Destination Through Darkness

Plagemann, Bentz, 1913- 1952-05-02

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And now, This I Believe, a series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Bentz Plagemann is a writer. Soon after the publication of his first novel, during World War II, he enlisted in the Navy. He served aboard a Destroyer and an LST and was stricken with polio while at sea. During the long period of convalescence, he was able to arrive at a belief which straightened out many of the complications in the most important of all plots, that of his own life. This is what he believes.
On a certain midnight in August during the last war I found myself on a stretcher in the bottom of a small boat, lost in the Bay of Naples. A few days before that I had contracted poliomyelitis at sea, and when my legs became
paralyzed the captain felt it was imperative to get me ashore no matter what the hazards. The harbor was completely blacked out, lighted only by the glow of Mount Vesuvius; our ship had never been there before, and the boys operating the small boat became lost. Overhead there were enemy planes, but at last, by the illumination of bursting shells from the shore batteries the boys saw the dock and took me ashore.
Sometimes since that night I have imagined that this dramatic incident contained within itself my whole attitude toward life, for very often it seems to me that I am helpless, adrift in darkness, beset by dangers, proceeding to a strange and hidden destination. Yet I survived that experience and I walk again, just as I have survived other personal problems, because of a
hard-won conviction that if I keep faith with myself, if I am patient and do not despair, sooner or later, possibly during the darkest moment, the revelation will not be wanting to light my way a few steps onward to whatever destination I am approaching.
As a child I was taught by my religious instructors that I would never be tempted to evil beyond my power to resist. In later years I have translated this axiom into other terms. Now I say that in the same way, I think that life cannot pose problems to me which I cannot surmount. There is nothing of cant or textbook morality in this belief of mine. I have no knowledge of formal philosophy and doubtless I have arrived at very elementary conclusions known to many men, but it seems to me that I could not have been created in any other way. I have a simple belief in a personal God, also given to me as a child, and in some
area of instinctive reasoning I believe that when this God created me He presented me with an equation which I must work out in terms of the living of my life. It is a difficult equation, I know that; but it was constructed to fit my possibilities, and while it will take my whole life to see it through, I believe that its successful conclusion is within my power. To reach this balance of my forces is, I believe, the whole purpose of my existence.
To be patient with my own failures, not to fall into despair-this is my greatest problem. Within my human limitations I am aware of only the barest outline of my possibilities, and every day I fail in some way. Yet I remind myself, when I do not keep faith with myself, when I fall into my weaknesses, that the important fact is that I know when I have failed, and consequently
every day I arrive more nearly to a knowledge of myself. I find consolation in thinking of my failures as guideposts to a better realization of myself.
I suppose I could sum it all up by saying that I believe in myself. Or in whatever it is in myself which makes it possible for me to dream of a better person than I am now, and which gives me deep pleasure in the act of working, however painfully, toward a happier fulfillment of my being.
There the creed of Bentz Plagemann, of Palisades, New York. He was born in Springfield, Ohio of pioneer stock and was educated in Cleveland by the Brothers of Mary.
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