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Dan Rather interviews Alan Alda (“The Big Interview,” AXS-TV, 3.31.2014)

(The next four paragraphs are a summary interpretation of what he said; I have genuinely tried to understand him properly.)

What do you value? In being asked the question, Alan gave three answers (all of them were fine), but he struggled with identifying the basis for why he valued them. The trouble with “values” is that “everybody” says fight for what you believe in – don’t terrorist do that?  The harder question is in dealing with the basis of one’s values, because to merely fight for something says little. Identifying the basis for values is problematic because everyone has a different basis for that which they value. When Dan Rather asked him his own basis, or bias concerning his values, he came up with the Hippocratic Oath. To him, it means to “do no harm.”

What is the good life? He said it is not in alcohol, not in indiscriminate service to others. It is to him a matter of getting something done, accomplished. As with values, the good life is in the direction of others. Thus, as one advances the good of another, then a good feeling results that is meaningful.

What is a purposeful life? Alda mentions that he has answered this question four different ways – indicative of the difficultly of answering the question. Alda feels a sense of meaning in different ways, depending on where he is at in life emotionally, psychologically at a particular moment. He described one way in which he helped a scientist in his/her own communication toward another, perhaps a non-scientist. What he meant by this was that he gave of himself to help one learn, and the one who learned turned around and helped another.

When asked what he wants to be remembered for, he cares not one bit whether he is remembered for his acting. He does care, however, about the people he loved and loves.


One can easily see that the answers Alan gave overlap one another. I suppose this is inevitable. Moreover, a lot that was said by Alan Alda is easily relatable. Not only do thoughtful people ask these types of questions, but they are genuinely interested in ascertaining an answer. Aren’t you? I am.

My answers, however, are found on a more secure foundation that some consider too simplistic or naïve. I suggest that those who think as much do so because they refuse to see beyond anything but only that which this world offers. Yet, even in that, they missed what was offered by God in this world some thousands of years ago.

My past? It stays put (Philippians 3:12-14)! My future? It is wrapped up in one that has gone before me (John 16:33). My present? Within the realm of my capability, I can do all thing through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). Herein one can see that which I value, what I think the good life is, and my purpose/meaning in the life given me. This hope is my anchor (Hebrews 6:19).

It was interesting that a few times in this interview that Alda would say “I swear to God.” Was it just a phrase, or was it a phrase that had (has) a particular meaning, maybe an extended one?

Dan Rather is a good interviewer.