Friday, February 06, 2009


I am of those who believe
different things on different days

- Steve Kowit

I've been working with some middle schoolers recently, encouraging them to write what they believe. Cakewalk, right? This isn't an easy task for adults, and 12-14 year olds want to stand out from the crowd and shout out their beliefs about as much as a squirrel wants to wear pants.

This isn't my first stab at this assignment. I've written a few credos of my own, and tried various ways of cheering them on from others over the years. NPR has a great resource in their "This I Believe" segment, which has been a project in the works for over fifty years. Dorianne Laux and Kim Addonizio's book, "A Poet's Companion" has a writing exercise on beliefs that is pretty good as well. I've used and combined things from both of these sources, plus added a few ideas of my own into the mix. Eventually, something gets written, but the most important part of this assignment is that thought happens - long, sustained thought about what it is you really believe, and why. Some of us never really know what it is we believe until we are tested and pushed into thinking about it. In the best of situations, there are some really long, philosophical discussions. The bell rings and no one notices.

I've promised my group that I'll be writing my credo as well, since it is something that can and should be done on a semi-regular basis to see how you've grown and changed. The last one I wrote was about a year ago, and before that it was around 2004 I think. I'm due to check in with myself.

"The Poet's Companion" cites an example from the novel "Crooked Heart" by Robert Boswell. A character named Ask has a list of rules he carries in his wallet. These are a few of his rules:

1. Never make a complicated thing simple, or a simple thing complicated.
2. Wear white at night.
3. Take care of Tom. (Ask's brother.)
4. Eat from the four food groups.
5. Be consistent.
6. Never do anything with the sole intent of hurting someone.

This seems to be the direction I'm heading in with my own credo this time. When I've completed it, I'll post it here.

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