so vegan

“What, if not transformation, is your deepest purpose? Earth, my love, I want that too. Believe me, no more of your springtimes are needed to win me over-even one flower is more than enough. Before i was named I belonged to you. I seek no other law but yours, and know I can Trust the death you will bring.

See, I live. On what? Childhood and future are equally present. Sheer abundance of being floods my heart.” Rainer Maria Rilke from The Ninth Elegy

this is harder than i thought to write about. being vegan, maybe more than being queer, maybe more than being human, defines how i am in this world. guides me. the foundations of my ethics.

i listen to on being a great deal, and they begin their interviews with what, if any, was the person’s spiritual or religious background. maybe that is a good place to start….

my dad’s dad was a chaplain in the military. he came from a long line of country ministers in up state new york, as did my grandmother. he died when i was young, 1st or 2nd grade. the day my grandpa died, the reverend from the church i grew up going to with my other grandparents, came to the house to see how he and his wife could be of service to us. i think he was there before my dad was able to get home form work. to this day, i don’t know how he found out. 1975 (?) no cell phone/text/email/social media status update.

that reverend was the last organized religious “leader” i ever trusted and believed in. a few years later, many of the church’s elders got rid of him. seems he was inspiring too many young people. should i mention that he and his wife were from south america, had us over for dinner, told stories, laughed, shared wine, smelled of the earth…. it broke my heart to have them gone, not from the church (i’d stopped going) so much as from the community. they were run out of the town in search of work. i think i was told they returned to brazil.

i never felt “moved” or anything like that in church. i can deeply remember not understanding why god or jesus gave a care at all about what i wore to church, or even if i entered a particular building to give “worship”. in fact the sunrise services on easter seemed much more inspiring than any other time. anyway, i stopped going to church when i was around 11 or 12 unless it was some special service that i couldn’t get out of.

around that time was my first trip to the ocean. being in the sand, listening to the waves come in and out. my breath felt the rhythm it had been searching for. my blood pulsed and filled my body as if it were reaching out to connect to the force that keeps the planet alive. water has always done this to me. brings me to a level of aliveness that i rarely feel otherwise.

the town i grew up in had a river that i would go to often when i needed solace. when that wounded part of myself that i had no words, nor ability to comfort surfaced… that river and even the draining ditch in the field across the street, could bring a balm to my young struggles of which there were many.

the other side of town had a slaughter-house with the stench of death and violence to cows and humans. i was deeply aware of the abuse the brown folks brought up from mexico faced on a daily basis; held in a violent social exchange with our capitalistic society.

mix this with a large painting by a college friend of my parents that i could stare at for hours. a self portrait i was told, of a young black man behind some kind of bars, not prison bars (or at least in my mind it wasn’t), but bars like lattice-work, that prevented him from being fully participatory in the world. i can still see it perfectly in my mind.

to this day, with so much freedom to explore and dive deeply into this world, the beat of the drums from the pow-wows i grew up going to with other family members, stay with me all the time wherever i go and however i move. i hear those drums on hikes, swimming in the rivers, and standing in the ocean with the waves moving over my body.

what sticks with me the most in learning these lessons, is a phrase that just keeps repeating in my head… “do no harm”. the more i learn about this life i live in this place that i live in this culture i am a part of… it’s violence depends on consuming. food, beverages, oil, trees, people, land, water….. all the “natural resources” are manipulated and destroyed for profit. then there is the kind of consuming that involves the media: news, t.v., radio, movies, social contexts that bring us racism, homophobia, sexism, speciesism, hierarchical structures that tell us where our place is currently and where we should be if we are going to be “succesful” in this culture. all of this is consumed, digested, and what is excreted is how we move through the world and make decisions.

as my movements move out of the city more, and into the mountains, the woods, the tall grass prairie, the ocean, rivers, interactions with wild animals as well as the domesticated ones, i want to be able to look at them with calm eyes and a steady heart.

it is a messy world and i want to do my very best to understand how i contribute to the messes, only then can i understand how to be a part of cleaning them up.

every vegan i know has their vegan coming out story and this is mine. i know i haven’t talked at all about not eating meat. the secrets of giving up dairy. the story of how i couldn’t eat animals after looking into the eyes of my childhood dog. all the tractor-trailers full of cows we passed on the interstate – the look in  those cows in the eyes…. all the horrifying statistics about animal abuse, neglect, water usage, disease, contamination, health issues involved in eating animals and the by-products. sure, all that contributes to how and what decisions i make, but they are not why i am vegan.

vegan is an ethic. its way of moving through the world. of how to disseminate information and make a decision that is less violent less exploitative less hypocritical… vegan is harm reduction for the planet, people, plants, water, and yes animals.

so here is my vegan coming out story. it’s not a story of how i want to be a perfect human being absent of mistakes. that is just not possible. we all have a level of complacency. none of us can live in this modern western world without committing some kind of violent act. i just don’t want to fool myself into thinking its all ok. i want to live with a greater awareness of the impact of the decisions and choices i make. i want those choices to have less violence and more compassion, hopefully some empathy for the well-being of all beings. and i want to bring that awareness into the relationships i have with people, lovers, animals, the land/water/air, who i buy from and do business with….how i give and share what i do have.

so there you have it. the 2 lenses i will use in writing about the adventures i take. i hope you enjoy them and it inspires you to take some, and  perhaps, reflect on how you got to the place you are today. what inspires you to make the choices you make.

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