Last Saturday, I was privileged to be interviewed by philosopher James Coley, former president of the Ethical Humanist Society of the Triangle in Carrboro, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
His radio show, The Ethical Humanist, broadcast on WCOM Saturdays at 8 a.m., delves into the topic of moral values and ethics. Our conversation was about values as explored in fiction. I had a really interesting time telling him about two of my protagonists, Harry Jenkins and Alexander Wainwright.
Harry is the protagonist of all three novels in The Osgoode Trilogy in which he must find the answers to a lot of questions thrown at him. How much money is enough? Can love and forgiveness be found amid fraud and deceit? All in the world of the law. [Conduct in Question, Final Paradox and A Trial of One.]
Alexander, on the other hand, the protagonist in The Drawing Lesson, the First in the Trilogy of Remembrance is an artist and he struggles more with the nature of humanity and our place in the world. What kind of world do we live in?
It was fun to discuss these topics with James, an ethical humanist. If I understand him correctly, his view is that we are not spirits [or spiritual]. He continues on by saying in some of his writing, which he was kind enough to give me, “I think we are passionate – and sometimes compassionate – creative and smart animals and that we should accept ourselves as such.”
According to James, there is a lot of room in the big tent of ethical culture and it certainly seems so to me. One can be a member of this group and still, if one chooses, believe in the spiritual aspects of mankind, [which I do, at least on most days]. But on the other hand, the older I get, the more committed an agnostic I become.
Being an agnostic myself, like Harry or Alexander, my protagonists, is not an exercise in fence-sitting. In my mind, it’s more a growing certainty that we can never really know. That doesn’t let us off the hook from trying to figure it out! Definitely, we need the free, respectful exchange of thought to work it out for ourselves. Maybe our struggle to understand the universe helps us evolve. I guess that’s why I write fiction to explore all these ideas and beliefs.
Thanks James for a really comfortable, interesting exchange of views! That’s the way it should be.