Show Us Your Saints

Ed Note: Boingboing's current guest blogger Gareth Branwyn writes on technology, pop and fringe culture. He is currently a Contributing Editor at Maker Media. Recent projects have included co-creating The Maker's Notebook and editing The Best of MAKE and The Best of Instructables collections.

I was raised Catholic (thanks, I'm better now). I also spent my teen years studying meditation, yoga, and eastern religions. So maybe through this upbringing, I tend to think in terms of teachers, gurus, saints, heroes, muses, angels, and daemons -- no longer in a theological sense, but I still find use for these concepts, at least in a poetic, symbolic sense. When I was kid, I loved all of the trappings of the saints: the icons, the medallions, the miracle stories, the statues, relics, the veneration. I'm a pagan at heart, and when you think about it, this is nothing more than high paganism, ceremonial magick. I loved the idea that there are different saints that help, guide, and protect you under different circumstances. And I loved that they represent different virtues and qualities you could meditate on and try to emulate, as you lit candles and prayed to icons. Recently, I've come to the realization that I still engage in something of this practice. I have various "teachers" in my life -- writers, philosophers, artists, and scientists -- whose work holds a powerful influence over me. They've become hugely symbolic in my life and have come to represent different aspects of myself that I wish to improve and magnify. I keep them close to me, mainly in collections of books in my library that I browse and "meditate" on whenever I am in need of a little inspiration. Below is my list of "saints." Do you have such a pantheon? These are more than your heroes. These are the people that you think have taught you the most, that you near-venerate in your love and respect for them, and whom you feel have helped form the bedrock of your beliefs and worldview. My "Saints" (and what they represent to me) William Blake - I venerate this guy above all others. He's the closest thing I have to a guru. His entire mission in life was to use his art and ideas to wake us all up from the somnambulism he believed the State, organized religion, even our own sensoria, were cursed to induce in us. I use him as my constant reminder to stay awake and creative, keep my imagination expansive, and to "fight the power." Gregory Bateson - A father of cybernetics. Bateson was something of a saint to the Whole Earth folks and Whole Earth was a huge influence on me. Bateson was the one who introduced me to Blake. Bateson reminds me to look at relationships over objects and for patterns that connect. And to tie all of my ideas and beliefs with slipknots. Robert Anton Wilson - In the CD interview series with Bob Wilson, Robert Anton Wilson Explains Everything, the interviewer states that RAW had spent a career collecting, trading in, and writing about conspiracy theories, the paranormal, and the like, but he doesn't appear to buy into much of it. So why does he spend so much time exploring such things? "It keeps my mind supple" is Wilson's reply. That elevates him to sainthood in my pantheon. Wilson also embodied the virtue of hilaritas to me. And he remind me to embrace the absurd. Wilson was also "open to anything, but skeptical of everything." Bucky Fuller - Fuller's mission in life was to see how much a single "human intelligence unit" could create, learn, and experience -- what one person could do to make the world a better place -- in a lifetime. Amazingly, he embarked on that mission, on the other side of an aborted suicide attempt, in his mid-30s. Everything we know about Buckminster Fuller happened after that. I also venerate Bucky's optimism, faith in human ingenuity, and in the transformative powers of science and technology. Aleister Crowley - I hate "The Beast" as much as I love him. He represents my faith in the powers of thelema (will) and agape (love) and the notion of syncretism. And I try to live by his motto "The method of science, the aim of religion." Say what you want against him (and there's plenty to say), but his influence on modern, at least bohemian, culture and on alternative religions has been huge. He was such a significant influence on me in my youth it would be disingenuous to not include him. And every list of apostles needs a Judas. (Sadly, there are no women on my list. I racked my brain. I could come up with women I greatly admire, lots of artists and musicians, but no one who's risen to the level I'm thinking about here.) So, who are YOUR saints? What lessons, virtues, ideas, or qualities do they represent for you?


  1. My saint is easy. Robert Anson Heinlein. Not only is he one of the greatest science fiction writers ever, but his ideas on religion helped me define how I felt spiritually. His characters, especially Lazarus Long, define to me how a modern free-thinking man should look at the world.

  2. Oh dear…

    Zappa, for sure.

    Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris.

    Darwin, Einstein, and Newton.

    Joe Strummer, Tom Waits, and Jolie Holland.

    Tolkien, Douglas Adams, and Orwell.

    Then there’s Joe Strummer, Joe Strummer, and Joe Strummer…

  3. Hmm, a pantheon you say? Of saints? Here goes:

    Jim Henson – For showing us all the Rainbow Connection
    Edward Gorey – For showing me that you can make a good living on Cape Cod by being a very odd person
    Neil Gaiman – For making comic books not suck
    Violet Paget – For being a woman unafraid of her own intelligence
    JRR Tolkien – For showing us Middle Earth, and all the glories and terrors therein
    Hayao Miyazaki – For Nausicaä, and Chihiro, and San, and all those folk

    Hmm, all artists. I wonder why (I’m an engineer meself)

  4. It’s kind of creepy when I read somebody else and it sounds like things I’ve written. I’m a reformed Catholic who delved deeply into Eastern religions and the occult through my 21st birthday, after which I began to consider myself a simple spiritual humanist. However, I do not think of the people who most influenced my writing as saints, or at least it had never occurred to me before now.

    During the twenty years when all I did was write poetry I considered the later Romantics the greatest influences on my writing, particularly Shelley and Keats. I always kept my revered historical figures in separate categories. The works of Crowley, Lovecraft, and Dunsany led me to adopt a metaphysical world view at an early age, but I never found their style of writing compelling.

    Then there was the land of speculative fiction. I devoted large amounts of time to reading and studying Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. When I finally quit writing poetry, for the most part, and went on to write short stories, novels and novellas, those were the people I owed a lot of my thought processes to.

    I woefully pursued written works to such an extreme that I can point to few revered figures who were involved in something else. Of those people there was almost nobody in the realms of science, mathematics or anything else besides the arts. I looked at music and cinema as my window into the evolving world of technology. Starting with Throbbing Gristle, Klaus Schulze, and Jean Michel Jarre I became fascinated by electronic music and the processes involved with creating it. Stanley Kubrick with 2001 kindled a hidden desire within me to learn about the emerging field of computers, and in no time I was writing spaghetti code in Basic (which seems like a bad joke now).

    In some ways my list may seem long, but I have always felt that I didn’t devote enough time to expanding the foundations of my knowledge at an earlier age. If I had to name a holy trinity it would be Tolkien, Byron and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I more worshiped their work than adopted anything from it, and so I kept them separate from the other list.

    I seem to have rambled on a bit. I appreciated your post very much. It brought back a lot of memories for me. I always enjoy the nostalgia I feel when I think about the pieces that fit together to create what I believe.

    I’m looking forward to your posts here at Boing Boing.

  5. I’m not much of a hero worshipper… maybe Da Vinci… but I’ll tell you who I admire: Cher. I’ve watched her whole career, and it seems like she never sold out- she did what she did her way.
    She probably doesn’t feel that way- she would think of all the times she got talked into some crazy outfit or skit and felt rediculous. But to succeed in comedy, you need the courage to put that rediculous dress on.
    She’s lived thru more crap, with bikers and rock stars and weirdness, then come out sexier than ever, every decade, still smokin’. Still Cher.

  6. Alan Watts, he died around the time I started learning about Buddhism, his plain spoken explanations of Buddhism were extremely helpful.

    Joesph Campbell, his lectures connect the myths of different religions as one myth of the human experience.

    Lao-Tzu, Taoism has been one of the most important and least understood concepts in my life. Taoism opens up a root understanding of the unknowable and helps to make living with the overwhelming mystery of existence comfortable.

    George Carlin, understanding and insightful humor that is at once a pat on the back and a kick in the ass.

