Wednesday, August 29, 2007

This I Believe

I bought a book a while back called This I Believe. I was drawn in first by the cover, an old wooden chair in yellow-green grass against a slate blue sky. Simple, yet strong. (This I Believe is based on the NPR series with the same name. It's a collection of 80 essays from people both famous and not, who complete the sentence, "This I believe...") I opened the book to a random spot and found Ted Gup's essay, "In Praise of The Wobblies," and I was sold. There I was. Right there in the middle of the book. You see, I'm a Wobbly. Always have been. But before I picked up this book, I had yet to run across anyone who was willing to admit they were a Wobbly, much less write about it in a book for the whole world to read.

As a young man, Ted Gup applied for an internship at the Washington Post. He felt that he badly flubbed the interview, that he paled in comparison to the Harvard kids who knew exactly where they stood on the hot issues of the day - Vietnam, the demonstrations, Nixon. He felt as if he had stumbled on every issue. He didn't get the position, but he did get a rejection letter from the editor who told him he liked his attitude and that he probably had a hell of a future. About that letter, and the change in how Ted felt about not always knowing where he stood, Ted says,
"It had let me know that it was okay to be perplexed, to be torn by issues, to look at the world and not feel inadequate because it would not sort itself out cleanly. In the company of the confident, I had always envied their certainty. I imagined myself some tiny sailboat, aimlessly tacking in whatever wind prevailed at the moment. But in time, I came to accept, even embrace, what I called 'my confusion,' and to recognize it as a friend and ally, no apologies needed. I preferred to listen rather than speak; to inquire, not crusade. As a noncombatant, I was welcomed at the tables of even bitterly divided foes. I came to recognize that I had my own compass and my own convictions, and if, at times, they took me in circles, at least they expanded outward."

So, I was sold, and I no longer feel so bad about being Wobbly. It takes an open mind, and sometimes an open heart, to see all sides of an issue. I don't mind being accused of having either.

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