“We need Religion for religion’s sake, Art for art’s sake and, Morality for morality’s sake.” Victor Cousin
I describe religion’s sake as being ‘know thy god,’ art’s sake is ‘know thyself,’ and morality’s sake as ‘know one another.’ In high school, I volunteered at three different organizations; each one represented one of these ideas. Those experiences brought tremendous growth to my humanist outlook.
Religion, know thy god. Church, for me, was a place to socialize and manage facades. Basically, it was my sanctuary from the bullies of the world. The idea of ‘knowing’ my god was a stretch. I couldn’t get a solid grip on the three-in-one trinity thing because no one could sufficiently explain it to me. (Seriously, God is not like a pack of Hostess Ho Hos just because you get three tasty treats in one package.) So, knowing God was neither reasonable nor possible. I went with knowing about god instead. At church I hung out with friends, made poignant, wry observations, and tried to learn a better way to live life through facade management and religious dogma.
Morality, knowing one another, is what I learned working with the mentally challenged. When you strip away all the facades people apply to themselves you are left with the basics of their humanity. The intellectually disabled are, without the burden of higher thought, the most fundamental human beings on the planet. They exist and they love. Every moral choice is put into its simplest context without artifice. Those who care for them gain a perspective that is unique, so these children are to be regarded with a form of respect that is not patronizing and is accepting of whatever circumstance they inhabit. This was my insight from four years of volunteering. It molded my approach to all people from that point on. Because of this, my philosophy of moral behavior included respect and acceptance of individuals as they are. Once you understand the individuals who exist at this fundamental level of being, you learn to discover those fundamental elements in others. This allows you to see through the artifice of a facade, making the facade useless in those who wear one, even a bully.
My art, or knowing oneself, is theater. It’s collaborative, intelligent and full of emotion. But more than anything it’s instructive; it teaches life-lessons with every play. It is secular, in that each play carries a different philosophy and point of view. It tells stories of social interaction to elaborate on morality. It makes philosophic and theologic arguments from all doctrines exploring many possibilities. It challenges those who participate to be excellent. It challenges those who observe it to think excellent thoughts. In order to tell a story, one must first understand the story, so research and discovery and reading and discussion are essential from the beginning. Each play has a time, a place, a point of view and a message. As each production ends a new play takes its place. It comes with a new time, place and message to first understand, then convey. The cycle of beginning and ending, death and rebirth are constant. When you exist in an emotional and intellectual environment like this you come to know yourself very well.