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Humanist Essay for January 2012
"Harry's Chair"
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[Reprinted from the HSNM January 2012 Newsletter.]

I had a dream recently in which I was bringing some friends into my studio/office, where I had named my chair "Harry" after my late mentor, Harry Willson. I've been chuckling over it, and at the same time feeling sentimental, and puzzling over what it means. My chair might as well be named Harry. All around me are: boxes of Harry's literary papers; cartons of books; shipping supplies; new publishing projects; and a file cabinet full of records and correspondence covering the twenty-plus year existence of Amador Publishers. Mixed in, a fair amount of paperwork, reading material, and supplies related to HSNM. All of this, I "inherited" from Harry in one way or another.

The way this situation came about is, I think, at the heart of humanism. Both Harry and I had made personal choices about our life paths, in many ways contrary to what had been expected of us. In going our own ways, we found each other. Certainly serendipity was involved, but it wasn't fate. If anything, it was the opposite of fate. All human beings share an inheritance broader than the specific, mostly accidental, circumstances of birth, to which the traditional social order gives precedence - "blood is thicker than water," and all that. For most of human history, children have been raised in allegiance to past generations' nationality, religion, political philosophy and, often, profession. Of course, for as long as this has been going on, the genetic code has been spitting out freethinkers to challenge the status quo, and people have bucked the system of the day, whatever that was.

We humanists come together not so much because we all think alike - we certainly don't - but because we all like to think. We find we share certain ideals and moral principals. More than that, we are moved to explore, to articulate, and to embody our life philosophies, toward bringing about a more free and just society in which everyone can thrive and fulfill their natural potential. This presents the challenge of building an organization and community from a loosely-knit group of anti- authoritarian freethinkers.The longevity and growth of HSNM demonstrates that this is possible. We have become a family of our own choosing. Our combined membership represents an impressive repository of life experience, with all of the knowledge, skills, clear thinking, creativity and compassion that brings. Now, how are we going to harness our talents and energy? How are we going to "pass down" what we've learned from one generation to the next, sustain our "traditions" and continue to build up, and live up to, our "good name"?

Participants at our November 26 general membership meeting ranged from age 5 to age 90. We had a report from HSNM Family Co-op members about the children's humanist Sunday school, and a preview of video from our Humanist Lives project with clips from interviews with our senior members. I reported that we have added forty new members over the past year. The interest, input and enthusiasm expressed at that meeting carried over into our terrific HumanLight celebration on December 10, where in addition to having a great time and eating great food, we collected $660 for Roadrunner Food Bank as well as a big box of packaged foods. I know we have a lot of work to do still, but I'm inspired by our progress in 2011, and I hope you are too. As Harry would say, "You're doing it!"

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Copyright © 2012 Zelda Gatuskin

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