    Kate Bush, she is simply amazing, and has an emotional understanding that is open, honest, and sensitive.

    Jimi Hendrix, was a beautiful spirit whose transcendent music connects the physical and spiritual. He was playful, spiritual, insightful, and sexy as hell.

    Then of late there are the Four Horsemen: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Danial Dennett, Christopher Hitchens.

  7. Takuan at #16 writes:

    > I think I can squeeze Pratchett onto the list ,for sheer contribution if nothing else.

    I’ve always liked him, but after _Nation_ I admire him as well. It feels as if he’s decided he’s not going to around forever and it’s time for the Big Book of How To Be a Decent Person.

  8. Kurt Vonnegut, for Cat’s Cradle‘s insight into humanity.

    Douglas Adams, for the combination of bomb-tossing cynicism and worldly wonder of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    Michael Gira, for creating absolutely naked human music with a genuine, terrifying religious fervour that helped me see my way out of Christianity. Listen to the whole of Children of God by Swans if you can.

  9. I have a lot of saints, dead and alive. My saints are people who give me a handle on the world: how to look at it, how to hang to it, how to dance with it. These “handles” are not necessarily what is known about them, only what I found through them. Here are a few dead ones:

    Saint Pablo Picasso: Look. Look again.
    Saint Sigmund Freud: You are made of memories.
    Saint Marcel Duchamp: Art is in your mind.
    Saint Marshall McLuhan: We are the machine.

  10. It’s too bad that you think religion is ‘bad’. Why look at the furthest thing from what you were raised as? Bad experiences from some bad people should not distort what Catholicism is really about. I’ll pray for you. Yes, even you. You wouldn’t scoff if I was a wiccan offering you “good thoughts”, so accept this as well.

    Catholic and loving it.

  11. ♥ Siddartha Gautama, who said that anyone can become enlightened in a single lifetime.
    ♥ Padmasambhava, who brought tantra to Tibet.
    ♥ Francis of Assissi, who exponentially expanded our idea of humanity.
    ♥ The Baal Shem Tov who saw goodness in everything.
    ♥ Abigail Adams, whose liberal ideas fill the US Constitution, although her name never appears.
    ♥ Jane Austen for making people laugh at themselves without rancor.
    ♥ Norton I, who infected San Francisco with a divine madness that can never be cured.
    ♥ Margaret Chase Smith, the first Senator to publicly speak out against Joe McCarthy.
    ♥ Sam Gamgee for true-heartedness.
    ♥ Reepicheep for courage.
    ♥ The drag queens at Stonewall, Rosa Parks and every other squeaky wheel who fomented social change.

  12. Lao Tzu – the probably at least partially fictional writer of the Tao Te Jing

    Bill Waterson – creator of Calvin & Hobbes

    Nikolai Tesla – coolest scientist ever. the man played with lighting as though it was a kid’s toy.

    Oscar Wilde – amongst other things, said: “Life is too important to be taken seriously”

    Jim Henson – created life.

  13. Troofseeker, I’m with you! Right NOW I’m watching Moonstruck. A pitch-perfect role. No Oscar was more deserved.

  14. Yeah of course I have a running list of saints. :)

    Bruce Lee
    Ursula K. LeGuin
    Haruki Murakami
    Wong Kar-wai

    All of them really understand the power of myth and emotion, and have worked hard at creating powerful new sensibilities or ways of looking at the world.

  15. Ooooooh, mine’s Saint Doctor Suess.
    I’d look thru my 5-year-old eyes at his goofy contraptions and think “That’s rediculous! It needs bracing here and support wheels here and there…”
    I grew up to be a mechanical designer.
    I knew he loved kids, tho, ’cause he’d go to great lengths to tell his silly poetic stories. I think I lost any change of developing any prejudice after reading Sneeches.
    Theodore Geisel was a saint.

  16. mmmmmm, grumblegrumble,errrr,hummphhfff….

    OK, “saint” should be something remarkable. “admirable person” is part of it, but shouldn’t “saint” carry a little more?

    How about: “saint” is someone you might trade your life for to keep him/her in the game for the benefit of all, but who would never let you do it if they knew?

  17. Henry Thoreau

    Think for yourself. Decide what’s right by what you observe and your experience, not what others say.

  18. This is great. So glad to see people engaging in their mythologies.
    My list would have to include Alan Watts right at the top.
    Also Nikola Tesla and Bruce Lee.

    If you guys are interested in exploring more of this kind of thing, I recommend (in private beta).
    Invite here:

  19. philip k dick/ joseph campbell/ h.r. giger/ roger dean/ vincent/ rapheal/duchamp/dali/ jung/ lennon/ raw/ hunter s. thompson/ george martin/ sun tzu/ tesla/ tony alva

  20. I love BoingBoing folks. And these are all great saints. But it is worth noting, just for reflection, that I could get to comment 25 still counting the number of females in the thread on one hand. This is comment 37 or so, and they are still countable on two hands. I’m afraid the non-white numbers are very small as well.

    It’s like someone asked about good frequencies of electromagnetic waves, and all we got was roygbiv. There is so much more out there, and this thread seems to be representing a very particular slice of it.

    Just want to make note of this, and encourage everyone to consider branching out and learning about more saints that are not the same color and gender as you.

  21. Franz Klammer, My Brother, Miles Davis, My Uncle, Andrew Wyeth, My Grandfather, John the Painter in Maine, My Grandmother, Steve Earle, Tom Waits, Picasso, Margaret Atwood, E.L. Doctorow, James Joyce, John Scofield, John McLaughlin

  22. I’m 19 so I think the people who fit this for me are such for less developed reasons, however the people who have given me something that has made me want to change the way I live my life or perceive the world around me are-

    Douglas Adams – his written work never fails to help me see just how flimsy so much of our society is, in the huge amount of things we do without really knowing why – and to that effect remind me how free I am to be, fulfill and go beyond my own potential. That and never failing to make me smile. (I think the author is called Randall Munroe but not entirely sure). This site has had a very profound effect on me and has helped me define how I view aspects of life and relationships. I also find the artwork stunning for it’s simplistic beauty and ability to put across its message or idea, with little more than a pen and paper. I can identify with and appreciate it for what it is, rather than what I make it to be.

    Max Erhmann, for Desiderata. Rarely do I find a situation where some part of it is not relevant and helpful in strengthening my resolve and faith in myself, and more importantly in my friends who get lost just as often as I do.


  23. I don’t believe in Saints but I’ll give it a go

    Jiddu Krishnamurti – “The Awakening of Intelligence”

    Walter Kaufman – “The Faith of a Heretic”

    Slavoj Žižek – “The Perverts Guide to the Cinema”

    John Fahey – 10% of those who should know him have already heard of him

    Ursula K. Le Guin – “The Lathe of Heaven”

    Andrew Wyeth – The Helga series

    David Lynch – “Blue Velvet”

    Wally Lamb – “She’s Come Undone”

    Wallace Stevens – “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”

    Shakespeare – Everything

    Barak Obama – Yes, I know. I don’t give a damn what you think.

    Steve Reich – Music for 18 Musicians

    J.S. Bach – Little known fact, Bach is in fact God.

  24. What’s amazing is how many people on these lists I see and go: Oh, god YES! Most everyone listed in the conversation is definitely a hero of mine.

    And I think Takuan is right. For me, your “saints” have to be BIG. I mean, for me, William Blake — when I see his work, or his words, or think about him, I get a kind of emotional reaction that borders on worship, love. And if you took away his influence from me, I’d be a very different person. Same with Bateson, same with Wilson. Bucky not as much. Jean Cocteau almost made my list, but that’s largely due to a situational circumstance I won’t go into, but he’s had a huge impact because of it.

