Boing Boing had a very nice post about saints — this meaning people you intensely adore (despite their faults). Since I’m too lazy to register to comment there (and since the idea of leaving the comment #121 feels a bit funky) I’ve turned my initial impulse into an actual blog post.
So, without further ado, my saints. In no particular order. One dozen plus one, no doubt missing some. All people that have “become hugely symbolic in my life and have come to represent different aspects of myself that I wish to improve and magnify.”
- Richard Dawkins, for being a calm and rational person, and thus a scientist, an atheist, a skeptic, and a lover of reality. (And a writer of beautiful, beautiful books.)
- Isaac Asimov, for being lucid, curious and a tireless explainer. (Also so plain as to be “a writer without a style”, but who needs style when you have substance?)
- J.R.R. Tolkien, for showing how immense and immensely fascinating secondary worlds and their minutiae can be. (caddish remark: then again, other Catholics had been in the secondary-world business for centuries, but they didn’t admit it…)
- Paul Erdos, for putting mathematics first and life second, because only the first is forever. (Eh, or then for showing that there’s nothing wrong and plenty of right in being a caricature of a stereotypical mathematician.)
- George Carlin, for saying that you can joke about anything, and then doing just that with wit and charm, and not just the bare shock value.
- Bill Hicks, for anger and laughter. And for admitting that, at times, an unbiased genocide against all of humanity seems like a reasonable enough proposition.
- Robert Anton Wilson, for tossing up all possible ideas and leaving to the reader the puzzling-out of when, if ever, he was serious fnord.
- Hypatia of Alexandria, for reminding that though the ignorant bastards can drag us down, they can’t make us forget; and though it take a thousand years, we will get up again.
- Richard Feynman, for being a scientist and a free spirit, and for inspiring others to be both. (Also, for toying with officious Los Alamos censors.)
- H.P. Lovecraft, for all the pretty words, for all the ghostless atheistic cosmic horror, and for all the inspired weird later creations, including Hello Cthulhu.
- Emperor Norton I, for showing that sometimes the boss is who you think the boss is.
- Rumiko Takahashi, for juggling drama and comedy, and for telling jokes no-one could anticipate. (Also for including the exclamation “Trained attack lobsters!” in one of her works.)
- Evariste Galois, for passion, and for that last night writing down all his mathematical ideas and intuitions for posterity before the dawn he died. (Maybe a legend made up by Bell, but still a saintly idea.)
Carl Sagan and Douglas Adams are almost on the list. I’m pretty certain Bertrand Russell will be up there too, sooner or later, but there’re just so dagnabbit many people, and so little time to get to know them.
Statistics: Thirteen people, of whom two are alive, two women, and one (Takahashi) not of European origin. It might be nicer if the last two numbers were bigger — hell, it would be nice if all three were bigger — but they just ain’t. As these aren’t people I’m interested in because of their sex — and certainly not because of their ancestors — I fail to see why I should be worried about this.
Six are atheists, and suspect three more might be; that leaves Hypatia (pagan), Norton (no idea), and Galois and Tolkien (Catholic). Again, that doesn’t concern me much: what do I care whether a potter wears red or a mathematician believes in a god if I value them for their pots and theorems? (Then again, there are some like Dawkins whom I value just because of their stances against all this spirituality hooey.)
Also, if I was going to do an “anti-saint” list, a list of people that make me think “hot dayum, that’s not something I want to be like! Talk about a fucking bad example!”, it would most probably include a whole lot of “traditional” religious saints. Humility and introspection aren’t worth a thing if your humility is groveling at a Celestial Stalin, and if your introspections lead you to think that it’s fine and deep that the said Sky-Dictator loves everybody but allows cancer and will burn all dissenters in an eternal fire. (Or a progressive-modern Eternal Alzheimer’s Personal Gulag of the Soul Without God; whatever.)
(Final idea: As an exercise in mind-boggling, take a few of similar saints of yours and imagine them defecating and wiping. Curious how one’s mind veers away from those images like a vampire from sunlight. Also, sorry for making your retch.)