It didn’t take long for me to find my cyber-home: the Prodigy forum on Religion Concourse 2 called “Debates – Religious Issues.” This was the most raucous and confrontational of all the Prodigy religion forums, and I guess there was something about the supercharged atmosphere that resonated with me at the time. I got into countless arguments, but I also made some very good friends on that forum. Sadly, I have lost track of many of those friends over the years, although I’ve remained in contact with others who have recently become my Facebook friends.
I probably made at least as many enemies as friends on that board, though. I’m an unabashed liberal when it comes to both religion and politics, and I’ve always been very outspoken about it. For several months, my signature line was: Everyone is entitled to my opinion. Anyone who knows me at all knows this is not an exaggeration!
After Prodigy Classic folded in October 1999, I became the co-moderator of a short-lived interfaith forum on the now-defunct Delphi service called “Conversations About God.” But the gravitational field of Prodigy (its second incarnation was known as Prodigy Internet) sucked me back in again and I began neglecting “my” Delphi forum. Again I gravitated to the Interfaith forum, and again I got into more than my share of raucous arguments. And I made new friends who had either never been Prodigy Classic members at all or who I never had occasion to meet there.
The forum where I am currently a regular could be considered the third and final incarnation of Prodigy, since it’s the brainchild of a former Prodigy administrator. A few regulars from the old days (both friends and foes) still hang around there. A couple of days ago I addressed a version of the following post and two others to my friend Sean on the Religion & Spirituality board. It is autobiographical in nature and doesn’t have much to do with religion except peripherally. I guess it’s become second nature for me to spout off about anything and everything on religion forums, and that’s what I did here. I found myself writing these posts almost before I realized what was happening.
Reading them over a day later, I decided they weren’t too whiny and self-pitying to be my first blog posts after all. And if they are...too bad! A certain amount of whining is to be expected or at least tolerated on any personal blog. I’ll try to keep it to an absolute minimum, but don’t ask me to make you any promises!
Coyote in My DNA
I was an intellectually precocious child who finished high school far too early and nagged my poor, but pliable, parents until they let me, aged 15, go away to college on the strength of an insufficient scholarship.
WOW!!! I am truly impressed, even though I'm also gifted. This was noted early on, both by me and by my parents and teachers and everyone around me. After teaching me the alphabet when I was three, my mother was able to convince the school authorities to let me start kindergarten at age 4 1/2. After that head start, I was always six months to a year younger than my classmates, although I never officially skipped a grade. (My sister did, though.) When I was in the fourth grade, my reading skills were tested at the 10th grade level, the equivalent to a sophomore in high school.
Unfortunately, this amazing potential was never matched by any significant academic achievement, due to the genetic booby prize that went along with it. I have Coyote the Trickster in my DNA, commonly known nowadays as ADD or ADHD, depending upon whether hyperactivity is present or not.
But in the old days (the 1950s and 1960s) they didn't call it anything--or if they did, they called it "what the hell is wrong with you, anyway?" A question I couldn't even begin to answer until I was 57 years old. Or worse yet: "You have so much POTENTIAL, Linda. If you would only APPLY yourself, if you would only FOCUS." As if "focusing" were an act of will! Everyone believed that, including me. They all acted as though if I couldn't focus, it was simply because I wasn't "trying" hard enough, or because I had some mysterious phobia about success or “will to fail.”
Occasionally, some of the more charitable school counselors got a clue that one reason for my lack of focus was the fact that I was utterly miserable. Because I was shy and self-conscious and perceived as "weird" by my classmates, I was bullied and tormented nonstop all through school--from the first grade almost to the day I graduated high school. By then I was a confirmed Outsider, with a volcano of rage inside me and boundless contempt for the Establishment.
It got to the point where I absolutely cringed when anyone brought up the subject of my "potential." I reacted to that word as though I'd been slapped in the face. The guilt was just that overwhelming. NOBODY was more aware of my potential than me, and it was a standing reproach to me that I was apparently doomed to never actualize it.
Worse than that, my chronic underachievement often seemed like an insult to God who had so gifted me. I knew I couldn't claim credit for what was innate and inborn, but only for what I did with it. And I was seemingly unable to do much of anything with it, or only in fits and starts if I did. It wasn't until I was 57 years old, when a book on adult ADD practically fell into my hands in a library, that I finally learned the name of that nameless curse I had been aware of since I was five or six years old.
What I have just inflicted on you is the old tape, which I am in the process of replacing or at the very least revising. I guess it's painfully obvious that I haven't replaced it yet, but I'm working on it. But my wretched childhood and adolescence are one of the main reasons why I threw myself into the Sixties counterculture with a vengeance, including the "free love" aspect of it, and why I have absolutely no regrets about that to this day. I'll continue with that in another note, though.