It's spring. The sun's warm, the air cool, the campus grass finally free from the tyranny of the tarp. After finishing off a sizable paper and a competitively sizable breakfast, I found a suitable green spot, nudged off the sandals, threw an otherwise unnecessary long-sleeve shirt over my eyes, and dialed up some orchestral Rachmaninov.

Midway through, a little warm, I sat up and looked around. The word must have gotten out about my cozy neighborhood. No longer quite so hip, and sufficiently rested to do some more homework, I'd started thinking about standing up when a pair of enterprising youths approached, wanting to ask me some questions about Christianity. Out of respect for their willingness to risk ridicule, I assented. Charitably, I thought (though admittedly I was in no hurry to move inside).

They took turns. What was my religious background? What were my current beliefs? What did I know about Christianity? What did I think about it? One of them specialized in biblical references, the other in symbolic drawings. I figured they knew what they were getting into. I told them how, around 14, I wondered why it made sense to live by a set of rules handed down from some tradition or authority, and decided it made rather more sense to come up with my own rules for my own life using my own judgment; how Atlas Shrugged encouraged me by depicting people who had done likewise to great success; how I always felt that my approach was right for me; how it had nonetheless been slow and difficult work; how by a few years ago it had proved unquestionably right, as life had started to become easier, better, and more spiritually satisfying.

When the artist tried to set up the need for Christ by arguing that “love, peace, and justice can never be achieved by man alone,” I disputed the premise, on the basis that it's one of those strong claims that's impossible to prove by example (it'd take infinitely many examples), and went so far as to offer myself as a counterexample-in-progress. When the talking concordance said that through faith we can overcome our shortcomings, I again demurred. Being loving, peaceful, and just requires a set of techniques to be turned into habits, I contended, and asked how these techniques can be learned through faith. I wasn't expecting to learn anything, and ultimately didn't, but I hadn't had one of these conversations in a while and was curious. Back and forth we went.

Finally I asked them what their goal had been in approaching me. They said they wanted simply to help people become aware of Jesus, and God would do the rest of the persuading. I told them I don't usually proselytize, but that since I also have an interest in seeing human beings thrive, I wanted them to taste my shiny new metaphor: Values are a long-term investment. Following the values of a religion is low-risk, low-yield; in exchange for not having to worry so much about your decisions, you probably won't go broke, but you won't get rich, either. Finding your own values is high-risk, high-yield; there's no safety net for your errors in judgment, but the potential spiritual wealth available to you is unlimited. I told them I hoped they would consider my approach.

Forty-five minutes later, I'd also been exposed to a bit of sun. Tomorrow I'll have a nice tan.

On the matters of exposure, exposition, and proselytizing, I've written a research paper about my favorite composer, Rachmaninov's non-orchestral friend Medtner. As the paper will tell you, if you don't know the name, you should!