My story begins on a small farm in a very rural part of Mississippi, USA. My family had cattle, horses, pigs, chickens, dogs, and cats. Because I was an only child, these animals were my only friends and playmates except occasionally when a cousin visited. I had a very active imagination, believing that I could communicate not only with my animal friends on the farm, but also the giant oak trees that surrounded my home, migrating birds, and perhaps even the spirits of the Chickasaw who once lived on the land. I remember discovering new things every day—finding arrowheads or reptile eggs in an eroding bank, seeing a new kind of plant or animal in the fields, hearing a story from my mother about how the woods were when she was little like me and the old growth forest had not yet been cut down. Every day contained magic for me. I learned my first moral lesson from a orange kitten I decided to drop in a puddle—five burning claw marks down my hand. I realized I had no right to put him in the water against his will; it was his right to defend himself. From then on I tried to see things from others’ points -of-view. Things continued like this until I was six and a half.
Going to school—what a life changing experience. So many rules and people. I quickly learned that most of the other children were living a different lifestyle from me. They all had telephones at their homes, ate out, and attended church 2 to 3 times per week. On top of this my public school did not recognize the separation of church and state. Teachers led children in prayer and did a devotional from the Bible each morning. Once a week a Baptist missionary came to teach us. I learned that there was much more to being good than honesty, kindness, and doing your best as my mother had taught me. You must confess your sins every day or risk going to Hell. I struggled every day to think of enough sins to confess. This was bad enough, but then I had my first spiritual crisis about age 7. The missionary had taught us how special we were that God let us be born in the US where we had enough food and had religious freedom. I lay in bed at night wondering what was so much better about me than all the little children that God had let be born in China, who not only were hungry, but ,because they had no freedom, could not hear of Jesus and by extension would then burn in everlasting Hell fire. I did not mention these things to my mother as school was my problem. My mother had told me that God loved me and that Jesus was a very good person, so I decided those at school must have it wrong—-God and Jesus must not control where people are born. This is when I began feeling like an outsider looking in.
Real thought was not much encouraged at my school because thinking might cause one to question, so I usually kept my thoughts to myself and watched. It amazed me how mean the other children could be to one another. I tried to be a kind encourager to others. I loved the school library, reading many books that no one else had ever checked out. I was a top student. I discovered William Faulkner, who had lived a few miles away—another outsider looking in and empathizing with those he saw. Two of my favorite subjects to read about were world history and religion. I loved National Geographic Magazine, especially the pictures. At sixteen I had my second spiritual crisis—how could God condemn all those people I saw in the National Geographic to Hell just because they were not Christians? I decided a loving creator could not, that Jesus was a great moral teacher whose teachings were misunderstood, and that we create our own heaven or hell based on choices. Around this same time I was exposed to the ideas of Joseph Campbell on PBS. Through reading various texts, I began to see the similarities in the teachings of Jesus, the Buddha, and others. Spiritual truth exists and different people find it in different ways, but it must involve questioning and deeply thinking about the human situation past and present.
I studied history and literature in college and have been a teacher ever since. My activism has mostly been through voting, attending meetings in my community, making lifestyle choices, talking one-on-one with others, and giving to charity. I try to find common ground and then introduce the bridge from another’s belief to my own. I am not confrontational, but I have twice been likened to the AntiChrist by friends.
I was first interested in Ian Somerhalder because I read that his mother was from a pig farm in Mississippi. I found that he had ideas that revealed an understanding of the overall situation facing us. The parts that impressed me most were about young people being the most underappreciated group and that if made aware they would soon be able to vote for change, the idea that love of pets can be a common denominator, and the importance of agriculture. I donated money. I looked at all the different ISF accounts he followed on twitter from places that I wouldn’t even think could view his show The Vampire Diaries. I was particularly impressed with ISF Qld @BastetAsshurISF and wanted to be part of the community she had created. I was so honored that she followed me. I thank everyone for making me welcome. I do feel part of a community.
Posted 1:35pm GMT on Friday, March 2nd, 2012