Thursday, December 18, 2008

This I Believe II

This I Believe II (also known as This, Too, I Believe*)
© This I Believe, Inc.

Last week I read This I Believe, a collection of eighty essays in which people wrote about their deepest convictions or ideals. While meandering through the philosophy/religion shelves in my local library looking for Asimov's Guide to the Bible, my eyes fell upon This I Believe II. Lo! Fate. I checked it out, of course, and read it throughout the course of the week. The book's layout follows the format of the previous book: the editors (Jay Allison and Dan Gediman) introduce the This I Believe project. This introduction is followed by seventy-five essays. The book concludes with the editors' reflection on the This I Believe project and guidelines for submitting an essay. A year or so ago I wrote an essay titled "This I Believe", but it is too long and too broad for the kind of essay they are requesting.

This collection of essays seems to be composed entirely of contributions to the modern project, unlike the past collection which used essays from the 1950s project. In each essay, a person writes on an idea that shapes them and molds their thinking: "I believe in living with integrity", "I believe in strange blessings", "I believe in doing what I love", "I believe in living in the here and now", "I believe in living what you do every day". The writers use stories from their personal lives to explain why they believe this. I found this collection of essays to be enriching, if not as much as the previous collection -- perhaps because I read this too soon after reading the first collection. I should return to this book later when I'm not quite so full, so to speak.

The essays are submitted by people from all walks of life -- teenagers, old people, the nonreligious, Catholic priests. Many voices come from people who are new to the United States. (This I Believe is an NPR program and thus deals entirely with the stories of Americans.) I noticed that this collection of essays is less religious than the previous one. I am neither exhulting nor complaining: I prefer perspectives that aren't rooted in what I believe to be superstitious ideas, but the religious essays of the last book helped me get a better handle on religion's relationship with helping people to improve their lives.

If this program sounds interesting to you, you can listen to the podcast (updated every Monday with a 2-3 minute spoken essay) here.

* Not really, but I saw an opportunity.

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