We talked about the varieties of humanism yesterday.
I really like the version that sees humanism fundamentally as an expression of the love of life.
Humanism is, in sum, a philosophy for those in love with life. Humanists take responsibility for their own lives and relish the adventure of being part of new discoveries, seeking new knowledge, exploring new options. Instead of finding solace in prefabricated answers to the great questions of life, humanists enjoy the open-endedness of a quest and the freedom of discovery that this entails.
This sentiment was given unexpected voice recently by Michael Gerson, George Bush’s old speechwriter, writing of Christopher Hitchens’ joie de vivre and his special talent for friendship.
In earlier times, without derision or irony, this would have been called “humanism,” a delight in all things human — in wit and wine and good company and conversation and fine writing and debate of large issues. Hitchens’s joy and juice put many believers of my acquaintance to shame — people for whom religion has become a bloodless substitute for life. “The glory of God,” said St. Irenaeus, “is man fully alive.” Hitchens would hate the quote, but he proves the claim.
I don’t think Hitch hates the quote. I don’t. The best humanists are fully alive, as Hitch seems to be in these sadly dwindling days of his cancerous physical decline. Glorious days.
The days, as Emerson said, are Gods.