Long-time readers (if any) may remember a time or two where I’ve called myself a Humanist. If you don’t know what that is, a Humanist is basically someone who tries to treat people well based just on the fact that they’re humans, regardless of religious motivation. There’s an organized version of it—which I’m not a part of, for the record—but pretty much if you want to call yourself a Humanist, you can. Most people will classify themselves as “Secular Humanists,” meaning that they’re very intentional of keeping their Humanism on the level that religion doesn’t particularly matter (or, indeed, is rejected). The basic Humanist viewpoint of Jesus, in fact, is that, “‘If what he said is good, and so much of it is absolutely beautiful, what does it matter if he was God or not?” (I know some people find that somehow offensive…which actually just kinda proves the merit of Humanism to me…)
I, however, classify myself as a Christian Humanist. It’s the same basic thing…except I recognize the Lordship of Christ as well. Kurt Vonnegut was the president of the American Humanist Association until he died—so it goes. Though probably agnostic, Vonnegut did often say of Jesus, “But if Christ hadn’t delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a human being. I’d just as soon be a rattlesnake.” That pretty much sums up my version of Humanism. Personally, I think it’s a shame that people don’t believe in God…not necessarily because I think they’ll go to Hell, but because a life without belief seems so very sad. It seems so lonely.
Okay…so I told you all of that to arrive at this… Humanists find hope in places that probably seem kind of stupid. We beam for DAYS over conversations with strangers or if someone gives us a free cup of coffee. And this past weekend, I had two of those.
The first happened at Blueberry Hill (in St. Louis). I’d gone there because a friend’s step-dad passed away and he was having a night out in his memory. Stopped by that for a while with my brother, who is much better friends with the guy than I am, by the way. (Incidentally, that’s one of those small, everyday, wonderful things you can do for someone—just go to a bar when they need you to…but I digress.) I was hanging out, waiting on my hamburger (Blueberry Hill has some of the BEST burgers in St. Louis, by the way) and there was a Van Halen song playing. A complete stranger leans over to me and said, “This is good music, man.” I agreed. Then we talked for about 10 minutes or so about music and guitars. After I got my burger, he said, “Good talking to you. Nice to finally meet somebody REAL in here.” Part of me wanted to debate the relative merits of meeting holograms vs. real people…but instead, I just took the compliment.
Then on Superbowl Sunday, no less (and congratulations to The Who and also to whoever won the game), I went into a Barnes & Noble. I’m a fan of the British TV show “Doctor Who.” It’s ridiculous Sci-Fi, I know…but I like it. I went in to buy a season on DVD because they were running a sale and I had a coupon as well, so I could get it for cheap. Picked it up and walked over to the counter. The guy behind the counter asked me if I’m “Ready for the New Doctor?” (a new actor is playing the Doctor as of this year—which isn’t that weird, if you know anything about the show). That stretched into a 10-20 minute conversation about British TV and somehow we also ended up talking about Vonnegut and J. D. Salinger (which I did not prompt…he brought them up!). Another customer came along, so we said our goodbyes and he said it was nice to meet someone with good taste in TV. As much as I know that some of that was probably good sales-technique…it was also a nice thing to say, and I think he kind of meant it.
…and as long as people can still have those conversations with strangers, we’ll be okay.