There’s Still Time To Change the Road We’re On

Our Road Goes Both Ways with Only A Few Places to Turn Around

At the convergence of several paths, I find myself looking at the guidelines at NPR for the “This I Believe” essay. This is partly due to the fact that these guidelines are easy to find and submission is direct (even if acceptance chances are slim) while general essay submission to National Public Radio are nowhere to be found, and several who might know basically said don’t bother looking.

The other line that leads me here is a general sense of needing to re-establish my own connections with what is important, what is urgent, and what is possible with regards to our present and future as a species and as a society. We’re entering a very precarious point in our history, and what we do in our lifetimes, this year included, will find its place on one side or the other of the balance–tipping it towards a return to healthy relationships, or towards the slide into social and ecological chaos.

I don’t imagine I’ll attempt to write towards the 500 word 3-minute limit for This I Believe, and I’ll be surprised if in the end, I’m satisfied enough with my “statement” to submit it. But even so, I recommend this as an exercise–admittedly, one of the most difficult and agonizing you might ever take on. But we all need to know what it is that sustains and motivates us day to day and over the generations. What DO you believe? Here are the guidelines.

And here are two middle paragraphs from what is now 700 words, and I’ll be darned if I can let go of 200 of them to make NPR happy. I’ll post the finished piece soon, and hope if you write one, that you’ll share your links here. We could aggregate, compare, learn from each other, make a difference. Ya think? Nah!

…In this “cathedral made without hands” as John Muir called this unspeakably magnificent world of stone and flesh, of water and of blood, let us confess that we are out of fellowship with each other and with the earth. We have put other gods before us: the consumptive engines of our opulence in all its forms;  the terrible weapons of power and disempowerment we wield against those at home and abroad who would stand in the way of a counterfeit progress; the electronic noise and light that have become our prayers without ceasing; the false god of personal comfort while others go to bed hungry and thirsty.

We have not put the well-being of others before our own, nor the well-being of the storehouse of nature’s goods that should be cared for to sustain not just our household here and now, not only our state or to secure our “homeland.” We have come to believe in our selves, our nation, our way of life as sacred, our blessings as ordained entitlements, and in this, we have strayed from the path, and urgently require conversion–an about face, with remorse, and with a pledge that we can and that we will find the better way forward. It is a way we know.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. As he said in concert after he sang those words: “I hope so!”

    Your words are beautiful and true. I can’t wait to read the rest. The sentiments you’ve shared here express exactly how I perceive the road that we’re on — but I could never write them like this! Thank you.

  2. Maybe reading some of the sermons of Martin Luther King might help in streamlining your prose? I read, on the Englewood Review of Books, of a new CD compilation of some of his most important speeches. What he said and what you are writing are remarkably similar ….