the good deeds that people do, only the bad things. That’s kind of sad too, because we need to hear more about the good people.

    • theoldsilly / Mar 15 2010 11:49 am

      Yeah I agree, Leuuna – but the sad news is, bad new sells, hmm? 😦

  13. Helen Ginger / Mar 15 2010 12:11 pm

    A wonderful, positive essay. Thanks for posting it, Marvin.

    Straight From Hel

  14. L. Diane Wolfe / Mar 15 2010 12:47 pm

    Never heard this either.

  15. consellow / Mar 15 2010 12:52 pm

    I love this dad… great post. We see this every time there’s some huge disaster… it’s because that’s the only time it’s news worthy. However, look how many people jump to help!

    • theoldsilly / Mar 15 2010 12:59 pm

      Good point, Connie – yes, only THEN does good deeds become newsworthy. But good deeds happen all the time, just rarely noticed by our sensationalism-driven media. Sad, but true.

  16. Marcus Franks / Mar 15 2010 1:01 pm

    This is truly a remarkable and inspiring essay. I hadn’t read it before, either, but thanks for posting it, Marv. We need more of this kind of thinking, I agree.

  17. Arlee Bird / Mar 15 2010 1:53 pm

    I do believe this overall as well. There are a lot of bad folk out there, but most of us are just trying to get by the best we can and not start any fights with anyone else. Most of the time I feel pretty safe and most people seem pretty nice and if they don’t they are usually just ambivalent. Good message from Heinlein and thanks for sharing it. It was new to me.

  18. Alex J. Cavanaugh / Mar 15 2010 2:36 pm

    Some profound beliefs there!

  19. Jane Kennedy Sutton / Mar 15 2010 3:27 pm

    What a great way to start the week. I haven’t read that before. I loved it and am delighted you brought it my attention.

  20. Michele Emrath / Mar 15 2010 4:35 pm

    You know, I never knew that was by him. I listen to NPR all the time. Even in times of hardship, I find a few dollars to give to our local station, because I get so much from them. And this is an example of why it is important. Thank you for enlightening me some more.


    • theoldsilly / Mar 15 2010 4:37 pm

      Thanks, Michele – I support NPR as much as I can, too. It’s the best radio out there these days, hmm?

  21. Jim Hansen / Mar 15 2010 4:46 pm

    I found your blog while doing a Google search on Heinlein – my all time fave sci-fi author. I’ve read all his books, and never saw this essay before. Truly wonderful – from a real man of integrity, talent, and compassion for his fellow man. Great post, love your blog – I’ll be back!

    • theoldsilly / Mar 15 2010 4:49 pm

      Welcome, Jim – glad you Google/stumbled over here, lol. And hey – any huge fan of Heinlein is a friend of mine, so by all means blog back in and join in on the comments conversation often!

  22. MadMadMargo / Mar 15 2010 5:21 pm

    If you have ever read my complete profile, you would have noticed I have Robert Heinlein listed among my favorite authors. His book, Job, is one I have read many times over. Too me, Heinlein is pure genius, I really appreciate his philosophical perspective. Thank you for your thoughtful writing today, I truly enjoyed it.

  23. Enid Wilson / Mar 15 2010 8:27 pm

    Excellent excerpt! Thanks for sharing. I believe in human, with fault.

    Steamy Darcy

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