“There’s a whole lotta Norms out there”

“SCIENCE FLIES YOU TO THE MOON, RELIGION FLIES YOU INTO BUILDINGS”

Kudos from unexpected fronts have occurred nearly every week for a couple of years now. One of the first and most memorable was in a bar chatting with a few students I knew and I few I didn’t. In the midst of conversations someone brings up one of the first editorials I’d written long before I started submitting them regularly or penned a weekly column as I do now for the university’s newspaper. His name was Norm and he had been in one of my classes some time back. He thanked me for writing on religion as I did, really liked what I had to say, felt my pieces were inspiring and really hoped I’d continue and looked forward to the next installment.

Since then similar kudos has happened enough times, from out of nowhere and unsolicited, that I put an entry in my journal “TAWLNOT.” I use acronyms as reminders of things I need to develop into daily routines or habits of mind and “There’s a whole lot of Norms out there” (TAWLNOT) has been a mantra ever since. Not long ago I read an interesting article on comedians and developing their persona, patter and presence. Bill Cosby was advising Joan Rivers not to alter her unique and sometimes abrasive style, not to edit herself and plow ahead as he said “If only 1% of America likes you, you’ll fill stadiums.” That has stuck with me as well. I’ve never had a goal to fill stadiums but anyone that writes obviously wants to reach an audience and I took away the important point that you will not please everybody and you may not please most. So I put “Don’t Edit Yourself” on my laptop and my office computer.
Besides the random emails of thanks and approval from someone I’ve never met, or someone I do know looking at me over the sandwich counter while they wrap my burrrito saying “Hey, I read your column now, Awsum, keep it up” or words to that effect, the best and most unique praise and encouragement has been over the bumper stickers on my car.
The Line in bold above: “Science Flies You to the Moon Religion Flies You Into Buildings” is not mine, sure wish it was. It was coined by Victor Stenger the secular writer, physicist and educator. I had it made into a bumper sticker and put it on the back of my beat up Subaru wagon 4 years ago.
It is there along with a Richard Dawkins Foundation sticker, a Darwin fishapod and two of my own sayings:
“Everybody else’s religion is just made up…but not yours” and “Everyone else’s god is imaginary…but not yours”
they get a lot of eye-traffic. Since I’m in rural Kentucky, south of the Ohio River where the Civil War never ended for some and the KKK reputably still publicly collected donations on the town square of the next city up the road not all that long ago, they draw their share of attention. I especially like watching the minivans full of nicely dressed families inch closer to my bumper on Sunday mornings at the stoplight as the occupants peer over their dashboards and I watch their lips move…and then they recoil back, heads shaking. One lady pulled up along side of me in the Summer and as our windows were both down and she shouted out she would pray for me. By the look on her face I wasn’t sure exactly what direction she might be asking her deity of choice to send me.

For the most part, the random comments have been incredibly rewarding for the letters to the editor, column, blog and vehicular communications. But the best one was earlier this week. A van follows me into my parking spot returning after lunch and as I open my door a middle age guy gets out, totally non-threatening and says “Hey, I followed you into the parking lot just to tell you how much I like your bumper stickers!” Unreal. I thanked him of course and he asked if I get a lot of heat for them down here. I said “No, not really” and that I hadn’t been beat up yet or yelled at or anything, but that I do get a lot of positive comments like his. He said “That’s surprising” and “It’s about time this kinda stuff was said.”
Most secularists: atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, deists, even liberal believers feel this way. They’re pretty much fed up with the churches on every corner, the politicians, the TV preachers, and the often obnoxious church signs that offer a daily bashing of religious proscriptions, condemnations, and just plain absurdities (think Republican comments of the last few years) that we have quietly endured for years. No more. We have a “Yeah, yeah blow it out your ass” kinda mentality now. Oddly enough, many of my good Xian friends feel just the opposite; that the attack on belief and religion is just so pervasive and virulent and uncalled for. We feel like we are just warming up and religion is finally getting a rebuttal it has deserved for millenia and we are nowhere near up to “equal time” yet. Be that as it may, I gotta say THNX! to anyone who has taken the time to introduce themselves, email me, stop me on the Quad, look up from my burrito and yes even follow me into the parking lot to tell me they like my stuff. It is appreciated beyond words. There ARE a whole lot of Norms out there.

Ikissed turnorburn

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