What do you believe in?

I’m a contemplative type. While some people are primarily doers, I’m primarily a thinker. This has its advantages but also notable disadvantages (such as not being a doer – people who get things done are useful to have around).

It has occurred to me over the past few days that I’m unfortunately not even a very good thinker. Many of us (especially anyone reading this blog) would agree that it is important in any society to have a few thinkers doing the heavy intellectual and philosophical lifting on behalf of the rest of us.

Intellectual/philosophical heavy lifter? That is definitely not me.

I have been thinking about this over the past few days because a friend of a friend whom I only knew of remotely died last week while climbing in the Peruvian Andes.

I followed a link on a friend’s facebook page and read an article that reflected a young man who was a deep thinker with strong values, who committed very seriously to living by them.

As someone with an interest in politics, with a history of activism, who has dedicated my career to social justice issues, I’ve always just assumed that I’m covered when it comes to standing for something. But on reflection I think my values are mostly on auto-pilot.

When I ask myself what I believe in, I have to take a moment. One thing that springs to mind is that I believe in human kind and our ability as a collective to improve ourselves and our world. I can’t articulate it very well, I have no quotes from great thinkers to help me. But I do believe it, which is why I also believe very strongly in personal development, in finding ways to be better and improve ourselves in ways that feel personally important.

So I spend a lot of time thinking about self improvement (which is terribly unfashionable in Australia, but it seems to be to be a closet obsession of many). I spend a lot of time thinking about my contribution to society, how that should be manifested (should I work hard every day of my life to achieve something useful or should I tend to my soul, strive for personal happiness and commit to getting eight hours sleep?).

But this, I am afraid, has become self-indulgent navel-gazing. Values about the self are important, but not the whole picture. What else do I believe in? I’m not really sure. I think somewhere along the way I found it easier to be the diplomatic interlocutor whose personal beliefs were buried so as not to alienate the various parties I would be trying to bring together. Somewhere along the way they were buried and forgotten.

The Alexander Hamilton quote is never far from a conversation about values, but right now it feels more poignant than usual:

“He who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”

Do you know what you believe in? Can you articulate your values? Ben could and I think he lived a richer life and made a greater contribution for it.

2 thoughts on “What do you believe in?

  1. thisgenlife

    Ooh Sarah, hit the nail on the head with this one! Or at least you’ve reflected some of the things that I think about often – particularly about how much value diplomatic interlocutors really offer. My old boss used to say to me that ‘some people work in the system, and others work on it’. We work on it and that’s probably not such a bad thing 🙂

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