The Human Ecology, Histories, and Literature Departments have collaborated on a series ongoing personal reflective essays called Eleutheros. Each week students are asked to write a reflective essay that demonstrates their understanding of the themes from their coursework and effectively links these themes to their unique thoughts and experiences. Enjoy reading these two articulate examples of how our students have deeply and personally engage with essential questions, important to their course of study at The Island School…
Prompt: What is your worldview, how did it come to be, and has it been changed or challenged since you arrived at The Island School?
by Lucy Cram:
I sit on the girl’s dorm deck looking out at the stars that shine more numerous and brightly than at home orNew Jersey, and the soft breeze drifts across my face and legs and I feel peaceful. The twinkling specks in the distance take me back to a spring morning ten years ago, when my father woke me up atfour a.m.to watch a meteor shower. I remember half sleepwalking to our dock, all the while wishing I were back in bed; however, as soon as I saw the shooting stars speed by me in such numbers, I was awake and happy. My dad has always tried to pass his love for the little things in nature along to me. Whether it is a ten-minute bedtime story about a fiddler crab, an emailed picture of the eagles nested near my house, or a paddleboard adventure around the marsh, he has always managed to make me look closer at things in life and show me beauty in just about anything. My father has always been a significant factor in the way I view and think about the world, but not the only one. Because I am still shaping the way I see the world, tons of things still have great effects on me: daily encounters, family, friends, strangers, classes, places, and global events.
Before one can understand my view of the world, he or she must understand where it comes from. I grew up along the marshes of Bluffton and went to school along the beaches of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, a place that invites numbers of tourists each year to come build sand castles, climb up the Harbour Town Lighthouse, and most importantly buy a Salty Dog t-shirt. While they are extremely important for our economy and for my friends and my amusement, it has become extremely difficult to watch the influx of tourists create the demand for cheap villas and developments that destroy the land, my home. I have always hated to see my small town transform into strip malls, cookie-cutter homes, and see small businesses turn into chain stores, but it was not until I came to the IslandSchoolthat I fully realized the situation. In literature we discussed The Rediscovery of North America and Omeros, which both discuss the environment in different tones from what I am used to. In the latter, Walcott writes of Philoctete with “dew filling [his] eyes” as he “cut down them canoes,” and though he is sad to have to cut the trees down, the trees “feel not death inside them, but use” (p. 3,7). Though it is an extremely different situation from mine, it is similar in the sense that we both hate to see the diminishment of our surrounding environment, but see that there are economic uses for the resources as well. This does not make it okay or by any means more sustainable, but as Lopez phrased it in The Rediscovery of North America, “we have made so extreme an investment in mining the continent that we cannot imagine stopping” (p. 45). It is something that we see as a problem, but can see no end because shifting our comfortable lifestyles would be a nuisance for some and an incredible burden for those who rely on the resources to make ends meet.
The destruction of the environment has become second nature to not just the tourists visiting, but me as well. In Histories the class discussed the poem “We and They” by Rudyard Kipling, who tries to bridge the gap between we, “All the people like us,” and they, “every one else.” I realized that my friends and I, the locals, had always seen the tourists, “they,” ignorant and destructive. How could I criticize the tourists, when I myself travel far and wide and use others’ resources? Before coming to The Island School, I always saw The Bahamas as a beautiful vacation spot, where people from all around go to relax and have a good time, but I never considered the people actually living here. For example, the conch fritters I ate the other day came from the diminishing conch population around the island, but had I not been taught about this ever-growing problem, I would not have realized I was doing anything wrong. So, now after “cross[ing] over the sea” I see “We as only a sort of They.” I had unknowingly been hypocritical about the people visiting my home, and while they should step back and think about their impact on my home, I need to do the same for places I visit.
In Human Ecology we considered some of the world’s great paradigms: the world being round, a heliocentric earth, and that climate change exists; and talked about what brought them about. They mostly came from acquisition of new knowledge, from collected scientific data to a conversation, and experiences, like a trip around resort ruins or a trip around the world. After gaining new local intellect and experiencing all that this Island has to and used to offer, I have come upon a personal paradigm, where I no longer think that change will come from worrying about your personal environment or condemning those that visit. It must come from communal efforts and local and global knowledge. Those that live on the land must teach, and those that visit must learn. I believe that if everyone were to do this, then great strides could be made in the conservation of the world my father taught me to see in such great light.
