Roll Away the Stone

by Pearl Buck

I enjoy life because I am endlessly interested in people and their growth.  My interest leads me continually to widen my knowledge of people, and this in turn compels me to believe that the normal human heart is born good.  That is, it is born sensitive and feeling, eager to be approved and to approve, hungry for simple happiness and the chance to live.  It neither wishes to be killed nor to kill.  If through circumstances it is overcome by evil, it never becomes entirely evil.  There remains in it elements of good, however recessive, which continue to hold the possibility of restoration.

I believe in human beings but my faith is without sentimentality.  I know that in environments of uncertaninty, fear and hunger, the human being is dwarfed and shaped without his being aware of it, just as the plant struggling under a stone does not know its own condition.  Only when the stone is removed can it spring up freely into the light.  But the power to spring up is inherent, and only death puts an end to it.

I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in human beings.  Like Confucius of old, I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and the angels.  I have enough for this life.  If there is no other life, then this one has been enough to make it worth being born, myself a human being.

With so profound a faith in the human heart and its power to grow toward the light, I find here reason and cause enough for hope and confidence in the future of mankind.  The common sense of people will surely prove to them someday that mutual support and co-operation are only sensible for the security and happiness of all.

Such faith keeps me continually ready and purposeful with energy to do what one person can toward shaping the environment in which the human being can grow with freedom.  This environment, I believe, is based upon the necessity for security and friendship.

I take heart in the promising fact that the world contains food supplies sufficient for the entire earth population.  Our knowledge of medical science is already sufficient to improve the health of the whole human race.  Our resources in education, if administered on a world scale, can lift the intelligence of the race.  All that remains is to discover how to administer, upon a world scale, the benefits which some of us already have.  In other words, the stone must be rolled away.

This, too, can be done, as a sufficient number of human beings come to have faith in themselves and in each other.  Not all will have such faith at the same moment, but there is a groving number who have the faith.  Half a century ago no one had thought of world food, world health, world education.  Many are thinking today of these things.  In the midst of possible world war, of wholesale destruction, I find my only question is this: Are there enough people who now believ?  Is there time enough left for the wise to act?  It is a contest between ignorance and death, or wisdom and life.  My own faith in humanity stands firm.

Pearl S. Buck, born in the United States, lived for forty years in China.  Returning to this country after having been awarderd the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938, she has launched a second career as a humanitarian which parallels that of the novelist.

In such books as Of Men and Women and What America Means to Me, she has struck boldly at many major issues of our time.  She founded and led the East and West Movement, which works for mutual understanding among peoples.

[. . .]

Morgan, Edward P.  (Catalogued under Murrow’s name.)  This I Believe: the living philosophies of one hundred thoughtful men and women from all walks of life—as written for and with a foreword by Edward R. Murrow.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 1952.  Pages 21-22.

I wish I could be as optimistic as she is about human nature— I would love to blame my quickness to withhold praise, and for that matter my very poor job of accepting any praise, on the failures of the current economic and social system, but I think it’s me.

How to unlock people’s potential is not usually what I worry about so much: as much freedom, to organize amongst each other and to act alone, and as much power over one’s own life at the lowest level the decision can reasonably be made (individual choices, self-organized group choices, local democracy, regional democracy, global democracy).  Removing the stone involves keeping property widely distributed— Buck makes me fear she’s talking about Communism or (fake shiver) big government liberal social programs.  Food, medical science, education— who administers what to whom?  The problem isn’t that people are stupid, it is that they are poor and powerless.  Freedom and fairness, I want, I think that with them you can get more specific than security and friendship, though they are good of course.

But did you read that stuff, the in general stuff?  Right on.

I quoted her entire piece, by the way.

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