  25. Bach?,….yeah, don’t know his bio inside out (was he a prick?) but his music makes clear he touched something BIG.

  26. I’m a Catholic who has yet to get better, so many of my saints are Catholic, but please don’t take this as a hit on you:

    1. JRR Tolkien. I’m pretty sure he serves as my moral foundation on most important questions, like friendship, loyalty, perseverance and confronting evil wherever you find it.

    2. Aeschylus & Homer. Revealed most of the illusions most of the world believes about the foundations of politics, religion, violence, and family.

    3. Dante. Revealed the true foundations (or at least the most sensible ones found so far).

    4. GK Chesterton. The antidote to all the errors of the modern age (not that it’s all errors by any means). Destroyed every one of Dawkins’, Harris’, Myers’ and Hitchens’ (why do their names all end in ‘s’?) arguments before they were even born. And most people don’t even know who he is, and even fewer have read anything he wrote.

    5. Gene Wolfe. Never understood why the man gets no respect.

  27. For folks like Mr. Branwyn, who can’t think of any saint-worthy females even when they rack their brain, and want to rectify that shortcoming in their knowledge, here is a very short list of some possible leads for looking up and diversifying your saints:

    Hildegard Von Bingen
    Emmy Noether
    Harriet Tubman
    Rosa Luxembourg
    Mother Jones
    Emma Goldman
    bell hooks
    Nina Simone
    Phoolan Devi
    Aung San Suu Kyi

    And for folks lacking in non-white saints, some good options:

    A. Phillip Randolph
    Paul Robeson
    Frederick Douglas
    Cornel West
    Oscar Romero
    Frantz Fanon
    Caesar Chavez

    other folks with knowledge about female/nonwhite saints, please chime in!

  28. BrooklynTwang

    ..consider branching out and learning about more saints that are not the same color and gender as you.

    I dare say you don’t know the colour or gender of most of the commenters here. Whether your assumptions are right or not.. stilll assumptions.

    I back your point though, more variety:

    Beth Gibbons

    Nina Simone

    Aretha Franklin

    Lynn Collins

    Billy Holiday

    Rosalind Franklin

    Ada Lovelace

  29. I am named for two patron saints (first and middle names), but by preference I’d choose St. Francis. His statues always have woodland animals in them.

  30. Probably my first saint was Ray Bradbury (who I’m surprised hasn’t been mentioned already).

    C.S. Lewis.
    Chaim Potok.
    Oscar Wilde.
    William Wordsworth.
    Ayn Rand.

    Maybe also Anne Lamott, James Joyce, Frank Herbert, Fitzgerald, Kipling, Graham Greene, Maugham, Wilder, Chesterton, Milton.

    There’s a lot of painters and composers out there (Blake among them) who evoke strong emotions of love and admiration from me, but I can’t say they’ve substantially shaped my thought processes or that they fit Tak’s criteria at 37.

  31. For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.
    – Virginia Woolf

    One of my favourite quotes. Really made me consider it when I first heard it.

    Therefore, I vote for both St. Virginia and St. Anonymous.

  32. @52

    I dare say you don’t know the colour or gender of most of the commenters here. Whether your assumptions are right or not.. stilll assumptions.

    True. And as they say, when you assume you make an “As” out of “Sum” and “E”.

    Nonetheless, the odds looked good enough to play, so I took the bet, and figure it is still good advice for anyone of any gender or skin color – It is worth the effort to take in more knowledge about people outside your own demographic.

    Advice I need as much as anyone else, but seemed like it should be said.

  33. Ursula K. LeGuin and Haruki Murakami.

    I got a personal letter from LeGuin once, after writing some academic work about her fiction. I had met her at a signing, and when I told her about my project, she asked to see it. I sent it to her, and she sent a note back to me about it telling me to keep up the good work. I’d try to save it, if there were a fire. It’s amazing how one small act like that can encourage someone.

    Murakami’s the only writer to ever reduce me to tears.

    What both these people have in common — beyond their prose talent — is the courage to do things their own way, the faith in themselves that they can make it work, and the work ethic to back it up.

    Re: Takuan’s definition, I just think of those people as “friends.”

  34. “saintly” behaviour is de facto “normal”, expected female behaviour – therefore the difficulty in the facile naming of female “saints”.

    This is a very good thing.

    This is a very bad thing.

  35. Although I’m not comfortable with the concept of “saints”, there are several individuals who’s influence on my life has been profound.

    Joseph Campbell – His insight into mythology & religion took my personal struggles with belief & helped re-shape and re-define my life journey & taught me that we can appreciate myth/religion and not be shackled & controlled by literalism.
    Favorite Quote: “Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.”

    George Carlin – Entertaining, funny & always dead-on with his observations (regardless of whether it was politically correct or popular). His insights into American society taught me to think for myself, always stay informed & never trust the government.
    Favorite Quote: “Those who dance are considered insane by those who can’t hear the music.”

    Edgar Allan Poe – Perhaps the greatest writer ever. His work instilled in me the love of words.
    Favorite Quote: “I would define, in brief, the Poetry of words as the Rhythmical Creation of Beauty. Its sole arbiter is Taste.”

  36. I don’t know how many of these folks on my list would qualify for sainthood in the traditional sense…most are musicians, some are scientists.

    * Tom Verlaine
    * Neil Young
    * Richard Thompson
    * Alexander Grothendieck
    * Rudy Rucker
    * Captain Beefheart ( Don Van Vliet )
    * the Dali Lama
    * Stephen Hawking
    * Patti Smith
    * Maya Deren
    * Audrey Hepburn
    * Yogananda
    * John Lennon
    * Richard Feynman
    * Elisabeth Taylor
    * Johnny Depp

    the list could go on…..

  37. I can’t believe someone here is criticizing other peoples saints.

    That puts them last on my list.

  38. John Coltrane
    Jerry Garcia
    Frank Zappa
    David Foster Wallace
    Robert Anton Wilson
    Kurt Vonnegut
    Mark Rothko
    Akira Kurosawa
    Buckminster Fuller

  39. This is really awesome, folks. I’m loving this!

    @ brooklyntwang
    Point taken. I’m not particularly proud of the fact that the only people on my list are white men. I certainly had a list of women I could have put on there to avoid being called out on it (many of the women you and others have listed), but they’re just not on the same level of influence for me. Maybe it’s because, I see these saints as symbolic in a Blakean way, almost as aspects of my own psyche, and I am a white male. The only woman I thought I might legitimately put on my list is Catherine Blake, William’s wife. She’s a tragic example of men writing history. She was very much a partner in realizing Blake’s work, she did the coloring on many of his illuminated printing projects, helped with the printing, etc. In many ways, Blake’s art was a collaborative effort. But I don’t know, nobody knows, how much she was a co-creator of his work, his ideas, and how much she was an assistant. And, sadly, we’ll never know.

  40. I would have to suggest adding Mary Parker Follett, one of those women who is behind so much that others got credit for. She definitely deserves to be considered a ‘modern saint’ on this list.

    And, interestingly two of those, William Blake and Aleister Crowley, are actual Gnostic Saints:

    There’s a few additional suggestions on that list; but, interestingly, there’s intentionally no names from females there either.

  41. Patti Smith!

    Okay, I found a woman whose impact on me is unabashedly deep and profound. Thank you, Cupcake Faerie!

    And I’m loving everybody’s list. These are all extraordinary human beans that are influencing Boing Boing readers!

    John Lennon easily could have gone on my list. And George Carlin.

  42. Ralph Waldo Emerson
    Bruce Lee
    Jonas Salk
    JS Bach
    Ian Fleming
    Malcolm Sayer
    1 general ed. tutor
    1 math teacher
    1 doctor
    Gordon Ramsay
    Steve Jobs
    Ian Callum
    Michael Hedges

    there are more; can’t think of them now.

