What I Learned from LeVar Burton

When I tell you what I learned from LeVar Burton, you’re going to assume it has to do with Reading Rainbow. That’s a fragment of it. I think that literacy is the key to success and happiness in life, and the widespread literacy can save civilization, but that’s not it.

At an early age, LeVar Burton wanted to be a priest. He even went to seminary. To hear tell, he left to become an actor when he experienced a crisis of faith. As I read more about it, and some statements he’s made over time, it sounds more like he became disillusioned with organized religion. Looking at his charitable work, I think he still practices his faith as his heart directs him.

“…we want a book to be a book. We’ll have all the interactive bells and whistles but our intent is to engage young people in reading, not to show them a movie.”

LeVar Burton, interview with Publisher’s Weekly (September 14 ,2011)

I mean, I do like his commitment to literacy, especially here in the age of the multimedia internet. You can say that videos teach skills and listening to audiobooks is the same as reading. I say you’re not learning to read, or to spell, or use grammar. Reading is something you do. Media is something that you passively absorb.

What I Learned from LeVar Burton

My real takeaway is that you can walk away from organized religion and still hold onto your moral and ethical center. Sometimes, it becomes easier! You are capable of doing good in the world without the structure of an organization behind you. This is important to me because that is my story. While I self-identify as a Buddhist now, I do have a background in the clergy. My values remained as my faith in people and institutions crumbled. When I learn about people like LeVar Burton, it shows me that I wasn’t the only person to make these sorts of choices.

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