signed a few autographs at a show the other day and it occurred to me what a
bizarre ritual this is. Fellow humans want you to sign your name and give it to
them as a remembrance of our encounter. I have never asked fans for their
autograph in return but they want mine anyway. Perhaps to document I actually
exist outside a DVD? It’s a keepsake that proves A) I’m not illiterate, and B)
They are willing to humble themselves and ask for a piece of me to take home.
One wonders if there is any criterion
that legitimizes an autograph? If I decide to sign my name left-handed for
example is that considered a forgery? What if I spell my name wrong or write it
in a way that I never did before? If I use hieroglyphics does it count?
tribes used to fear photographs being taken of them because they thought it might
steal their soul. I wonder if the autograph seeker doesn’t lose a part of his
soul by wanting another beings name to revel in? Autographs are a vicarious
thrill for the autograph collector. It is a strange form of idolatry as it
finds value in proving someone they admire was in their presence. It doesn’t
honor the signer as much as lift up the collector by carrying this “talisman”
around to show others who you’ve been next too.
the autograph seeker could conceivably be honoring you by believing your
autograph is valuable and cherished is it what really matters? Or is it instead
the communal encounter of two people who respect each other? I was in Florida a number of years ago.
I was performing at a comedy club in a hotel there. One day I was walking from
my room to the restaurant outside the hotel and glanced at a man standing in
the parking lot looking towards the building obviously waiting for someone.
continued to walk a few more steps and then suddenly, it hit me. That was Ted
Williams! If you are not a baseball fan then that may not mean much to you but
if you are you know that this was the Holy Grail of a sighting. If you could
meet one of the most renowned people in any field of endeavor, a legend, an
icon, that is Ted Williams to
baseball-ophiles. It would be the equivalent of meeting Abraham Lincoln to a
political junkie. He’s Caruso to opera fans, and he’s Moses or Paul to
Christians. He’s that big.
have never been star struck and only as a kid did I collect autographs at
baseball games. I didn’t want to bother him but as I strolled further away I
started to evaluate the situation more thoroughly. This is TED WILLIAMS!! My
dilemma was Ted was never known for being gracious and cordial to reporters or
fans. But I said to myself ” I have to meet this guy, what’s the worst that
could happen, he tells me to get lost?”
decided I would go back and if he was still there I would go approach him. I
returned and sure enough there he was so I walked straight up to him and said “excuse
me sir” he looked at me and said “yeah?”, I said ” I just wanted to shake your
hand, I know Ted Williams when I see him”. He kind of half smiled-smirked and
shook my hand. Then I said ” I have a baseball card of yours worth $250.00. He
said ” hang on to it, it’s going to be worth more”. Then I said ” what are you
doing here, golfing?” and he said “yeah” but by this time already he was
checking out of the dialogue and going back to looking for his friend.
my audience with Ted was over so I walked away. It lasted maybe 30 seconds but
I never forgot it. I didn’t ask for or get his autograph. I just shook his hand
and said I admired him. That is enough for me. That experience is in my head
and heart and will stay there till I die.
Christians often consider what we’ll ask God when we get to heaven but rarely
consider what God will ask us when we
get there. I know now. For me the first thing God will say is ” Welcome home
son…now, how in the heck did you not ask for Ted Williams autograph when he’s
standing right there?! What are you stupid?” of which I will have to reply “apparently”.