When the heart speaks, however simple the words, its language is always acceptable to those who have hearts.
– Mary Baker Eddy
Nine years ago, as I was entering a challenging period in my life, I clicked on a button at the bottom of my book’s page on Amazon and found myself in a zany world of Christians, atheists, Buddhists, pagans, and other assorted folks engaged in dialogue about religion. I was fascinated by what I saw there. I laughed out loud. At times my mouth literally fell open in disbelief. I was moved. I was inspired. I was disturbed. I was informed.
I tentatively put my toe in the forum waters and soon found myself sucked into the current and pulled into a rollicking, outrageous, epic verbal adventure. Ohmygosh! It was an amazing trip! As I was thrown here and there by the currents, bouncing around ad hominem boulders, I reached up to a raft going by, and the folks in the raft reached down and pulled me into their daring, laughing midst. Without further ado, they handed me an oar and made me one of their crew. They became my friends.
I was the only Christian Scientist in the crew. My crew mates were atheists, Christians, Buddhists, wiccans – some believed in a god, some did not. But they all had a couple things in common that, for me, were more important than whether they believed in a god or not – they all had the ability to laugh at themselves; and they were all enlisted in battling self-righteous busybody bullying and meanness.
Soon after I got on the forum I got it into my head to start my own religion. I named it Humoristianity. Here are the tenets of my faith:
1) You must be able to laugh at yourself.
2) You must be able to recognize how ludicrous your beliefs might appear to others.
3) You must want nothing but good for everyone, everywhere in the universe.
4) You must have a natural aversion to meetings, committees, and scheduled events (as we will be having none of those).
5) You must enjoy the humor of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Tom Lehrer, and Jerry Seinfeld (if you’re a Jerry Lewis kind of guy, you might want to think about starting your own religion – although we wish you nothing but good).
My friends soon joined me in the Humoristian temple. We gave each other grandiose titles and set forth to conquer the world with humor. The conquering-the-world thing never really came to pass. But we did get a book out of it: The Humoristian Chronicles: A Most Unusual Fellowship.
For me, the most amazing things to come out of that time on the forum were the incredible and lasting friendships that were made there. In some ways these friends knew me better than my off-line friends because we had talked with each other about things that people rarely talk about in normal, polite conversation – we’d talked about our most deeply-held beliefs about God and life and the universe. We’d shared our doubts and our fears and our triumphs with each other. We got to know each other through our thoughts and words before we got to know each other in the person. It was a rare and beautiful opportunity.
During my time on the forum I was also working my way through a terrible depression – something I’d never experienced before. When I clicked into the forum I was allowed to escape, for a time, from the world of depression, and into a world of laughter – into a world where people actually wanted to hear what I had to say, and listened, and responded with kindness. Later, when I was telling a psychologist about my experience on the forum – suggesting to her that I might have actually been addicted to it – she told me, no, it looked like I had instinctively done something really healthy for myself; I had found something that was helpful to me and helped me cope.
Through the years I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of my forum friends in the person. I have never been disappointed by the people they are in “real” life. They have been a blessing to me.
Yesterday my husband (who has met several of my forum friends with me) and I met my forum friend, Craig, and his wife, for lunch. Craig and his wife are from Jamaica, but they are currently living in Dubai. The last month they’ve been vacationing in the USA – traveling up the west coast – and, happily, I live on their route. Craig and his wife are WONDERFUL people. His wife is smart and beautiful and accomplished – a high school chemistry teacher. And Craig is as kind and funny in the person as he was on the forum.
Afterwards I asked my husband: “Weren’t they great?!” And he said, yes, they were. “Didn’t I meet cool people on the forum?”
Without hesitation, he answered “Yes, you did! Very cool people!”