Phil Humanna, 16 years old, is 6 feet, blond, tan,
handsome and athletic
Libby Christianson, 16 years old, is 5'5", brunette, slim
Chris Fundamien, 16 years old, is 5'9", with a cute
PHIL, LIBBY and CHRIS are riding the Carousel on a beautiful
summer day in Como Park, a city park in St. Paul with lakes, gardens, a large
greenhouse, a golf course, a zoo, a carousel and rides.
They are close friends in high school.
Phil laughs and teases Libby,
Libby, you took my unicorn. I always ride the unicorn. It is
my symbol of physical strength. My strength is built from hard work, from the
support of friends and family and from recognition of the needs of others for
me to be strong. The uniqueness of this mythical creature symbolizes the
uniqueness of each person.
Libby shouts back,
Me first. The unicorn is my symbol of spiritual strength. Its
mysterious beauty is a reflection of my own preciousness in
Chris chimes in,
No, the unicorn is mine. It is the symbol of the Incarnation
God in Jesus and ... well, some other things too.
All three laugh. Libby sits on the unicorn and Chris and Phil
stand beside it. They hold on as the carousel goes round and round. The
stops. They get off and sit on a bench together.
The Carousel starts up again with the sound system playing
Since we met here a year ago, we have played out this
ritual at least ten times. We must come and do this again until we are old and
gray some day.
forty-six years later in como park at the
Phil, Libby and Chris, each 62 years old, are riding the
Carousel. Libby sits on the unicorn and Chris and Phil stand
next to Libby holding onto the unicorn.
After the music and the carousel stops, they get off and walk
over to a bench. They sit down on the bench watching the Carousel go round and
round without talking, as if gazing into their past and remembering their
youth. Eventually, they start talking.
Seems like yesterday that we rode the Carousel in high
school. I am so glad that we found you, Chris. I kept thinking that I would
find you again someday. I wondered what happened to you. Then I did a search
and found you on Facebook.
I wondered what happened to you too. Thanks for contacting
Have you heard that Libby and I got married?
No. Really?! What took you so long? I thought you were
headed for the altar in high school. After graduation I lost track of both of
you, but I heard that you went your separate ways. Why was that? How did you
each other again?
The story is as long as our lives, Chris. But I will give you
the short version. We both thought of marriage when we were dating in high
school. Then Phil became too philosophical and atheistic for me. I wanted more
spirituality in my life and for my kids. I married someone else a few
years after that. Phil also married a few years later. One day - so many years
later - he found me on the Net and
me. For over five years we stayed in touch and updated each other on our
children and grandchildren and our lives. A year after our spouses both died of
both flew to New
York City for a long date that led to marriage. We had grown
to be more mellow and understanding of each other's different viewpoints on
religion and love.
Wow! That is quite a story! A love story! I am so happy for
Chris, what have you been doing with your life?
I got a degree in accounting. For a few years I worked as an
accountant for General Mills. I was not too excited about my work or my life
until I felt the call to ministry. Then I went to
seminary, served churches for some years as a pastor and eventually retired.
God helped me
through the pain of loss and grief when my wife, Sally, died of cancer. I felt
grateful to God. I wanted to give back something of what God had done for me.
Wow! You weren't bitter? Angry at God?
No, just the opposite. I felt like God took her to a better
place after all that she had suffered. I wanted to be close to a God who could
love her so much. She never seemed bitter about the cancer. She made peace with
her lot and welcomed the trip home to live with God. Since she died a few years
have not thrown out things that she collected. It helps me to feel close to her
still. I even leave her bathrobe hanging in the bathroom like she will come in
any minute and put it on.
Hmmm. I don't know that I could do that. Instead, I would
probably try to put it all behind me and move on. Most people try to move on to
reduce the grief. However, it
sounds like hanging on gives you comfort. To each his own.
How did you deal with your wife's death without God?
