Forum Friendships

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!”

Humoristian friends

 

Humoristianity

In the summer of 2007, as a response to what I saw as an over-abundance of people who took themselves WAAAY too seriously,  I started a new “religion” on a discussion board about religion…

* I’ve decided to create a new religion. People belonging to this religion will call themselves “Humoristians.” Here are the 5 tenets: 
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, Steven 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).

The “one true fallacious faith” (as our “Grand Inquisitor”  the Right Ribald Reverend JL soon dubbed it) immediately took off and had an almost instant following.  Our ragtag little congregation of hooligans covered the globe – including people as far away as Australia and Europe and an army base in Afghanistan – and was comprised of atheists, a couple Mormons, an hilarious evangelical preacher’s wife, a Methodist , a Buddhist, a Catholic-Methodist-Celtic language aficionado, a nuclear physicist Trinitarian, a couple of agnostics, a pagan, an atheist Jew, and at least one Christian Scientist (moi).  We seemed a kind of unlikely little fellowship, I guess.  But we all had one really important thing in common – we  knew how to laugh at ourselves.

And soon we came to identify our church’s purpose on the discussion board: We made it our mission to battle busybody bullying bigotry wherever we found it, to bring laughter to those athirst in a dry desert of stodginess and pomposity,  and to transform the humoristically-challenged with our good-natured joie de vivre.

It was fun. 🙂

I made some wonderful new friends on that discussion thread – people who entered my life at a time when I was dealing with some major challenges and changes in my life,  and showed genuine care and friendship towards me.   We talked about stuff with each other that you don’t usually talk about in off-line life – shared our beliefs about God, Nogod, heaven, hell, nature, dogma, karma, the after life, politics – stuff you don’t often talk about even with your closest friends – and, in some ways, came to know each other better than friends and family who had been in our lives for decades.  Maybe BECAUSE we were all new to each other – we actually saw each other, and listened to each other, and didn’t take each other for granted. We didn’t assume we knew what our fellow Humoristians thought, felt, and believed, or who they were. There’s a line in Waitress that sort of sums up what I was feeling about my new friends: “I was addicted to saying things and having them matter to someone.”

On the discussion board where we established our Humoristian temple, when a discussion thread reaches 10,000 posts it’s “locked” and no more posts can be added to it. Knowing this, we only posted on our thread sporadically – it held a lot of special memories for all of us and we wanted to stretch it out for as long as we could.  But last week we finally reached our 10,000th post and closed and locked the doors of the temple. On the one hand I felt a kind of relief, I guess – that thread had been going along  for six years, and I knew it was time to graduate now – but there was a kind of sadness about it, too – it marked the end of a really happy era for me.

The good news, though, is that my Humoristian friends are STILL my friends.  I’ve actually been able to meet, in the person, several of these hooligans in recent years.  My husband and sons traveled with me to Nova Scotia to meet  the Humoristian  “Grand Inquisitor” JL and his lovely wife, Kathi (who has become one of my bestest friends ever) back in 2009;  Sandy and her husband, Danny, from New York, met up with me at Seattle’s Pike Place Market in 2011; David”Runny Babbit”  and his wife, Sue, and their two daughters, traveling from their home in Michigan, spent a couple days with our family hiking and laughing, and listening to David play the Native American flute he’d made for me out of sassafras wood from his home state; and just this week Heather “DS Wallingsford” brought her lovely South Carolinian accent and met me for lunch in Olympia.  The really amazing and wonderful thing about meeting all these people is that there was no awkwardness. At all! It was like meeting up with old, dear friends. Hugs. Laughter. Conversation that just seemed to pick up where we’d left off on the Humoristian discussion thread. It was all kind of surreal. And very cool.

I do not know what I’d do without humor in my life. I do not know what I’d do if I was surrounded by people who couldn’t laugh at themselves.  I think I might go just a little insane.

I’m so grateful for my Humoristian friends, and I’m so grateful to God – the power of Love and Life – for never failing to bring me what I need to prosper and grow. “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need,” writes Mary Baker Eddy in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.  And, for me, that human need includes laughter.

*(the tenets for Humoristianity can be found in  http://www.amazon.com/Humoristian-Chronicles-James-Longmire/dp/1105093441/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1373805117&sr=8-1&keywords=humoristian+chronicles)