I feel more than a little self-conscious about trying to elucidate my personal, private creed. For after all, when a person strips down all the way to her innermost beliefs and in public, she stands awfully exposed. Nevertheless, it strikes me as a very useful experience to sit down with one’s self and seriously think through one’s beliefs and convictions. I recommend it to everyone without any necessity, however, of crying one’s findings aloud from the rooftops.
The trail of my beliefs and their development leads back to my childhood and has been impacted by people I’ve met throughout my life. In college I met my dear friend Summer. She was reared in a deeply spiritual family…..a sort of matriarchal clan ruled over by her maternal grandmother.
Summer had a strong and devout personality, beloved and respected by all who knew her, guided by simple but firm beliefs. Foremost, she believed in God. In worldly matters, Summer believed that every person, without regard to race or religion, has a virtually sacred right to dignity and respect; that all men are brothers and are entitled to be treated as equals and to enjoy equality of opportunity; that principle, integrity, and self-respect are never to be worn as loose garments. For everyone she touched with her open heart, these beliefs almost automatically came to be part of our very being. For me, this was particularly so, since she was one of a limited number of people in my life whose genuineness was unequivocal.
Summer and I had a special bond….in our youth, we both had what many would consider a poor and hard life. (But as I recall it, I was never unhappy) We were both taught how to appreciate and get the most out of very little, and that happiness in any circumstance is primarily a matter of control over one’s own state of mind. Certainly, most everything in which I now believe stems from the simple lessons I’ve learned throughout my life….even Summer’s untimely death. The beliefs I acquired quite unconsciously and unthinkingly in the years I knew her, the lessons on how to approach life and its many problems, have been my unfailing guideposts.
Like Summer, I have an implicit belief in the Universe and a supreme will beyond the kin of mortal man. In this, I find both comfort and security. From Summer, I learned to hold that it is right to believe in oneself, but it is wrong ever to take oneself too seriously…..for a keen sense of personal values, and that humility which accompanies a balanced perspective, are indispensable to congenial adjustment to life in society. In this regard, (and although I’ve only been there a few times) I love to visit the Kangra Valley of the Indian Himalayas… stand on the rim of the valley surrounded by stately and deliciously fragrant deodar cedar trees, not only to marvel at its majestic splendor but to reflect on how puny, indeed, is man individually and collectively when confronted with nature’s awesome grandeur.
Summer believed in the worth and dignity of the individual, and that no being can be happy within him/herself if dignity and self-respect are surrendered. She had faith in people… collectively their essential goodness and good sense….always with the understanding that there will be individual mavericks on every human range. She believed that men can learn to live together in harmony and peace in the international community as in domestic communities, and she was unfalteringly devoted to helping women and children around the world. Summer believed in looking always on the brighter side of things, in the ability of right somehow ultimately to prevail, in never pressing time or fate, in taking life philosophically and in stride…..both the good and the bad….and she had an ample measure of both.
Today, as I reminisce and hold in my heart what would have been Summer’s 51st birthday, I reflect on what an incredible person she was and share some, at least, of her beliefs. And, although those “mavericks” that Summer was very much aware of believe her voice was permanently silenced, I’m here to celebrate that her beliefs carry on for me (and many others) as imperative beacons, without which life would be utterly lacking in direction or meaning.
Happy Birthday Summer. Your work will forever continue…..