The twenty-two essays in WHAT I BELIEVE reflect personal responses to the following prompt:
"Many people, often when they become aware of their own mortality, develop a belief system that helps them understand their purpose in the world. In an essay, describe your personal philosophy of life. The essay should detail the key influences and experiences that helped form your own special faith, values, or purpose in life."
The essays are as varied as the twenty-two writers themselves. For some essayists, a traditional belief system--Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist--serves as a starting point for defining meaningful life values. Several others find purposeful living in an elemental humanism akin to a statement made by the poet W.H. Auden: "We are here to help others." One writer is playful skeptical about a larger purpose in life, while another unabashedly celebrates atheism. A third finds meaning in pursuing the democratic ideals on which his country was founded.
For all their differences, each writer makes an honest attempt to arrive at an understanding of how best to live life here on this mysterious planet. Each writer declares, "Here is a life philosophy, a personal statement of belief, that has shaped and guided me."