In some ways, it has probably been easier for me than for
those who are confused or angry when they believe that God is pulling the
strings. I did not think that there was a God to blame, so I assumed that
people were responsible. Her cancer was due to bad habits - like smoking - and
bad habits by her ancestors whose DNA mutated into cancerous tendencies. I have
been angry at people from time to time, but I
try to accept that there are as many ways of being as there are people. I try
to give them room to be themselves, however flawed I might think they are
sometimes. Accepting them helps me to accept my own shortcomings and
personality quirks as
well. I didn't blame God for her death. She did it to herself. Or maybe it just
would have happened regardless of what she did.
But where do you get the personal power for living? I can't
imagine living without the power of the Holy Spirit to give me courage and
In some ways you give up a lot of personal power when you
look to God for direction and control of things. I look to friends and loved
ones for support and
encouragement. I look within myself for courage. I feel driven to do my best,
driven by my conscience. Sometimes I feel driven by guilt. I am often inspired
by others, pushed by adrenaline, nudged by expectation and hope. I get
inspiration from the stories of how others have been heroic. I love reading
biographies of heroic people with a passion for justice. I meditate for my own
inner peace. I do aerobics
and strength training to be stronger and more prepared to do my best.
Interesting. I should do more of those other things too.
Usually I just feel lazy and ask for God to do it all. I should work out to
stronger and more physically fit. I have always thought that when your time
comes, it comes. However, maybe bad habits are really messing with God's plan
and your personal timetable for dying.
Libby, tell Chris more about your religious journey.
OK. I became cynical when I encountered many Christians
seemed hypocritical. They talked big about love and compassion, but they were
very judgmental. While I continue to believe in many of the things that Jesus
taught, I am not so keen on the Jesus-only talk. I believe that Muslims and
Jews, Buddhists and Hindus have just as much wisdom as Christians about eternal
peace. God is One. When someone says, 'You can come to God only by way of
Jesus' I think 'Jesus never would have said that.' I think that people can come
to spiritual empowerment in many ways. They should look wherever it can be
found. The point is not to choose one graven image and worship it - not even
Jesus. The point is to live ethically, to be compassionate, to care for people
and to love as well as we can. Jesus would not have wanted people to worship
him. It was the early church that made a cult out of Jesus-worship. Christians
who talk about Jesus as the only way to come to God are repeating an idolatrous
pattern of those who tried to preserve early Christianity by talking that
way. Christians who talk this way seem ready to condemn Muslims to eternal
damnation. I can't buy that, not at all. The point of Christianity should be to
do what Jesus would do, not to worship Jesus and do whatever you please.
Wow! I would say that we have moved even further apart in our
religious views from where we were in high school! I pray many times a day to
personal Savior. I can't imagine how anyone can manage without Him. Jesus is my
Savior whom I worship. I will pray
Thanks, Chris. I don't mean to deny the truth of your faith
for you. I realize that you do not agree with my Unitarian-Universalist
viewpoints. I hope we
can agree to disagree and still be friends.
I won't give up on you. I care for your soul, for you.
Libby smiles and says,
Thanks, Chris. Maybe we had better change the subject. How
about those Twins?
Phil jumps in,
On that day in high school when we first met and rode the
Carousel and rushed to get to the Unicorn we each gave our different views of
the symbolism of the unicorn.
Yes, I got to the unicorn first. For me the unicorn
mystical spiritual strength. Phil said that it symbolized his personal power.
Chris explained how Medieval art depictions of the
unicorn symbolized the Incarnation of Jesus and Divine power. He hinted at
something else but never quite finished that thought. I always wondered what
The unicorn is a symbol of personal, physical and emotional
strength for me. It comes from within for those who want to care for others,
who care to
be heroic in their compassion and who want to make the world better for others.
a teenager I had several unicorns on the shelf in my room. I gave them power to
ward off evil spirits - poisonous things in life.
Well, that is a bit New-Agey for me.
And it is a bit too much hocus-pocus for me, but I respect
your right to go there, Libby. If it works to make you a better person, it is a
good thing for sure. That is my test of a religious practice: does it help you
to do the right and good thing?
