When I was in the second grade, I began telling my teacher and my classmates stories of the life I wanted as if it was the life I had. Although none of this was “real,” the fantasy story spun out as if it were, and I began making friendships and getting attention.

The story was that I kept my horse at my grandfather’s farm, and that spring she had a foal, and I was getting to watch it grow up.

I never thought of these stories as lies; they were simply my way of inventing the life I wanted but couldn’t have. Mom and Dad could not afford to get me a horse, and I was too young to get a job to support one.

Mom and Dad attended the Parent Teachers Conference, learned about my stories, labeled them “lies,” and I felt the strap very painfully.

When I reflect back on this, I did not and do not feel any wrong doing in creating those stories. The stories were a way to create what I wanted and did not have. I had horses later in my life and I did watch foals grow up. I think storytelling provides people with ways of expressing needs, wants, and desires that may not be practical where they are at or the circumstances in which they are living. I am not saying lies are harmless, but that stories ought to be looked at in terms of the motivation of the storyteller.

My second grade venture into storytelling taught me that people have different perspectives on life. For Mom and Dad, “telling the truth” meant sticking to the facts of everyday physical life. They did not relate well to the murkier “stuff” -difficult emotions- lurking under the surface.

When I was seven, the family cat got hit by a car and I was the one who found him. It was the night of Good Friday, and we had come home from a church service. Dad created a comfortable bed in an old orange crate for the cat and promised me that if he was still alive Monday morning we would take him to the vet. Comforting my self with the teachings of the Resurrection, I had a firm and unshakeable belief that the cat would live, because I was praying for that outcome.

The cat died. I could then accept the cat’s death on the faith that I would see him again in heaven. Except that old concept of the “truth” again… Mom and Dad did not believe that animals went to heaven. After arguing with them both for months, I finally gave up and carried the grief of their “truth” for many years.

I don’t know if there is a moral here, but I can certainly trace my perhaps morbid fascination with the process of life and death back to the contradiction implanted in my childhood psyche by parents who assumed their belief in Resurrection was fact and denigrated the value of my love for the cat, which in their worldview was unworthy of a resurrection. The extremes of Christianity cast me out of that religion, and I don’t look back. If God is Love, why would He cast one into a fear-based hell? Or devalue of love for the cat?

I no longer draw hierarchies in my mindset about what or who or whether certain beings are worthy of life. In my mindset we are all created beings partaking in time on Earth, which ought to be thought of as a gift to all. We share breath, we share the experience of having a body, we have senses with which to perceive, and a mind with which to make sense of it all. I honor the rattlesnake for his venom as I honor the little garden spider whose web traps biting flies as I honor the bear I meet berry picking. When I have love, I rise above fear, and I can step into the unknown of these encounters without concern.

Things may seem black and white, but the in-between spaces carry tones of grays and colors that enrich the palette. I am not for humans only, but nor do I hate humans for the way some mistreat animals. Rather I am saddened by the people do not see the value in life itself, who value material goods and a good appearance over the inward truth of the heart.

We all have conditioned things in our psyche that drive us and cause us to act and react the way that we do. What I am in hope for, is that more people will choose to live a self-examined life, to discover what, who, and how they are, and discard fear-based beliefs that fail them as individuals and the collective humanity of which we are part. Only then can humans adjust their behaviors to what will be of the highest good for all.


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