Why do you do what you do?

I asked ten people to draw a butterfly and not one of them drew a caterpillar. This is why I do what I do.

I believe in freedom and possibility. This has not meant living unintentionally but it has meant understanding that things change and that our wild and precious lives have inflection points. One such inflection point came when I left business and chose to pursue an academic career in religious studies.

I can’t say that I was raised religious. I don’t know exactly what “being religious” means. I grew up in the Caribbean amid the rusting cannons and decaying plantation great houses left behind by empire. When my family had questions, answers came not only from the bible, but through ancestors and orishas, and via scrying crystals, divination books, and mourning ground experiences. Religion was less about one-God-one-religion than it was about people negotiating life on often unlivable, always imperial terms.

I choose to study religion. I believe religious discourse has the potential to challenge and transform the terms by which life is constrained, and I believe its imaginative possibilities can help people think more expansively about themselves and the world around them. I am not advocating that we all drop everything to follow our bliss. I am suggesting that we be sure our choices are our own – not in any individualistic sense, but in the sense of truly appreciating that being looks differently for each of us and that it is subject to change.

There are many, many, many ways to be a butterfly. How will you choose?

— Heather McLetchie-Leader

Photography by Tony Deifell