“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
E. E. Cummings
An American poet, Edward Estlin Cummings was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1894 and died in 1962. He was a prolific writer who wrote almost 3,000 poems, two novels, four plays, and many essays. As a poet, he was best known for his non-conformist approach and this gives me some insight into this quote.
“Once we believe in ourselves…” These opening words literally stopped me in my tracks. Do most of us believe in ourselves? Do I believe in myself? What does this mean? To be honest, in this respect, I am a work in progress. Sometimes I feel a strong sense of uncertainty or doubt. So I look outside of myself for assurance. When I step back and analyse this lack of self-confidence, I see it as silly and child-like. It is based on fear and leads to no good.
Confidence means that I accept or I own who I am – with all of my virtues, talents, strengths, along with my vices and weaknesses. If I accept myself as I am, then I can love myself. This allows me to move forward boldly, according to my beliefs and my decisions. As well, I am enabled to reach out, unencumbered, to embrace others.
“…we can risk, curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight…” If I am tangled up in foreboding and fear, how can I risk anything? Fear is the great annihilator of risk, of taking a chance. If I am to navigate my own life well, I need to ask about things, events, and people who impact my life and my society. Expressing wonder about the beauty of life is risking ridicule from others who might not share my view. Expressing spontaneous delight can be met with disapproval. In each instance, we risk disapproval from others – even those we love.
“…or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” The revelation of our human spirit is substantial exposure! Nothing speaks more eloquently to others than our behaviour – how we live our lives. People easily recognize the self-confident person because too few of us believe in ourselves. Sometimes, I wonder if our crowded urban lifestyle contributes to this phenomenon. Are people in rural areas less fearful about what others think of them?
It is my view that I am responsible for what I believe and how I live my life. This is what I can control. I can be a non-conformist if that’s how I can best express my true self without harming others or breaking the law. We live in a society that prizes conformity, so behaving otherwise is a risky business. Hence, I believe in me – a work in progress.