  43. Ian MacKaye
    Ranier Maria Rilke
    Robert Pirsig
    Walt Whitman
    Bob Dylan
    Soren Kierkegaard
    Marcus Aurelius

  44. A bit of a Fritz Leiber, “Our Lady of Darkness” *Semi-Spoiler* here, but it seems appropriate to the topic.

    At a critical juncture in the novel, the heroine destroys a malignant mystical force with the following:

    “In the names of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, the names of Pythagoras, Newton, and Einstein, by Bertrand Russell, William James, and Eustace Hayden, begone! All inharmonious and disorderly shapes and forces, depart at once!”

    It works for me.

  45. Yes, this is a great idea and not something I had really ever thought of before.

    Nelson Mandela- I’ve spent a lot of time in townships. The influence he had for good on the people of South Africa–not just in their political situation but in their approach to life’s difficulties–is unlike anything else.

    Chaim Potok

    Marc Chagall

    Hugh Nibley

    Thomas Jefferson

    My wife

    My mom

    Neville Longbottom

  46. Certainly Fuller.

    And certainly Bruce Lee. The JKD approach to things has made more of an impact on my life than anything else.

    Ray & Charles Eames. Do they count as two or one?


    Big Daddy Roth deserves some sort of Sainthood IMHO too. Patron Saint of the Makers?

    And while I can’t listen to Otis Redding without getting all choked up, and love him dearly, I’ve got to say that one could do worse than to be inspired by Woody Guthrie.

    Great post Gareth!

  47. My major pantheon is made up of…

    Cincinatus: They offered him ultimate power and he told them to shove it, then went back to his farm.

    Joan D’Arc: An uneducated peasant girl who convinced the high and mighty to hand over the army, kicked ass on the battlefield, baffled everyone at her show trial with her eloquence, and refused to back down even when they burnt her at the stake. Damn!

    Martin Luther: Called it as he saw it about corruption and hypocrisy in the most powerful organisation of his time, even though they could crush him like a bug.

    Emperor Norton I: Broke, down and out, and a complete nobody, so he decided to be an Emperor – and made it work!

    Mike Moore: The stunts he’s pulled to remind people of their democratic rights are inspiring (see disclaimer below).

    Disclaimer: Cincinatus might not have existed. Joan D’Arc was a probably insane religious nutcase. Martin Luther was a vicious anti-semite. Emperor Norton – well I actually can’t say anything against him, he’s great. Mike Moore has been caught out lying and cheating so many times he’s a living joke. I admire these peoples’ positive qualities and actions while openly acknowledging their massive and obvious failings.

    About half the other people listed here so far make up my secondary (I hesitate to say ‘minor’) pantheon.

  48. Saints:

    Charles Darwin
    Jeff Kripal
    George Lakoff
    Marshall McLuhan

  49. Dr. Seuss was another candidate of mine.

    Wow, yeah, the Eames! We’ll count them as a two-headed deity.

    Guy Debord was also a huge influence.

  50. Orwell
    Herman Hesse
    Peter Gabriel
    David Bowie
    David Byrne

    @ brooklyntwang: really very annoying and PC and blah. Still, reminded me to add Paula Cole solely for her perfomance in ‘Don’t Give Up’.

  51. In random order, because hierarchies of inspiration are asking to not have any:

    Tamara de Lempicka


    Jorge Luis Borges

    Báthory Erzsébet

    Gráinne Ní Mháille

    Carl Jung

    Nikola Tesla




    Claire Denis

    Niels Bohr


    Edward Gorey

    Margaret Sanger

    I’m very pleased that a lot of folks on my list make others’ as well. It’s annoying how poorly women get represented in lists like these, but Virginia Woolf got it. Anonymous indeed.

  52. I’m lucky to have personally known most of my saints. The top of the list are my grandparents, both sets had some pretty severe difficulty in child-rearing but also stayed true to their spouses, each marriage was more than 50 years and they actually lived up to the whole “til death do us part” promise. I include my parents as well, as they have gone through pretty much the same things, and already have 26 years on thir marriage. Also included are a whole lot of my school teachers, who do or did a thankless job for not even close to its true worth in compensation. One of them was Britain’s first black headmaster of a secondary school, and I got to be his student when he could have been well into retirement. Others are my bosses, who work very hard to make sure our orginazation keeps up the good work. This’ll make sense in a minute.

    Now on to those I haven’t met, (yet!)

    Saint Paul, also known as Saul to his people.

    Agnesë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu, aka Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She has been my hero since I was about 4, and the organization I work for does a pale, tame version of what she did.

    Jeremy Storms, Rachel Joy Scott, and Cassie Bernal. These three faced death at the hand of another when they should have just been figuring out to live, yet kept their faith.

    Anne Rice. Of all of her stories, I like hers the best.

    Fred Rogers. It would be a great honor to be his neighbor.

    An honorable mention to the Roddenberry family, as their wagon train has encouraged a lot of different areas of progress.

    That’ll do for now, though.

  53. @ #65, #77:

    That was the first name to come to my mind. Joseph Campbell might be solidly seated in academia, but he was a man with an “abiding intuition” (in the words of Phillip K. Dick) that every instance of human spirituality reflected the genuinely divine and transcendental, and devoted a lifetime to proving it. I believe he accomplished that as well as one can without resorting the to the ineffable and nonsensical, which are the tools of only the greatest of gurus.

  54. Benjamin Franklin
    Henry Thoreau
    Joseph Campbell
    Seneca (the elder, if I remember correctly)
    Marcus Aurelius
    Alan Turing
    Kurt Godel
    Chuck Palahniuk

    Each of these men has opened my eyes and had a profound influence on how I think and view the world around me. I am not bothered by the fact that all of my saints are men (and are part of western culture). I have been inspired by their words and ideas more than their lives and actions.

  55. Harry Smith
    Nikola Tesla
    Madam Blavatsky
    Lev Sergeyevich Termen
    Sun Ra
    Brion Gysin
    William S. Burroughs
    Jimi Hendrix
    John Balance
    Bryn Jones

    my grandparents

  56. Many names came to mind that are on others’ lists-

    Jim Henson
    Frank Zappa
    Douglas Adams
    William Burroughs
    Woody Guthrie
    Fred Rogers

    One came to mind that I was surprised no one had already mentioned-

    Jack Kirby

    And three that I wouldn’t expect to see on others’ lists, but who I’ve been lucky enough to actually meet and talk to many times-

    Stan Sakai
    Sergio Aragones
    Mike Watt

    One more who wouldn’t at all want to be on this list, but maybe just for his cussedness-

    Steve Ditko

    Hell, Stan Lee, too. Why not?

  57. While we were at the Exploratorium last year we lost our 1.5yr old kid for a panic-filled few minutes…then we suddenly found him in the (locked) toddlers play area with this huge statue of a decrepit angel looming overhead. A very emotionally conflicted moment obviously, but the picture reflects how the angel appeared as a sort of saint or savior, or icon of fortune when we found our son. We just stayed there for a while and I took some pics of it.

  58. Charles Williams is my personal favorite:

    Though tragically flawed in his human relationships, even in his flaws he showed deep devotion and love. T. S. Eliot said that if he had to go into a haunted house, he would want CW by his side. Only he could tell you more about the spiritual life in a 200-page “light reading” novel than the masters could in tomes of commentary.

  59. Good list going so far! Most of my “saints” are non-celebrities who I know personally. And along with #48, many are actual saints (mostly the apostles, especially Peter, since I can identify with his failures). But if we’re going by categories…

    Literature: Douglas Adams, Robert Heinlein, Spider Robinson, Toni Morrison, J.R.R Tolkien, C.S. Lewis (his non-fiction, at least), Mark Twain.

