Our theme for October is “Why I Believe.”
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe there was something else out there.
When I was young, my willingness to believe in magic spread like wildfire. Once you buy in to the fact that there’s more than meets the eye, you can believe anything. I used to read books about toys that came alive and humans who learned to fly. I thought that if I just believed hard enough, I could enter a winter wonderland by walking through a wardrobe (I always checked). This is the power of childhood innocence coupled with the wild hope of a religion that teaches “God can do anything.”
While my opinions on organized religion are ever-evolving, I believe it takes work to hold on to that wild hope. I believe that being cynical is easy. I believed that being educated and being skeptical of the supernatural are not the same thing. I believe that everyone is loved and no one is going to hell. I believe that prayer works. I believe that it’s complicated. I believe that I believe what I believe because it was easy for me. Because I grew up comfortable and privileged. So I believe in questioning. I believe in finding people who are different than you and loving them anyway.
I believe in having conversations like this one:
“People will be mad at me, but I just don’t think I’m going to vote.”
My colleague is sitting across from me in my classroom, head in his hands, after a night of little sleep and a full day of teaching. I see in his face a look I’ve come to recognize, not just fatigue but a feeling of frustration with the world in general.
“You have to vote.”
But at the same time, I don’t blame him. Because it’s not really about the candidates, it’s the feeling that nothing you do will make a difference. It’s starting September with the crisp conviction that you’re contributing to changing the world only to be reminded a few weeks later of just how hard it is to reach kids from broken homes in broken communities served by a broken system. Sometimes, the more you learn about the world, the more angry you become.
“It’s just too much sometimes. Society.”
“You sound like Christopher McCandless. Have you seen Into the Wild?”
“I love that movie.”
I click on his phone to check the time and the screen-saver is a cartoon of a human gazing into the night sky and talking to a UFO. The speech bubble reads, “I will literally pay you to abduct me.”
“The world is f***ed up, for sure,” I concede. “I guess that’s why people believe there is ‘something else,’ because there has to be more than this. This can’t be how the world was meant to be.”
“That’s what my pops would say. Do you believe that?”
And then I do what Christopher McCandless would do, and summon the words of writers to fit the situation, knowing my own fall will short.
On loose-leaf paper, I write some Wilde, Auden and Berry:
“It takes a great deal of courage to see the world in all its tainted glory and still love it.”
“We can only do what it seems to us we were made for, look at this world with a happy eye but from a sober perspective.”
“Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”
Caroline (Higgins) Nyczak (’11) lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she spends the vast majority of her time teaching English Language Arts. You may also find her at barre exercise classes or playing (and losing) at bar trivia. She continues to be inspired by the energy and diversity of New York City and the beauty of that certain slant of light.