The 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.  For each essay, students are asked to answer a new interdisciplinary prompt which inspires an integrated reflection on class learning. Our final essay asked students look at their academic semesters holistically and consider the value of their learning. In the coming weeks, look forward to some articulate examples of how our students have deeply and personally engage with these essential questions. This week’s prompt: What is your worldview, how did it come to be, and has it been changed, challenged or enforced since you arrived at The Island School? 

By Brayden Beardsley

Having grown up in a rural town in Maine, I feel that I was sheltered from the world until I grew older. The first time I ever realized that not everyone saw things how I did was when I was six years old in Rennys. A man walked into the store carrying a small bag and was asked to leave it at the front of the store. I looked up at my mom who was also carrying a small bag, and asked her why the man had to leave his bag at the front of the store and she didn’t. She responded that some people don’t trust people who are black and that she didn’t have to leave her bag at the front of the store because the man working at the store was something called prejudice, a term a didn’t understand at the time. All I knew was that the man had been treated differently for some reason and that was wrong.

For me, my world view means how I perceive what happens around me based on my outlook and values; much like the “lens” that we talked about during our first Human Ecology class. Even from a young age, I had very strong values and morals because the aspects of my life that have affected my world view are what I care about the most. Collectively, my parents, Akihisa, Biruk and Eden, and Tom and Brandon have all worked accidentally or intentionally to shape my lens in which I view the world through.

One of my most vivid memories of Akihisa (our exchange student from Japan) was when we were just sitting on his bed talking about anything that came to mind. He told me about the differences between our cultures; how no one ever hugged anyone else (even family members), how when you reached five years old, you couldn’t use the flavored toothpaste anymore or cry unless you were physically injured, how everyone was an atheist but they all believed in ghosts, how pigs were said to say “boo, boo” instead of “oink, oink”, the list went on and on. I realize now, especially after our Histories class on the Nacirema tribe that was actually describing America, that it is very easy to judge a culture at a glance and be slightly ethnocentric, but to truly understand it, you have to delve deeper, as I was able to do with Akihisa after staying with him for a year. I’d like to think that I have a more cultural relativistic view of the world after the experience and I now consider him to be another brother and was able to see him again for the first time in four years this past summer.

After Akihisa left, we adopted Biruk and Eden fromEthiopia. To this day, that trip that I made has been the most influential experience of my life. Seeing people who weren’t struggling to stay afloat as we Americans put it, but actually struggling to stay alive really struck me. I saw sewage running through the ditches in the street when we were in the capital of the country and children whose bellies were enlarged because of malnourishment and had flies resting on their eyeballs, not their eyelids, their eyeballs. When I went to meet Biruk and Eden’s parents with my mom and found out that the reason they were given up for adoption was because the parents couldn’t provide for them and pay for the HIV medication, I felt that we were both a gift and a curse for the parents. But then I saw the so called “president’s” gardens which required enough clean water every day to keep an entire city healthy. This social injustice and poverty caused a paradigm shift in me. I had always heard of poverty stricken countries but had never experienced it myself, and when I did, I realized that the rest of the world needed help. This past year, I was lucky enough to participate in a project based learning assignment where we raised awareness and over five hundred dollars as a class of twenty students, to benefit the Wide Horizons For Children Organization, the adoption agency where we got Biruk and Eden from.

During the first week in Literature, we discussed a section of Omeros where it reflects on the pain and sadness the characters feel while chopping down the forests. I think this ties perfectly into Leopold’s quote, “We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in.” These values and virtues that can be seen in the two texts are where I think that my parents and chosen extended family (Tom and Brandon) have really had an impact on my worldview. They have been the ones who have taught me the differences between right and wrong, have shown me virtues, and have always been there as people to look up to when I need an example of what it means to be a good person. From them, I have sculpted my moral values and have chosen to have a consistently positive outlook on life. Although they are there as guides, they don’t force me to believe anything and don’t argue that I’m wrong if they see something differently than I do. Although my dad is Christian and my mom is an atheist, they have let me chose what I want to believe and have answered my questions without bias rather than saying that one way or the other is better. They are the ones that have shaped the lens in which I view the world.

From coming to The Island School, it may be too soon to tell, but I don’t think my worldview has changed, if anything it has been enforced. People here aren’t struggling as much as they are in Ethiopia, but they aren’t exactly flourishing either; they need a helping hand to get them on their feet. While I hated doing the swimming exercise last week, and have been struggling to enjoy Omeros, I’ve tried to stay positive and at least learn from them to become a better, more rounded person. I still hold the belief as the young boy in Rennys that no one should be treated differently based on something so insignificant as the color of a their skin and I hope to continue to reinforce the worldview that I have created and perhaps even complicate and expand upon it while here at the Island School.