    Science/Engineering: Nikola Tesla, James Watt, Benjamin Franklin, Fred Offenhauser, Colin Chapman, Ryan Cochran.

    Spirituality: Of course Jesus Christ; also, Martin Luther, Mark Driscoll, Brother Yun, Mother Teresa, Adoniram Judson, King David.

    Music: J.S. Bach, CAKE, Andres Segovia, Muddy Waters, Paul Pena.

    General Badassitude: Jesse Owens, Jack Churchill, Chuck Yeager, Ernest Shackleton, Edmund Hillary, Les Stroud, Corrie Tenbaum, Frederick Douglass.

    I should also add that the staff at boingboing (and many of the commenters as well) have expanded my political and philosophical horizons in countless ways.

  60. Great men, pioneers, thinkers, leaders, poets and martyrs.
    But the Saints, in most of these lives, have been the quiet women who stood beside and behind them. The true saints don’t make much noise.

  61. No more heroes (any more)!

    Newton-Leibniz for giving us the tools. Einstein for starting the revolution, Schrodinger for explaining it, Godel for blowing it apart and Popper for analysing how it happened. There’s still a lot to do for society to integrate the transition from the Victorian Clockwork Universe to the 20th century Quantum Random Universe. It seems like most of the west doesn’t even understand the scientific method and that’s 4 centuries old now.

    Did nobody mention Turing or Von Neuman? Come ON, people.

    Oh, and Andy Warhol.

    And a special mention for Russel and Whitehead for being noble failures. And Michelson-Morley for incredible scientific technique.

    Really, really tempted to drop Bill Drummond and the KLF into the mix.

  62. Indeed. True saints have a tendency for letting others speak for them. Jesus? Buddha? Lao Tzu? Socrates?

    and @#106:
    What? CAKE is one of your saints? I’m not trying to be a troll, but shouldn’t we be careful with who we assign this title? E.G., not CAKE?

  63. My Lamas, Michael and Christie (sorry, religious nut, deal with it)
    My wife, Andrea
    My yoga teacher, Lisa Schrempp
    Trevor McKinney
    The Long Room at Trinity College (trust me, it’s got its own elemental)
    Sally Ride
    St. John of the Cross
    The step sweeper at Pop’s Picnic Spot in Palampur, India
    The folks who make it happen at the B-line Diner in Tucson
    My parents
    KT Tunstall
    Christine Walsh
    Thich Nhat Hanh
    Muhammad Yunus
    Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Good question.

  64. Saint Harriet Tubman; Certainly one of the coolest and greatest women of all time.

    Saint George Carlin

    Saint Thomas Paine

  65. Karl Marx – with brilliance, scholarship, wit and venom showed how we can get from here to William Blake’s, William Morris and even Bucky’s goals – a life worth living.

    Andre Br̩ton Рwho defined the surrealist movement and inspired many of the greatest artists of the 20th century to do their best work. What other poet could give a talk (Haiti 1946) which instigated a revolution and an overthrow of a dictator?

  66. @79



    This is a great one. I’m into a temple with pretty much all the folks mentioned here. (Still :shudders: every time he goes near the Ayn Rand idol though..).

    Just a few names from the top of my head:

    St. Crazy Horse
    St. Fred Hampton
    St. Albert Hoffman
    St. Carmelita Hinton (a communist and a feminist who just happened to found an awesome high school; Putney, VT what up!?)
    St. Alex Shulgin
    St. GNU/Stallman

    and could it be that even on bb she hasn’t yet been mentioned

    St. Jude


  67. Aw. St. Jude! You just made me cry a little bit, there, Ab5tract. I miss Ms. Milhon. Definitely a hacker saint.

  68. Albert Hoffman and Sasha Shulgin surely belong there, and Terrence and Dennis McKenna for showing us places our minds can take us.

    Jerry Garcia didn’t like being treated as a non-regular-person, so he gets extra slack and gets left off the list, but Kesey probably wouldn’t mind too much if that’s how you cast him in your own movie. And Alan Ginsburg and Coltrane and Joan Baez. Dylan’s really more of a prophet than a saint.

    And our own St. Jude, of course.

    I only saw one mention of Einstein, even though our culture already treats him pretty much as a saint. And Darwin gets joined by Mendel and Steven Jay Gould and probably Audubon and Rachel Carson.

  69. Kind of hate to add another Euro-tinged male, but nobody’s mentioned Ram Das? Come on, you know Be Here Now changed your life too.

    All right folks! We’ve got a pantheon! Time to start a religion and stop paying taxes! I mean start saving souls!

    Also Malaclypse the Younger.

  70. Friedrich Nietzsche
    Nobody rocks as hard as this guy. He’s pretty much a balls-out philosophical ass-hander. But for serious, he goes right to the limit, the frontiers of human life, doesn’t muck around in trivialities. Then he tells you you have to go further, redefine the limits. Just read “Beyond Good and Evil.”

    And I second Karl Marx. Do-gooders are a dime a dozen in this world, but they’re all so tragically piecemeal. Thoreau: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” And that totally applies to those on this list. Yea, the USSR didn’t turn out so hot, but that’s what happens when you try to do great things, and I applaud him, but not Lenin, for making the effort.

  71. “Oh, when the saints go marching in”
    Lord, I want to be in that number.
    When the saints go marching in”
    (by yet another famous anonymous)
    This is easily the most exciting post I have ever read on BoingBoing!
    I LOVE it!
    What surprised me is Gareth Branwyn’s initial post with its shy diffident tone. It’s as if he feels he’s pushing up against some unspoken taboo.
    Could this be the post-post-modern perspective peaking its head up from amongst the deadly flatland where everyone has the “right” to be their own self-appointed expert??
    Uh oh!
    Now I surely can expect some brickbats (smile)
    Saints, inspiring people, leaders, teachers, name them how you will. These are the ones who have always been willing to push the envelope, be the tall poppy, stick their head above the parapet.
    It is the willingness to stand up for what we know, the willingness to lead when necessary, and the willingness to be humble in the face of what we don’t know. This kind of internship in sainthood can be practiced by anyone of us.
    So, say it loud, and say it proud, Gareth!
    Saints are way cool!
    Look at all of history and you’ll find that it has been shaped and moulded and brought to ever greater living form only by those willing to step up to the plate in uncertain times.
    Despite my total agreement with so many saints already mentioned here, I’m going to mention some saints, (or at least great teachers) of my own. But I’m only going to mention ones I’ve personally met because dead saints “can’t kick butt”! And sometimes we do indeed need our butts kicked!
    My living saints are:
    The Dalai Lama
    Don Beck
    Thich Nhat Hanh
    and last but absolutely not least:
    Andrew Cohen, editor of EnlightenNext magazine

  72. David Macauly,

    Steven Brust,

    Richard Trexler,

    Isabella Stewart Gardner,

    Leonard Cohen,

    Many many many of the above,

    OH, and Madonna. And I’m not afraid to say it.

  73. Most of my heroes have been named, but still:

    Ursula K. LeGuin and Lao Tzu:
    Together they have introduced me into the world of Taoism, and I will be forever grateful for that. Le Guin’s translation of the Tao Te King is the best ever. And I’ve tried several.

    Robert A. Wilson:
    Old Bob really could explain the world. I have made his concept of Maybe Logic an important part of my world view.

    Alan Watts:
    Don’t just read him, listen to him. He was simply amazing.

    Carl Sagan:
    Robert A. Wilson and Sagan together on one list? Yes, because they both have had an influence on me, and I think they were not as far apart as one might assume.

    Joss Whedon:
    who proves that even in the dumb world of televison, thinking minds do have a chance (even if only occasionally and for a limited amount of time)

  74. Maria Callas
    Charles Gounod
    Fidel Castro
    Lewis Carroll
    Richard Wagner
    Larry Graham
    Annette Hanshaw
    Jack the Ripper

  75. Someone mentioned Mark Rothko, I highly recommend everyone find a Rothko and be surprised. I never understood or appreciated his work until rounding a corner and coming face to face with the man’s vision, it was literally stunning.

