|Humanist Essay for October 2012
[Reprinted from the HSNM October 2012 Newsletter.]|
On behalf of myself and the Board, our thanks everyone who renewed their membership to HSNM. Your pitching in with the required dues and, many of you, something extra; and, a few of you, a lot extra obviously keeps us going on the practical level. But it also keeps HSNM going in a less tangible but significant way. With each dues payment and donation, you are telling the Board and Committees and all those who give their time and energy to HSNM that what we are doing, building, sustaining, is appreciated and worthwhile.
Soon we will form a new Governing Board from a mix of elected positions and GB-approved appointments. We will also have a mix of returning and new GB members. I like the metaphor of starting a new chapter. We are at the gratifying point of coming to a semi-conclusion, a little blank space at the end of the page in which to pause and reflect before picking up the story afresh. Not everything, in fact hardly anything, has been wrapped up in a neat package. I would say that HSNM ventures into our next chapter with more loose ends than pretty bows. It would be nice to have our committees filled, to have our meeting locations locked in - we might even dream of a happily-ever-after scenario in which we have our own permanent meeting and classroom space.
We are somewhere in the middle of the story that we are writing as we go along, anticipating all kinds of exciting developments for future chapters. This is where humanists feel most comfortable - a place that has no predetermined conclusion or historical agenda driving us forward along an inflexible path. Curiosity, creativity, the feeling of potentiality pick us up and push us along as naturally as a breeze lifting a leaf. When we are moved by the mood of exploration, we make progress, not without effort but without feeling depleted. Rather, we feel charged up. What's around the next corner, on the next page, and the next?
As an artist, which by definition implies a certain loner quality, it was not clear how well suited I would be to taking a leadership position with HSNM. On the other hand, artists apply ourselves to our projects with a devotion that makes little distinction between what is work and what is play, so at least I was in shape for the late hours it sometimes takes to keep up with this group. Further, artists imagine things that haven't been created yet and figure out how to make them real. It's the "vision thing" plus planning, experimentation, practice and follow-through. Anyone who pursues their work with such eagerness should consider themselves an artist.
We have members in HSNM who have embraced their particular task with exactly that kind of dedication. They are inspired, even driven, and their efforts pay off for all of us. I'm thinking of our Family Coop members and their persistence in developing the Humanist Sunday School; the tireless energy of Dr. Sylvia Ramos in mobilizing a humanist campaign to push for passage of the ERA; Randy Wall's diligence in producing our HSNM Newsletter; our Humanist Lives team and the many hours they have put into collecting interviews; and folks like the Littles and the Fullers who have so graciously seen to our routine, essential monthly tasks.
Not everyone can or needs to put in that kind of effort for HSNM, and no one should be expected to maintain that level of involvement indefinitely. My vision for our next chapter includes a larger cast of supporting characters so that we can take some of the pressure off those who have stepped up to fill key positions. Even if you can't bring yourself to sign up for an official role (I know how it is, I've been there) you can still approach someone whose work you especially admire and appreciate to let them know "you can call on me" when the going gets tough. Sometimes, just knowing that someone has your back makes all the difference between dutifully slogging through or embracing the task with artistic zeal.
In her remarks to the AHA upon accepting the 2012 Humanist Heroine Award, Debra Sweet told us: You never know which of your small actions will make a big difference. And one of our most beloved historians, Howard Zinn, wrote: "You don't have to do something heroic, just something, because all of these somethings, at certain points in history, come together, and make the world better."
Let's turn the page, put all our somethings together, and see what we can make happen in HSNM's next chapter.
[Thanks to Don Gutierrez for the Zinn quote, which appears in his review of The Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy that is included in his new collection Feeling the Unthinkable: Essays on Social Justice.]