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Humanist Essay for September 2011
"From Humanist Society To Humanist Community"
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When Frank and I moved into our house in the North Valley, the welcome wagon did not come around. We went to work pulling weeds in the neglected front yard, and let everyone get a good look at us. The neighbor to the east introduced herself over the fence. She cast her gaze over the street where she had lived for more than thirty years and said, "It's not like we go on picnics together or anything, but we do keep a eye out for each other. You can count on 'em if you're in trouble." She lifted her chin to indicate the homes across the street.

That was sixteen years ago and there hasn't been a picnic yet. But there have been plenty of cases of keeping an eye out and of coming to each other's aid. We've also managed to either amicably resolve or tactfully ignore irregularities with such things as parties, pets and parking. Mostly we keep out of each other's business. We recognize the element of randomness at play here -- we picked the place or ended up here for reasons other than the company of our neighbors. In other words, we're stuck with each other and it's in everyone's best interests to get along.

Belonging to a society like HSNM is a little different. Common interests bring us together. We like getting to know each other and sharing about ourselves, especially in the realm of ideas and ideals. We do have picnics and parties. Still, we maintain a degree of separateness in keeping with the humanist inclination to independence. Our purpose is not to cultivate a common style of living or to reinforce any sort of ritual practice. On some Saturday mornings our various routines happily overlap for a couple of hours of good conversation, and then we go our separate ways again. I have found, though, that it doesn't take many Saturday mornings before a warm feeling sets in. There is a caring for each other that transcends life stories and lifestyles.

The emergence of humanist celebrants, humanist Sunday schools, and humanist holidays causes some to wonder if humanism is a sort of religion. To me, that is a question of semantics. My practical concern, especially as president of HSNM, is with actually building community. Can we count on each other when there's trouble? Would we feel comfortable asking for help? Are we dedicated enough to form and fund committees that can respond effectively to a variety of member needs? Maybe this is not a realistic goal for HSNM; I doubt it was on the minds of our group's founders. But it is on mine. We have grown to encompass members of all ages, all across New Mexico. If we were a stamp-collecting society, the personal worries of our members would be peripheral to our endeavor, but as a society dedicated to increasing our own and others' knowledge of humanism, and putting our philosophy to work in the world, I think it's reasonable that we strive to develop a better support system within our group. What do you think?

We have had some excellent presentations about health care this year, and the series continues in September with Nell Graham Sale on The Affordable Care Act. As always, our Speaker Meetings are open to the public and provided for the purpose of educating the wider community as well as ourselves, so please feel free to invite your family, friends and associates -- and maybe even your neighbors.

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Copyright © 2011 Zelda Gatuskin

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