    Dali, was somewhat of a prick and definitely a genius, and a visit to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL is a must, and cheaper than flying to Spain. Wait until the new museum opens some time in the near future.

    Have no fear Takuan, from what I’ve read Bach was not a prick and he is a Saint. In fact Bach is the progenitor of all modern music. The Well-Tempered Clavier, Books 1 & 2 solidified the foundation of Western music.

    Beethoven, who built on and expanded the work of Bach, could be sainted for so many pieces, the sonatas would have been enough for an ordinary man, but the Ninth put him on the right hand of the gods. Also, please give the Coriolan Overture a listen if you’ve not yet done so.

    Mozart, was the first rock star, who was as radical as any of our modern luminaries. He shock up music like Bill Haley and the Comets or Elvis would almost two hundred years later.

    Stravinsky, for the Rite of Spring. Music will never be the same after the Rite of Spring and neither will anyone who listens. If Bach laid the foundation, and Haydn and Beethoven built the house, Stravinsky tore it out to the frames and did a remodel.

    Miles Davis, the story I heard of Miles Davis, has him at a White House dinner, someone asked him what he did, he replied, “Well, I changed music 4 or 5 times.”

  76. C’mon ppl, where’s the love for Banting?


    Banting et al
    Theodore Sturgeon
    Oscar Wilde
    Ron Gilbert

    I’m thirtysomething grrlgeek, lotsoluv 4 the old masters (asimov, heinlein, clarke, vonnegut) and just now discovering the brilliance of Twain. Obviously a gamer, adventure/puzzle/rpg (in that order)

  77. Stephen LaBerge (lucid dreaming)
    John C. Lilly (legendary pioneer of consciousness research)
    Kim Stanley Robinson (for the most inspiring sf novels ever)
    George Carlin (need you ask?)

  78. While we’re on the subject, I’d like to add Del, my late mentor and Mr Weston, my secondary school science teacher, also deceased. Peace be upon them.

    As well as Galileo, Copernicus and Kepler who are largely responsible for us seeing the world in the way that it really is, and in the former case, being the father of modern physics.

  79. I always thought Patti Smith should be worshiped as a goddess, not a saint, but I’m not Catholic, so maybe it’s the same thing.

  80. A few folks have mentioned Laozi (Lao Tzu), but for pearls of Daoist wisdom, I find Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu) much better. The former is good for cryptic, high-falutin’ philosophizing, but the latter has much more handy advice (e.g., “the most useful tree in the forest is the one that is cut down first”).

    Plus, the Zhuangzi has far more laugh-out-loud lines than the Daodejing.

  81. many saints were misunderstood by many in their own time. may i submit yoko ono to the female pantheon?

  82. My friends and I used to make lists like this in junior high. I’m very happy to see this post because the only other place I’ve seen it expressed quite this way is in the movie Heavenly Creatures, which is a very good film and one you’re not really happy about having a lot in common with.

    I can’t do the list anymore because most of it is my friend Marie. She isn’t perfect by any means, but people shouldn’t be perfect. She’s self-confident but introspective, and taught me by example how to handle criticism and even insults with grace. She saw me as something beautiful even during the worst teen moments when I was afraid to even try to draw the lines around who I was for fear that it would be something too pathetic for words.

  83. Living:
    Stephen King
    Terry Pratchett
    Alan Moore
    k.d. lang
    Bruce Springsteen
    David Bowie
    Richard Thompson

    Beyond living:
    Jack Kirby
    Dori Seda
    John Lennon
    Elvis Presley
    Jeff Buckley

  84. I wrote a long list and edited it down to only those whose works or lives have given me pure movements of life changing transcendence:

    Jean Genet
    Patti Smith
    Emma Goldman
    Gilles Deleuze
    Walt Whitman
    Jean Arthur Rimbaud
    Fred Halsted + Joey Yale (as a couple)
    Jorge Luis Borges
    Friedrich Nietzsche
    Virginia Woolfe

  85. I want to thank each of you for not canonizing Christopher Colombus. If I may paraphrase his letter to King Furd, “…These people have been very friendly and helpful. They’re bright, very good farmers, and we shall have little trouble enslaving them to mine their gold for Your Majesties.” Dick. I wanna make Columbus Day Sitting Bull Day.
    But some of America’s forefathers deserve to be here: George Washington didn’t want to be a soldier or a leader; he just wanted a simple life as a gentleman farmer.
    Abe Lincoln. A bootstrap story. He dealt with a lot of crap, did what he knew to be right, and died a martyr as his reward.
    Ben Franklin, the controversial Tom Jefferson, Edison, Eli Whitney, G. W. Carver, Walt Disney. I’m not gonna add Henry Ford because he was a jerk.
    America has had lots of dedicated “saints”.

  86. Can we please, as a society, stop using the words “daemon” and “magick” and accept the dropping of the a and the k respectively? It’s the 21st century.

  87. #109: Yes, CAKE! If we’re talking inspirational people, that is. They’re not particularly revolutionary, but they seem to almost always get it right in my mind. If you’re looking for a different band that has changed the way that indie music is produced and distributed, I would look to Dispatch.

    A couple more I would add:
    Music: Ralph Stanley and Earl Scruggs
    Science: Leonardo da Vinci

  88. @139 redelephantlabel

    “Magick” is actually a fairly specific technical usage in Crowley. While it’s twee, followers of Thelema use it for a reason.

  89. Marie Curie:
    For discovering amazing things, winning 2 Nobels in different fields, bringing her husband along for the ride, and dying from dedication to her work.

    Charles Darwin:
    For being methodical, seeing patterns, and waiting to have overwhelming certainty before publishing.

    For choosing peace over violence because it was a more practical method, though also more difficult and terrifying to believe in.

    Mark Twain:
    For his many great stories, for supporting the Emperor, and for one of the best post-death practical jokes ever.

    Martin Luther King Jr.:
    For being a great man, if a lousy husband. For inspiring millions, and for fearlessly pursuing his dream.

    In short, for bringing in new gods and corrupting the minds of the young. Specifically, for giving us new ways to think about ethics, government, love, and thinking. For being the gadfly of the state, and for choosing death to escape for all the right reasons.

    Henry David Thoreau:
    For striking out in a new direction, and for dying for his beliefs when he could have lived by denying them.

  90. #138: Columbus Day is also celebrated as Lief Ericson Day, but I’m good with Sitting Bull as well.

    George Washington was also kind of a dick (owned slaves), and you could make a case against Lincoln (suspended habeus corpus, etc.), but I also think they were great men and good examples of leadership.

    I’ll second G. W. Carver, but I have to contend with Edison (kind of a dick and not a very good scientist, just a good businessman).

  91. “Saints”–

    Something I’d never really though of. It’s easy to mention personal heroes: artists, musicians, writers, scientists and thinkers you admire, but I get the idea that to be a “saint” they have to stand for something or have experienced some great revelation like a religious saint.

    Zappa– his work ethic, right up to the painful end, was always admirable. They say “one does not possess genius, rather it possesses you”, and considering how much time Zappa put into his music we could argue he fit the bill. Plus he is the patron saint of sarcasm.

    Eno– few other musicians of the last 100 years have made me rethink how we listen to music.

    R.Crumb– Raw talent, vision, uncompromising honesty, overcoming psychological problems. Also patron saint of big butts.

    Charles Ives– toiled away in obscurity (working in insurance in Connecticut of all places), while composing classical music as avant garde as Stravinsky or Schoenberg.

