With his shaved head, goatee and sturdy frame, he looked more like a hit man than a seminarian. But he had that cool, serene presence of a Jedi, a believer who found soulful sanctuary in a religion that had called him to his life's work. I'd known him in New York, and it was by coincidence that we both wound up living in St Louis. Despite my reluctance to fully embrace any form of organized religion -- a fact for which he allowed generous understanding without condescension -- he facilitated for me a kind of guidance; he was the person on whom I could dump all of my wayward spiritual questions. Or, if nothing else, he'd supply me with optimism when my faith in humanity had gone missing.
We began by extolling Steely Dan lyrics that night, but somehow our discussion became about morality and the inevitability of sin. Where does morality fit into a society where religion is less important than it used to be? What reason do we have to be moral, or even good, if we don't believe in God or anything else? Why conform to a law if the lawgiver has vanished?
He smiled coyly; he was always up for this kind of questioning. Close to where we sat, two people happily embraced. We watched them momentarily -- two people swept into a euphoric state, vicariously.