Last weekend I went to a huge BBQ full of people I'd never met. I love parties like this, because I absolutely relish the looks of shock and confusion I receive when I answer the third of the typical first three default getting-to-know-you questions. When I meet someone new, the conversation almost always goes like this:
Stranger: "Hi, what's your name?" Me: "Oh, I'm Nate. Nice to meet you." Stranger: "Are you from around here?" Me: "I'm from Salt Lake City." Stranger: "Oh, that's cool... so, what do you do?" Me: "I interview couples who are madly in love with each other." Stranger: "Wait... you what?"
I love the reactions I get when I tell them I devote my time to something so completely unexpected.
Typically The Loveumentary leads to some really great, meaningful, and exciting conversations culminating with the other person asking me with hope in their eyes, "So... what have you learned from this so far? Have you reached any awesome conclusions?"
It was exactly at this point in one such conversation with a girl that I'd just met that this guy who had been listening in to our conversation interjected.
"Don't you already know all the answers? I mean, we learned it all in church growing up. Just read your scriptures, say your prayers, put God first, and your relationship will survive."
It's not often that I'm left speechless... but this guy took me completely off guard. It too me a few seconds to formulate a response.
"You realize," I said, directing my attention to him, "that True Love is not exclusive to people who are religious, right? You don't have to pray to fall head over heals for someone, or attend church every Sunday to experience the joy that comes with loving and lasting commitment."
"Oh... yeah. I guess that makes sense," he said.
This guy rattled my senses a little bit. I had forgotten the huge role religion often plays in relationships. I was reminded that many of these deeply religious types believe they have a monopoly on happiness...
Which brings us to Carl Sagan, one of the most important and influential scientists of our generation. Sagan was also a very vocal Agnostic who believed that it was too difficult to prove or disprove whether or not God exists given the information we currently possess.
I recently stumbled on an incredibly moving and beautiful short film [embedded below] featuring Sagan's relationship with his wife Ann Druyan. It was truly fascinating to see and hear where the roots of their profound love for each other originated if they couldn't attribute it to God.
Carl and I knew we were the beneficiaries of chance, that pure chance could be so kind that we could find one another in the vastness of space and the immensity of time. We knew that every moment should be cherished as the precious and unlikely coincidence that it was.” -Annie Druyan
It is fascinating to see how similarly grateful and amazed the God-fearing saints and the "godless heathens" are when given the opportunity to experience true love.
Love is something that every person - gay or straight, tall or short, old or young, religious or not - desires and deserves. It's our universal common bond. It's what gives our essentially short lives meaning and purpose in this vast universe.
So, next time you meet someone who appears to be so fundamentally different from you, remember, you have at least one thing in common... and it's your capacity for love.