    Charles Darwin– understanding evolution is like touching the hem of god’s robe, it’s like getting a tiny peak into how big infinity is, and how connected everything ultimately is. Some people still cant deal with that, and would rather believe in fairy tales.

    Vonnegut. Funny, insightful, human, never hateful.

    Mel Brooks. Laugh at the Nazis, laugh at them. Trust me, you’ll feel better and they’ll feel bad.

    Marcel Duchamp. Made me realize : it IS art if you look at it that way.

    There’s a lot of musicians I could cite, a lot of the same ones already mentioned here, but I’m not sure how to define them as “saints.” Certainly Beefheart/Vliet was important to to me for a long time, and I could describe him as a saint no problem, but Harry Partch, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Christian Vander, Fred Frith. . . I’m not sure I can call them saints. I know John Coltrane has an actual church, but

  92. also on this list:

    giordano bruno
    eleanor roosevelt
    nelson mandela
    queen elizabeth
    cloris leachman

  93. Buddha, Abner Kneeland, my grandfather, Lao Tzu, Jalāl ad-Dīn Rumi, Miyamoto Mushashi, Thomas Jefferson, Cato the (utterly ruthless) Censor, Ursula Kroeber LeGuin, my mother, the stoic emperor Marcus Aurelius, my children, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Joseph Priestley, Sigfried Sassoon, Boudicca.

    I’t a difficult exercise, because I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together… I might say something different tomorrow. Thanks for the whack on the side of the head, Gareth!

  94. Neil Gaiman

    Nagi Noda

    Grace Jones

    Walt Disney

    Albert Einstein

    Winston Churchill

    Yuri Norshteyn


    These people all greatly inspire me on a daily basis.

  95. @ill lich
    I could just adopted your list whole cloth. I love your explanations, too.

    Re: Christian Vander
    Oh, hell yeah. That’s a name you don’t see every day. Or Fred Frith.

    Re: Eno
    He too changed my entire musical/sound aesthetic. Anyone who can rewire one of your senses, that’s pretty fundamental stuff.

  96. It is Discordian tradition to never agree about saints.

    I always thought that newly-minted Ph.Ds ought to take the name of a saint of the field, rather like someone taking Holy Orders. (One thinks of A Canticle for Leibowitz, at least if one is me.) As someone working on a Ph.D, I’m still trying to pick mine. It’s in biomedical engineering, specifically cardiac electrophysiology. This means I’ve got most of biology and physics to choose from. St. Maxwell is a classic option, as is St. Darwin. St. Einthoven would be a little more specific. These are less personal heros (though I should hope to someday attain half their genius) and more giants on whose shoulders I stand.

    I might actually do this. It makes at least as much sense as changing my name when I get married.

  97. In no particular order, and by no means comprehensive:

    Henry David Thoreau
    Edward Abbey
    Emily Dickinson
    Joseph Smith
    Thomas Jefferson
    Meriwether Lewis
    Charles Dickens
    Benjamin Franklin
    Abraham Lincoln
    William Wordsworth
    Chief Joseph
    Queen Elizabeth I

  98. Didn’t the Discordians take in all of the saints that the Catholic church decided to get rid of? I remember something like that on a RAW lecture tape. It could also have been the Reformed Druids. It was SOME group he was involved in.

  99. Sounds more like a list of personal heroes, but since I don’t have much room in my life for saints anyway, here’s my list:

    Johannes Kepler
    Nicolaus Copernicus
    Isaac Newton
    James Clerk Maxwell
    Leonhard Euler
    Émilie du Châtelet
    Niels Bohr
    Albert Einstein
    Nicola Tesla
    Richard Feynman
    Ludwig van Beethoven
    Goyaałé (Geronimo)
    Crazy Horse
    George Washington
    Benjamin Franklin
    Miyamoto Musashi
    Peter Gabriel

  100. As Mr. Branwyn said, “They’ve become hugely symbolic in my life and have come to represent different aspects of myself that I wish to improve and magnify.”
    Right. Who they actually are/were as people is less of a factor.

    *Orson Welles/Mitch Hedburg/Thelonious Monk/Henry Rollins

    *Sir Richard F. Burton/Joseph Campbell/JG Ballard/V. Vale

    *Cervantes/Melville/Twain/Hemingway/Hunter S. Thompson

  101. Not “saints” (yet) according to the traditional litmus test, however, those for which I share a kinship and a deep respect, in no particular order:

    David Lynch – multidisciplinary artist
    Joseph Cornell – Christian Scientist, multidisciplinary artist
    Thomas Merton-Catholic monk, life-giving critic
    Nick Cave -poet, musician
    Martin Martin Scorsese- Catholic filmmaker
    Robert Bresson – Catholic filmmaker
    Alfred Hitchcock-Catholic filmmaker
    Tom Waits – poet, musician
    Billy Collins – poet
    Marshall Rosenberg-founder of Nonviolent Communication
    Andrei Tarkovsky -mystical filmmaker
    Windsor McKay-founder of drawn animation
    Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre-inventor of the daguerreotype and the diorama
    Mother Theresa-inventor of “just do it” (“if you see someone suffering, pick them up and hold them in your arms”)
    Jesus Christ-inventor of empathy, social misfitism, and genuine consciousness altering
    Phillip Glass-composer
    Jonathan Rosenbaum-genuine film critic
    Gene Rodenberry-writer and producer
    Adam West-actor, theater of the absurd
    Brian May-guitarist and astronomer
    James Turrell-Quaker, artist
    Joe Meek-inventor,record producer
    Daniel Johnston-composer, musician
    Emily Dickinson-poet

  102. I have always said, music never really changes until the instruments change, or in more modern terms technology changes, or cultures collide.

    So, we must also list the two most important people in modern popular music, Les Paul and Tom Dowd. Les invented the solid body electric guitar, and between the two of them, they invented the modern recording studio. Tom Dowd also engineered some of the most important musicians and music of the 20th Century.

    But the most important contributors to popular music are the victims of one of our greatest tragedies, the Atlantic Slave Trade. Slavery was a murderous nightmare, but what it did for music in many ways mitigates the tragedy. When you think about the millions of lives that were destroyed, if their deaths mean anything, lets never forget their contribution to music. The musical collision of African and Western culture was literally like continents colliding. Slaves created the banjo, brought us the whole panoply of Caribbean and Latin music and rhythms, Blues, Jazz, Rhythm & Blues, Soul, Rock-n-Roll, Funk, Reggae, and Hip-hop. It always amazes me to hear otherwise bigoted people talk about their favorite music, because almost everything that is modern pop music is the result of this collision.

    For our under represented minorities and majority (women), as far as I’m concerned, one black woman can stand in for them all, Maya Angelou.

  103. Sophie Schol: anti-Nazi activist executed in Germany 1942, said to judge at sentencing “You’re hanging us today but tomorrow it is your heads that will roll!”

  104. “thanks, I’m better now”? Seriously? Are all such fabulously complicated subjects (e.g. religion, global warming) so handily dismissed here at boingboing? WTF is wrong with you droids?

  105. to JADEDLION @#164,

    I understood his initial comment to mean; I used to be Catholic and it didn’t work for me. Of course, I can only guess , that he was also assuming that it didn’t (or shouldn’t) work for everybody else.

    Is that what you’re responding to?

    I could use some more clarity from both you and Gareth.

  106. AB5TRACT @166

    I feel grateful that JADEDLION is not taking it as a given that everybody should get the “meme”. For me, beginning a sentence or sentiment with “Everybody knows…” is a sure way to fall into the pit of numbing ignorance.

  107. This thread has had me thinking all day. I think my list is over 150 at this point- and I LOVE seeing everyone else’s. Thanks for the great post.

    /adds Edward Hopper, Rosalind Russell, Wilson Rawls…/

  108. Just yesterday I was at a bookstore and in the bargain section there was a shelf of biographies. The featured books, in order, were about Jesus, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Jim Henson. I’d like to think a bookstore employee was making a point.

