Binx Bolling, the alienated and ironic hero of Walker Percy’s fine 1961
novel The Moviegoer, listened every night to the radio show This I
Believe. This I Believe isn’t just a literary device; it was a real
program, where listeners shared their personal credos, always ending with the
words "This- I believe". You may be sure that these ranged from the conventional
to the acceptably controversial. As in the social conversation of our own day,
the limits are set by the ruling paradigm.
Binx was baptized as a baby and says "this accounts for the fact that I am,
nominally at least…a Catholic". He is, however, an unbeliever. "Other people,
so I have read, are pious as children and later become skeptical (or as they say
on This I Believe: ‘in time I outgrew the creeds and dogmas of organized
religion’). Not I. My unbelief was invincible from the beginning".
National Public Radio – to my utter amazement- has recently resurrected
This I Believe. I have only tried to listen to it once or twice, but
find I am so embarrassed for the self-important proclaimers of My Own Personal
Values, the dogmas of the new orthodoxies, the creeds of the Church of Me, that
I cannot finish the program.
NPR has the reputation for being serious radio, a reputation it sometimes
still deserves. But it also at times carries a pretty strong thread of the
ridiculous, not to mention the pretentious. Our local outpost’s Station
Identification quip is "This is WKSU: NPR. Classical. Other smart stuff". I know
this is supposed to be wry and ironic, but I still wince.
And so This I Believe, where You the Listener are invited to share
your guiding principles. Within limits, that is. You can be sure that a
submission that begins "I believe in God, the Father Almighty" would no more be
aired than the entry that the fictional Binx Bolling sent in:"I believe in a
good kick in the ass. This- I believe".
I was one of those who was pious as a child, and even in my brief season of
unbelief I bore a strongly religious temperament. I believe in God, the Father
Almighty and the rest of the ancient Christian Creed. But if given the choice
between the puffed-up relativist orthodoxies spouted by the pontificators of
Serious Radio and Binx’s kick in the ass, give me the kick in the ass, which at
least gets the message across to the kickee that there is an objective world out
there, that reality is more than a subjective personal construct.