Belief in All Its Forms

Writers’ Trigger:

I can’t say that I’m a William Blake fan, but thanks to the 31 July “Writer’s Almanac,” I came across his poem “You Don’t Believe.”

You don’t believe – I won’t attempt to make ye. / You are asleep – I won’t attempt to wake ye. / Sleep on, sleep on, while in your pleasant dreams / Of reason you may drink of life’s clear streams / Reason and Newton, they are quite two things, / For so the swallow and the sparrow sings…

You may want to check out the poem in its entirety. Notice Blake’s use of ‘you’ rather than ‘I’ in the title.

The poem fast-tracked me to “This I Believe.” Hosted by Edward R. Murrow in the early 50s, the CBS program recorded the famous and those of no fame who were invited to submit short essays on their core beliefs. The stress was on individual beliefs rather than religious dogma.

The program was revived on National Public Radio in 2005 and can now be found on “Bob Edwards Weekend.” Check it out. Participate by submitting your own essay or listen to the archived essays.

I’m always interested in personal belief systems. At present, post-Peru, I’m bingeing on everything Amazon, and I highly recommend The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard.

Although the book is primarily about Roosevelt, he was surrounded by any number of fascinating men. Most interesting to me was Colonel Candido Rondon, a born-into-poverty Brazilian of mixed Indian/European descent, who by sheer will-power became a military engineer.

Prior to leading Roosevelt’s 1913 expedition, Rondon was chosen (at only 25 years of age) as the head of the Strategic Telegraph Commission. In 1900 he led a telegraph installation expedition of 81 men into the Amazon River Basin; by year’s end, only 30 men were left. In 1909, he led an expedition with 42 men, 500 oxen and 160 mules; by year’s end, only 40 animals had survived. Malaria, parasites, starvation, drowning and pesky Indian arrows were hard on anyone who dared to brave the jungle a hundred years ago.

Rodon’s belief system grew out of his Indian heritage and Brazil’s Positivism Movement. In contrast to Roosevelt who was keen to shoot anything that moved, Rodon did not allow any members of his expeditions to fire their arms at hostile Indians. Those who agreed to sign on with Rodon, agreed to be sitting ducks.

The Positivism Movement grew out of the French Enlightenment which, quoting Millard, chose “scientific knowledge and observed facts over mysticism and blind faith, putting its trust in the inevitable pull of progress.”

  • Write a short secular or religious “I Believe” piece.
  • If your essay is secular, check the PBS “I Believe” website and look for submission guidelines. Write! Submit!
  • One of my favorite writers is Langson Hughes. If you don’t know his short story “Salvation,” read it here: In this particular essay, Hughes writes of his loss of innocence in regard to religion. As we mature, our belief system mutates. Write a short piece that contrasts the faith of your youth with your current beliefs.


 Searching the Web for the Langston Hughes’ piece, I came across countless sites that offered free essays on “Salvation.” How easy it is for student’s to plagiarize! How many institutions can afford software that will scan papers for plagiarism? Not many. Fewer all the time.

I believe that the only way to limit plagiarism is for teachers to have their students submit their papers in increments. Week one: Thesis and roadmap. Week two: bibliography. Week three: the first three paragraphs. Week four: interviews. Week five: conclusion. Week six, the entire paper.

Custer County's Crestone Needles at 14,197 feet

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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1 Response to Belief in All Its Forms

  1. Daisy says:

    Good idea on how to limit plagiarism, will also force students to plan their work better

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