    Andrea @ 139 said:

    I’m very happy to see this post because the only other place I’ve seen it expressed quite this way is in the movie Heavenly Creatures, which is a very good film and one you’re not really happy about having a lot in common with.

    I can sympathize. I thought the exact same thing when I saw this post, especially once I realized that Orson Welles probably tops my list at the moment. (Jim Henson’s on it, too. And Mr. Rogers.)


    Re: Christian Vander
    Oh, hell yeah. That’s a name you don’t see every day. Or Fred Frith.

    Yeah– these lists are making me think of people I had not thought about in years (Richard Feynman for example, or your own mention of Buckminster Fuller). I could cite a lot of the people already mentioned here, but I tried to limit to people who’s ideas have come back to me regularly over the years. I probably could have mentioned Ghandi or Thoreau or even Jesus too (he’s a nice enough guy when you stop thinking of him as a deity), but thought that was not really necessary.

    Been revisiting Vander’s music a lot lately, and it’s driving my co-workers up the wall: “Listen. . . I gotta turn this off, I just cant handle this right now! OK? Sorry.”

  110. mm, thank you, Eyebum 158, I’d forgotten to add Kepler (and to a lesser extent Newton) to my list.

  111. What Sean Blueart @165 and ab5tract @166 said.

    When this thread winds down, I think I’m going to make a master list of all of the “Boing Boing” Saints.

  112. A few that haven’t been mentioned yet:

    Christopher Alexander, for “Timeless Way of Building” and “A Pattern Language”, two books that teach us how to create a physical environment worth living in.

    Ricky Jay, possibly one of the greatest sleight-of-hand artists ever, as well as archivist, writer, actor, and foremost expert on any kind of trickery there is.

    Charles Schulz, creator of “Peanuts”

    Charles Fort – from Wikipedia – was a Dutch-American writer and researcher into anomalous phenomena. Jerome Clark writes that Fort was “essentially a satirist hugely skeptical of human beings – especially scientists – claims to ultimate knowledge”. Clark describes Fort’s writing style as a “distinctive blend of mocking humor, penetrating insight, and calculated outrageousness”. Writer Colin Wilson describes Fort as “a patron of cranks”…

    Frank Sinatra

  113. Victoria Woodhull! [1, 2, 3] First woman stockbroker, first woman to run for president (1872!), first publisher of the Communist Manifesto in America.

    Stewart Brand! [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ] Stewart Brand did more to put you where you are today than anyone you’ve never heard of.

    Glad Red Emma made it, even if too little. If you’re in Chicago at the end of June, go out to the cemetery where Emma Goldman and the other anarchists are buried on her birthday and join the party.

    And I still want to know who ignited the meme that Rumi is the best-selling poet in the country.

  114. How about Johnny Appleseed, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Elizabeth Frasier, Peace Pilgrim, Mother Teresa, T.C. Boyle, John Updike, Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, George Carlin, Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Jack Keruoac, John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, Eliza Gilkyson, William Shakespeare, Robert Frost… and the list goes on

  115. I second Stephen Jay Gould for his theory of punctuated equilibrium, a revolutionary idea, which means evolution is not a smooth constant. He helped us mortals understand a little bit of paleontology and science.

    Vladimir Horowitz, I’ll never forget waking up on a Sunday morning to his performance in Moscow. He was in his 80’s at the time and would be dead in a few years at 86.

  116. I love how many times George Carlin has shown up here. A hero of mine, for sure. A “lesser” saint?

  117. Lots of people I’ll have to look up, here, and many that I admire as heroes but are not quite “saints” to me. There are a few though whose presence I invoke at need or out of appreciation.

    Steve Irwin – Loved the animal world as much as it is possible for any human to love, and lived unbounded by fear.

    Temple Grandin – The autistic animal-handling troubleshooter, the epitome of practical compassion.

    Ray Bradbury – a pure and passionate wordcarver and professional dreamer.

    “SD” who has spent over two years and counting guiding me free of an abuse-filled past.

  118. Ursula Le Guin. Wisdom personified.

    After that there’s a load of people on the next level down, all of whom have been mentioned here.

  119. “Vladimir Horowitz, I’ll never forget waking up on a Sunday morning to his performance in Moscow. He was in his 80’s at the time and would be dead in a few years at 86.”

    I experienced the same wake up. Unforgettable.

    I’d add Tom Robbins.

  120. So many of these names could have come off of my list. A by-no-means exhaustive selection of saints not yet mentioned:

    St. Sylvia Rivera. (covered under Antinous’s Stonewall combatants category but included again for her life’s work of ground-level action. If a saint is someone who lives in poverty, helps the desperate, and shows others along the path, Ms. Rivera is at the head of the list. “I’m not missing a minute of this–it’s the revolution!” -St. Sylvia at Stonewall, aged 18)

    And thinking of sufferin’ Sylvias, St. Sylvia Plath went into the darkness and shone her light around. It killed her, but she left copious field notes, and has changed my life.

    St. Octavia Estelle Butler.

    St. Yvonne Rainer, of the NO manifesto (decades later revised to the YES manifesto, showing that even a saint should not be bound by dogma).

    St. Kathleen Brennan. If Tom Waits is on your list, she needs to be there too.

    For anyone who thinks it’s “boring and PC” to point out how the list skews demographically, I wonder what you perceive as relevant and unmarked.

    “Where I come from, being ‘politically correct’ means using language that respects other peoples’ oppressions and wounds. This chosen language needs to be defended.” -St. Leslie Feinberg

  121. @Caroline (155): that’s an awesome idea! I’m about to finish my PhD (through the intersession of St. Wilkinson, Patron of Hard-Drinking Numerical Analysts) so it’s time to think about it ;-)

    It’s funny, I took St. Augustine as my confirmation name over 15 years ago, and the choice turned out to be oddly prophetic (though in a backwards way — Augustine got celibate and more religiously conservative in his conversion, whereas I got uncelibate and more religiously liberal!). So pick carefully! (e.g., not recommended to pick Marie Curie as your patroness unless you feel particularly impervious to radiation…)

    There’s a lovely Alan Turing icon:

    though I don’t see it for sale anymore on Jin Wicked’s website, alas…

  122. David Hume
    Ludwig Wittgenstein
    Friedrich Nietzsche

    Frank Herbert

    There are a number of key themes in Herbert’s work:
    * A concern with leadership. He especially explored the human tendency to slavishly follow charismatic leaders. He delved deeply into both the flaws and potentials of bureaucracy and government.
    * Herbert was probably the first science fiction author to popularize ideas about ecology and systems thinking. He stressed the need for humans to think both systematically and long term.
    * The relationship between religion, politics and power.
    Human survival and evolution: Herbert writes of the Fremen, the Sardaukar, and the Dosadi, who are molded by their terrible living conditions into dangerous super-races.
    * Human possibilities and potential: Herbert offered Mentats, the Bene Gesserit and the Bene Tleilax as different visions of human possibilities.
    * The nature of sanity and madness. Frank Herbert was interested in the work of Thomas Szasz and the anti-psychiatry movement. Often, Herbert questions, “What is sane?”, and while there are clearly insane behaviors and psychopathies as evinced by characters (Piter De Vries for instance), it is often suggested that “normal” and “abnormal” are relative terms which humans are sometimes ill-equipped to apply to one another, especially on the basis of statistical regularity.
    * The possible effects and consequences of consciousness altering chemicals, such as the spice in the Dune saga.
    How language shapes thought. More specifically, Frank Herbert was influenced by Alfred Korzybski‘s General Semantics.
    * Sociobiology. How our instincts unconsciously influence our behavior and society.
    * Learning, teaching and thinking.

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