Converts, Tue, Jan 29 2013 #(1777)

Jan 29, 2013

Dear Friend,

I owe you a debt of thanks for the encouragement you have given me. I
have not read your books, I confess, but only seen you on the Internet.
I aim to buy at least two of your books very soon, for what it’s worth.

I want to share with you some significant events in my own life, if you
are interested. I was raised Mormon until I was almost old enough to
think for myself, at which point I told my parents I was bored and
didn’t want to go to church anymore. To their credit, my parents didn’t
push it on me. Of course, when my dad went to prison when I was 9, my
life was turned upside-down and going to church became a lot less
important.

I grew up in southern California during the 1980s and became an
environmental activist around the time that Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1991.
I worked for Greenpeace for several years and with Earth First! groups
for a few years after that. I spent two years in Idaho fighting to
protect the last bit of real wilderness in the continental United States
from attack by the timber industry.

At one point during that campaign, I got lost alone on a hike near the
Frank Church Wilderness Area for several days. On the second day, at a
point when I was on the verge of suicidal despair, I saw the most
incredible thing I had ever seen: a Ponderosa Pine tree that was every
bit of 6 feet in diameter at base height. I had seen bigger trees, but
never a bigger P-pine. I looked and looked, but I never saw the top of
this tree. It was enormous.

I had been in a state of almost total despair, about to give up
entirely. I was thinking to myself, I could die here and never be
found. When I saw that tree, I thought, yes, I could die here, but why
not? Where else in the world would I rather die? I am surrounded by
the biggest wilderness I have ever seen, and I have come here to defend
it, and I have done so, so have I not done everything I came to do? If
I am to die now, so what?

At that point, I became elated. I rejoiced in where I was, and even
more in where I wasn’t. I didn’t see a single sign of humanity for 3
solid days. No roads, no power lines, no litter. Just an occasional
plane flying overhead, which is easy to ignore.

I ate berries. I drank streamwater. I threw my shoes off because they
were too heavy to carry. I learned that I could use my rain poncho as a
tent as well as a canteen, that I could keep myself warm and dry and
comfortable, that I could build fires and carry water up and down hills.
I delighted in my own resourcefulness. I have never felt more alive.

At no point did I ask God for help, or even consider it. God did not
enter my mind at all during this entire experience. That, I think, is
significant. I was surrounded by the most terrible and unforgiving and
awe-inspiring beauty I had ever seen, I was literally in fear for my
life, and I never once thought of God. Only now, a decade and a half
later, after hearing your talks, do I realize this, and it gives me even
more strength and encouragement.

No, what helped me on that trip was not God, but that tree. That huge
Ponderosa Pine. That tree gave me the energy to keep going. I did not
attribute any supernatural powers to that tree, or entertain even for a
moment the arrogant notion that that tree was put there for me. Quite
the contrary: I knew at that moment with the utmost certainty that the
forest did not give a leaping shit about me, and that it was up to me to
survive in it, or not. That tree had been there for perhaps 150 years
before I got there and did not notice my being there at all. I can’t
explain it, but that thought gave me a sense of purpose when I most
needed it.

Needless to say, I eventually found my way back to civilization, or else
I would not be telling you this story in an email. I tell you this
story because it was a defining moment in my life; it is part of who I
am. Very few people I know have had an experience anything like this,
and yet many of them are intensely religious. I can’t explain that
either.

I want to thank you for articulating in your speeches the very things I
have been saying to myself semi-consciously for most of my life. I want
to thank you for reinforcing my non-belief. It’s very reassuring to
know that there are other literate people out there who are willing to
openly confront the rampant, dogmatic attack on our rationality that is
so pervasive in our culture. We need to keep up the fight to ensure the
survival of not only our own species, but all species of life on Earth.
This worldview that features all non-human life forms as a supporting
cast must come to an end.

May the Flying Spaghetti Monster embrace you in its noodly appendages,

Sean
.

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