(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

I: I believe in adaptation.

I: I believe in a silver lining.

I: I believe that being flexible keeps me going.

I: I believe every single person deserves to be acknowledged.

I: This I believe.

LIANE HANSEN, Host:

Today's installment of our series This I Believe features an Internet phenomenon, Matt Harding of Seattle, Washington. He made a video of himself dancing in front of a camera all over the world. It went viral and has had close to 20 million viewings on YouTube. Making those videos also affected Matt Harding's beliefs.

Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON: Matt Harding says he's normally a sardonic, even sarcastic person, but that his dancing videos were devoid of irony. And the response to them taught him something about the power of sincerity. Writing about the dancing is a different matter. He was worried about coming off corny or pseudo- inspirational. He was willing to try it, however, to explain the belief he acquired. Here's Matt Harding with his essay for This I Believe.

MATT HARDING: I believe globalization is forcing our brains to evolve. I've had the privilege to see a lot more of the world than anyone my age could reasonably hope to. A few years ago, on a backpacking trip, I made a video of myself dancing terribly in exotic locations. I put it on my Web site. Some friends started passing it around, and soon millions of people had watched it.

I was offered sponsorship to continue my accidental vocation, and since then I've made two more videos that include 70 countries on all seven continents. A lot of people wanted to dance along with me, so I started inviting them to join in everywhere I went, from Toronto to Tokyo to Timbuktu.

Here's what I can report back, people want to feel connected to each other. They want to be heard and seen, and they're curious to hear and see others from places far away. I share that impulse. It's part of what drives me to travel. But it's constantly at odds with another impulse, which is to reduce and contain my exposure to a world that's way too big for me to comprehend.

My brain was designed to inhabit a fairly small social network of maybe a few dozen other primates - a tribe. Beyond that size, I start to get overwhelmed. And yet here I am in a world of over six billion people, all of whom are now inextricably linked together.

I don't need to travel to influence lives on the other side of the globe. All I have to do is buy a cup of coffee or a tank of gas. My tribe has grown into a single impossibly vast social network, whether I like it or not. The problem, I believe, isn't that the world has changed, it's that my primitive caveman brain hasn't.

I am fantastic at seeing differences. Everybody is. I can quickly pick out those who look or behave differently, and unless I actively override the tendency, I will perceive them as a threat. That instinct may have once been useful for my tribe, but when I travel, it's a liability. When I dance with people, I see them smile and laugh and act ridiculous. It makes those differences seem smaller. The world seems simpler, and my caveman brain finds that comforting.

I believe my children will have brains ever so slightly better suited to the vast complexity that surrounds us. They'll be more curious, more eager to absorb and to connect. And I believe when they look into the eyes of strangers, what they'll see before the differences are the things that are the same.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing) (unintelligible)

ALLISON: Matt Harding with his essay for This I Believe. Harding is working on a new book called "Where the Hell is Matt: The Travelogue about Dancing Badly All Over the World."

To browse the more than 60,000 essays submitted to our series, including essays from more than 90 other countries, visit our Web site at NPR.org. For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Woman #2: (Singing) (unintelligible)

HANSEN: Jay Allison is co-editor with Dan Gediman, John Gregory and Viki Merrick of the book, "This I Believe, Volume Two: More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women." You can find a link to Matt Harding's video at NPR.org.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.