Last night, through a series of unexpected events, I ended up at Memorial Church on the Harvard Campus to see the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard present their “Fifth Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism” to Stephen Fry.
I adore Stephen Fry. I love his sense of humor; I think he’s an excellent actor; he’s amazingly learned and I am in awe of his brain and how much it holds. Even so, I didn’t expect to be as inspired as I was by his acceptance speech.
He spoke about humanism, yes—which the Humanist chaplain summed up as “Good without God”—but more than anything he spoke about the wonder of our world. He pointed out that we humans remain in awe of our sun, of the sunrises and sunsets, having never seen anything to compare it to. It’s not like we came from somewhere else with no suns, so ours is awesome by comparison. No, the sun is such an awesome, wonderful thing that we remain in awe of it, itself, even with no comparison. He talked about how much we know and how much we don’t know. How far we’ve come and how far we have to go. His speech was sprinkled with Greek myth and Oscar Wilde, Mel Gibson and Bertrand Russell. He didn’t have notes prepared but talked for 45 minutes, before Q&A, and it was all brilliant if a bit rambly at times. But I didn’t mind.
It’s just—seeing someone so intelligent and knowledgeable who still looks at our world in wonder was so incredibly inspiring to me. I’m not sure I can explain it. It makes the world an even more wonderful thing, that even such a man as Stephen Fry doesn’t understand it fully and is still searching for knowledge and is still inspired by it. I don’t know. I just left feeling so good about the world. Thank you, Mr. Fry.
And finally I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the highlights of the night, definitely the highlight of the Q&A period: Molly Lewis. Here’s the video from last night. You can find better quality on youtube, but this video has the benefit of reaction shots of Stephen Fry (they adjust the mic after the first few seconds so it does get a bit better).