George Carlin and Martin Luther King, Jr. Talk about Humanity and God
The typical fog is joined by vapor from thousands of mouths breathing as one. It’s one of the first Chinese New Year Celebrations to take place in the San Francisco Chinatown, and you can easily tell. There are a couple of dragons being carried around, and people seem to be getting into the spirit of the holiday. Laughter, smoke, and cheers are rising from the couple thousand people, but it’s nothing compared to the sea of individuals who fill the streets nowadays.
A thin, old, white-haired man with a short beard, dressed in black jeans and a black t-shirt, can be seen a ways away from the crowd. He is trying to write something down on a small notebook but quickly gives up after realizing that it’s no use in the fog.
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now,” a tall, dark-skinned man smoking a cigarette tells him as he appears seemingly out of thin air. “Martin Luther King Jr., at your service.”
“When you’re born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front row seat,” the older man says irritated as he looks from the crowd to the man who spoke to him. “Name’s George. George Carlin.”
“Well, George,” the reverend says while shaking his hand, “We must use time creatively.” He proceeds to ask the old man for the reason behind his irritation.
“The other night I ate at a real nice family restaurant. Every table had an argument,” George answers, not looking at Martin. He then turns towards him sharply and says “If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re going to get selfish, ignorant leaders.”
“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity,” the man of faith reluctantly agrees. “However, returning hate for hate multiplies hate. […] We must move into a sometimes hostile world armed with the revolutionary gospel of Jesus Christ. With this powerful gospel we shall boldly challenge the status quo.”
“Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist,” says Carlin, recognizing a kindred spirit. “The status quo sucks. [After all,] America was founded by slave owners who informed us all men are created equal.”
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word” says King, now more fired up than ever. The butt of his cigarette rests in his pocket, hidden so that he doesn’t inspire other people to pick up the habit.
“Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that,” argues Carlin, trying to convince King that he’s putting too much faith in mankind.
“Don’t let anybody make you think God chose America as His divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world,” retorts the reverend. He then goes on to say that “the God whom we worship is not a weak and incompetent God. He is able to beat back gigantic waves of opposition and to bring low prodigious mountains of evil. The ringing testimony of the Christian faith is that God is able.”
“Religion is just mind control. […] I have as much authority as the Pope, I just don’t have as many people who believe it” says Carlin, disappointed in his new acquaintance’s beliefs. “There’s this man who lives in the sky,” he goes on, “and he has ten things he doesn’t want you to do, and you’ll burn for a long time if you do them. But he loves you,” he ends, hoping, but knowing that his words will be lost on the deaf ears of blind faith.
“The confidence that God is mindful of the individual is of tremendous value in dealing with the disease of fear, for it gives us a sense of worth, of belonging, and of at homeness in the universe,” says King, surprising George with his pragmatic approach to religion.
“Religion at best is like a lift in your shoe,” proceeds George, pleasantly taken aback by the rational debate, “If you need it for a while and it makes you walk straight and feel better, fine. But you don’t need it forever or you can become permanently disabled.”
“In contrast to ethical relativism, Christianity sets forth a system of absolute moral values and affirms that God has placed within the very structure of this universe certain moral principles that are fixed and immutable,” King goes on, to the sound of fireworks and happy laughter. “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”
“May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house,” says George jokingly, but meaning well, recognizing that the reverend had a point. “Still,” he continues, “I would never want to be a member of a group whose symbol was a guy nailed to two pieces of wood.”
“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness,” Martin says, trying to hide a smile. He is not offended by George’s comment, as he realizes the man’s intentions are noble. King knows they won’t change each other’s’ minds, but he is also enjoying the discussion. “[After all], human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted. [And] there can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.”
“I think people should be allowed to do anything they want. We haven’t tried that for a while. Maybe this time it’ll work,” continues George, seriously considering the reverend’s words. “Everyone smiles in the same language,” he says, somewhat distracted, as he seems to drift off to some far-away corner of his mind. A few seconds later, he’s back, with a much sterner expression on his face. “Tell the people you love that you love them, at every opportunity. [And] always do whatever’s next.”
“At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love,” smiles the reverend, glad that despite their differences, they can still agree on something so fundamental. “There is nothing more tragic than to find an individual bogged down in the length of life, devoid of breadth.”
“As much as I love my family, I enjoy it when the house is empty, because then I know I’m truly alone, as we all are on the planet, after all,” says George, looking straight ahead while leaning on a wall. “Every atom in us is originally from a star. And during my moments of aloneness, I’m most mindful of that; that I’m just another group of matter randomly but wonderfully arranged. That’s when I feel my immortality.”
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope,” says the reverend with a final, knowing, smile. He leans against the wall next to George, and they both look ahead at the celebrating crowd. They think about the lives of the people they see, from young children running around with their entire lives ahead of them to old, gray and graying grandparents making the most of their remaining years.
As they lean there, they feel content with the way their conversation went. They feel like they’ve accomplished something. And maybe, just maybe, they feel optimistic about the future, and the way they’ll influence it. A dim white light starts enveloping our protagonists, growing with their sense of accomplishment. In a few seconds, the light engulfs the two completely, and they are sent back to their timelines. They remember nothing of the conversation but the feeling of satisfaction and hope they felt as the talk wound down never fully left them during their lifetimes.