When considering what my worldview is, I must first come to a conclusion on what exactly a “worldview” is in the first place. The only definition provided to me reads as follows: “the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it.” Before this very moment, I have never considered myself as ever having a “framework of ideas and beliefs” at all. I certainly know I have opinions and ideas, but never before have I really thought of them with the organization that the word “framework” implies. In fact, I have always imagined my ideas as an erratic pattern of beliefs, as opposed to anything that resembles order and consistency. The reason I seem to have had this belief about myself is that I have ideas that never entirely line up with any political party, religion or anything of that nature. I prefer to choose ideas I agree with from all different groups, and form my own opinion in that way. However, now that I consider it, maybe this strategy for formulating my opinions is a framework of ideas. Maybe all my ideas are related to each other as opposed to being separate entities. The subject that relates all of my opinions together, I think, is logic. Now, I understand I may not always be the most logical of human beings at times, as I can make pretty dumb decisions. However, in regards to most of my opinions and my worldview, I have used my sense of logic, however limited, to formulate these.
A good reflection of my worldview would be my views on politics and religion, as they are both opinions that shape my daily life. As far as my political views go, I am both Liberal and Conservative, and maybe a little Libertarian. I consider myself to be somewhat of a melting pot of what I believe to be the best, and most logical, of all these ideas. As far as religion goes, I was raised Christian, but using my sense of logic mentioned previously, I have come to my own conclusion about how I view the world. I am not religious anymore, but that is not to say I am not spiritual. I have done quite a bit of research in school and on my own on atheism as well as Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and others. Just as I have done for my political views, I have taken ideas from all mindsets to formulate my opinions. My beliefs now are that just because I would like to believe there is a man in a white beard watching over us making sure I’m going to be all right, that should not make it anymore true. I think that if God is up there, why in the world would be create such terrible things that exist in the world today, such as disease and famine. At the same time, I feel extraordinarily lucky to have the life and privileges that I have today, and that gratitude is felt towards someone, even if I am not sure who or what that is. It’s all very confusing to me.
As I said before, prior to writing this piece I never before considered my worldview with the lens of having any sort of order. Now that I think of it though, classes at the Island School have helped me consider this worldview without even realizing it. The curriculum forces me to grapple with real world issues and this in turn makes me think about my opinions constantly. Without knowing it, I have slowly been coming to a conclusion about my worldview over the last few weeks. For example, in History we have been learning about interviewing and the personal histories of people in the Bahamas. Yesterday as we went into Rock Sound, I had a chance to encounter a friendly Bahamian family. Though they were very welcoming and nice, I found that they were very Christian, and many references to the Bible were made during our conversations. One particular point was brought up that farming should continue in the Bahamas because God told Adam to farm the land in the Bible. Though I did not necessarily agree with what they were saying, my “melting pot” mentality that I seem to have applied to myself really helped me find the sense in what they were saying. No, I do not think that the adventures of Adam and Eve should effect our decisions to farm the world today because no, I don’t think Adam and Eve were real. However, I am able to respect their opinions and therefore attempt to find the good in the message that the family was saying. I can respect spirituality and motivation, and that was certainly the sense I was getting from this family, even if I did not agree with everything they said.
Human Ecology has also had me consider my worldview by introducing me to the term “paradigm shift.” Looking back, I have experienced many, many paradigm shifts throughout my life that have changed the course of actions I have taken. These can range from moments as small as the revelation of the existence of Santa to far more recent moments like failing to keep up with my classes at school right before I came to The IslandSchooland having to get myself in gear. I believe the second situation is one that truly describes how I have had to change how I see the world. If I had written this paper two months ago, it is likely I would have mentioned how incredibly lazy. That is not to say this part of my is gone, but my second semester this year was a wake up call that I needed to change how I saw everything, not just school. Though paradigm shifts usually refer to shifts in thinking of entire groups of people, it is moments like the one this year that make me look back on my former self with distaste and disbelief. Before taking Human Ecology, I had no idea that there was a name for such moments.
In Literature, the challenge that Omeros has offered me has been very significant to making me change my views. This is not necessarily a result of Omeros’ content, thought it is interesting, but more so by its difficulty. I have been forced to alter my study habits in order to allow myself more time to read it, and this, in effect, has forced me to undergo a great change. Even though we are very early in this book, the challenge it has offered me has been key to my growth in being used to larger homework assignments. Though this has little to nothing to do with the religious and political views I mentioned earlier in this essay, an important part of my worldview concerning schoolwork as been altered thanks to Omeros.
My worldview, though I may have never realized it before, does have some sort of order to it, and this order all already been effected this early in the semester by my classes. Human Ecology, Histories and Literature have all forced me to take a different look at situations that I have done so routinely in the past. Three weeks ago I had no idea what a worldview really was. Now, I am already finding out ways that it has changed. I guess that’s what the Island Schoold oes to you.