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  • Thomas A. Wilson

It Really is a Wonderful Life

Sheri and I enjoyed a vigorous walk this morning. Most days, we power walk three miles. I usually jog a bit to keep up with her long legs. As the two of us left the house, we were greeted by an amazing little hummingbird feeding on the bee balm. For me, watching a hummingbird never gets old.


Down by the river, two canvasback ducks took flight—drake and hen in furious single file, with the river so clear that the smooth rocks shimmered dull gray and green. A bald eagle soared overhead, while red-winged blackbirds roosted on the cattails. Yesterday, a young white-tail buck put on a show as it bounded through the undergrowth. It really is a wonderful life.


I wouldn’t normally pick walking for exercise. I tend to gravitate toward more competitive sports like basketball, softball, and the like. But Mrs. Wilson taught me to enjoy the outings. Sheri saw the eagle and the buck before I did. She usually sees things before I do. Then she points them out as she watches my face.


I like walking with her. There’s something magical about the lines of a woman that loves you—only you. It makes each sashay intriguing, a message to be decoded. For over thirty-eight years, we’ve walked together. I married her when she was a teenager. I was twenty-one, she was eighteen. My mother said I snatched her right off the cheerleading squad.


We’ve been through so much. I’ve dragged her across the country (twice), through poverty, and to a reggae joint in Denver that caused her to look at me like I’d lost my mind. And we continue to explore this thing, this wonderful thing, called life. Our current season is perhaps our most challenging. We didn’t see it coming—expecting more of a storybook transition, but raw adventure in a life-of-biblical-proportions is no small thing. There’s something to be said about fighting, and winning, serious battles. I would rather have the books of Exodus and Ruth over Grimm’s Fairy Tales any day.


I’m even captivated by her name: Sheri. It starts with a curve and ends with a point, just like her. It would be trite to say, “I love her more today than I did when we married.” It’s true, but it doesn’t really capture the heart of the matter. You see, I love her differently now. It’s hard to put into words, but now I love her with all the memories and ecstasies and heartbreaks and tragedies all swirled together.


One of the television shows we’ve enjoyed since the 80’s is Murder, She Wrote. In one episode, a film noir type detective comments on the female lead, “She was hard and soft, spicy and sweet, all tossed together like a Cantonese dish.” That’s my Sheri.


Now, I could spend all day gushing about my girl, but there’s another purpose to my ruminations. There are only a couple of ways to explain love, altruism, and self-sacrifice. Either humankind evolved affection by default, a useful tool in out-competing other less conscientious species—it was just inevitable that family groups dripping with affection survived better than those that didn’t possess the same cultural glue—or, humankind was created to love, a reflection of the Lover.


You work that out for yourself, one way or the other. I have. But I mention it here only to say this: a true humanist desperately values life. They recognize the vastness of the universe, and the immense improbability of human existence within this little strip of topsoil and atmosphere. Rare things have value. For instance, only one heavily damaged Antikythera mechanism has survived from antiquity. (It was an ancient clockwork computer that displayed the position of heavenly bodies.) It is priceless. A single feather from the extinct huia bird is valued at $10,000. Rare things are precious.


So, just as one wouldn’t play golf amidst the terracotta warriors of Qin Shi Huang, or stomp on a specimen of physalis alkekengi, or put a golden tiger in a pen with a white rhino, real humanists don’t behave in a mean-spirited way. Self-professed humanists who spend their days in vitriol and sarcasm are the best evidence of their own self-contradiction!


The same is true for people of faith. If God really is love, then the loved should be able to cobble together a little bit of the stuff. Faith groups that hate contradict their own fundamental reason for existing! By hate, I don’t mean respectful disagreement—I’m talking about suicide bombers and Westboro, here. (People who equate disagreement with hate do a disservice to the real thing.)


If you’ve followed my logic thus far, I hope you see that a genuine humanist and a bona fide person of faith ought to be best friends. They should be working together to improve the human condition—because life is rare, precious, and divine.


But I can’t develop the thought anymore right now. Sheri wants to play Scrabble, then we’re going to make BLT sandwiches with tomatoes she grew in the greenhouse, then we’re going to enjoy homemade cinnamon rolls she crafted from the dough she kneaded to make the bread for the BLTs. After that, who knows? ;)


It really is a wonderful life.


MANerism:

Happy people are highly relational. They attend gatherings. They join clubs. They go out on dates. They (turn off the TV and) leave the house. If the only human interaction someone experiences is with the pizza delivery person, odds are he/she is unhappy. It’s hard to bond over making change. A growing body of evidence confirms that isolation makes people sick.


Affirmation of the Week: I love.

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