Some medieval traditions about hunting
the unicorn said that only a virgin could tame the wild beast. Mary, the mother
Jesus, tamed the beastliness of the world with the virgin birth of her baby
the Cloisters in New York City, there is a marvelous set of tapestries
depicting the hunting of the unicorn. The hunt symbolized the quest for
salvation through Jesus.
Frankly, I think that religion is only a collection of
stories. It would be a mistake to think that they are to be taken literally, to
believe that they are pure history. Of course, there is no pure history anyway.
History is stories told by the winners. The Bible has lots of stuff that could
be used to justify homicide, fratricide, nationalism, racism, sexism and more
The Bible has to be filtered by modern ethical standards to find the spiritual
wealth within. Christians
can be worse than militant Muslims in drawing the most hateful and violent
from their scriptures.
Preach it, sister! You're talking my language, but I am sure
that Chris is squirming here.
Because you are my friends I will refrain from telling you
that you are agents of Satan. However, that very thing has occurred to me as I
listen to you
can't understand how anyone can't see the wonderful things that God
has done, the miracles of creation, the blessings of this life, and not believe
that it all falls from the hand of God as we speak.
OK, I do see the miracles. I am filled with awe and wonder at
the vastness of the universe, the beauty of people, the miracles of science.
However, religion is not necessary to explain that. Religion cannot explain for
me why Aids and cancer can destroy millions, why the universe was billions of
years old without human life for so long, or why the universe is more vast than
imagination can fathom, or why there is probably life in unlimited forms in
other worlds, or why the earth and our solar system will cease to exist
eventually, or why a meteor collision with the earth wiped out most of
before and can do it again at any minute. Science tells me that these are just
the brutal and often marvelous facts of physics, chemistry and biology. I
am extremely grateful for the blessings of this life. However, I do not see
that this all requires the kind of God that has been depicted in scripture. I
think that we are on our own when it comes to running this show. If it helps
some to invent God, then I can handle that - as long as this God does not lead
them to reject and hate people not like them.
You're not suggesting that I do that are you?
I would hope not, but so many really conservative Christians
do. Rejecting others just seems so unchristian to me. I have washed my hands of
traditional Christianity because of the byproducts I see: hatred, racism,
sexism, elitism and more.
So, do you have a better option?
get power from philosophical meditation on a fire or flowing water. Libby gets
power from prayer to a Higher Power.
However, I don't believe that there is a God who has a plan for my life or the
world. I don't believe that there is a God who controls things or talks to
people. I don't believe that there is a God who will judge the world or people
at some gates of Heaven. When my life ends, that is the end. That is not a
tragedy that requires Heaven to redeem it. Death is just a fact - sometimes a
very sad fact. But who would want to go on suffering in a body that could no
longer sustain the mind? Who would need an afterlife if this life were
appreciated for all its miracles and beauty?
Doesn't that belief depress you? How can you live in a world
that does not promise Heaven afterward?
The world is no less wonderful for me without some eternal
reward afterward. In fact, I feel like I
am on a unique journey on which I want to make the most of every precious
minute for me and my loved ones. I don't want to waste a minute with fear,
regrets, anger or hatred. Because there is no door at the end - just a wall, I
want to make this room - this lifetime - the best that it can be for me and
others. Because there
is no forgiveness and making everything right later, I want to do it right this
time and make amends now.
You're losing me here. Tell me more about why this works for
My world without God may be a more ethical
place than the kind of
world in which very religious people live. Many religious folks sin that grace
may abound. They do stuff on Saturday night that they confess on Sunday
morning. I'd rather skip that cycle and do the right thing to begin with, do
the right thing because it makes my life and the lives of others better right
I'm having a hard time getting my head around this and why
you would think this way. In fact, I'm getting a splitting headache. I need to
go, but I do want to get together again. How about meeting at Key's Cafe
for breakfast a week from now at 8 am?
Sounds good. We have a condo in Galtier and can walk to Key's
The three stand and hug. Phil and Libby walk hand in hand in
one direction toward the Conservatory, and Chris walks toward his car in the
parking lot. Chris is shaking his head from side to side in disbelief of the
blasphemy and heresy he
has just heard from Phil.