December 9, 2016

Dear Vegan: I hear you…sometimes. Maybe.


“We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.”  ~ Pema Chodron


The thing I love about vegans is their absolute compassion for all creatures.

Okay, maybe not mosquitoes—but that’s understandable.

I was vegan for years, for reasons like the environment, ethical concerns and health concerns combined.

Now I’m not, for those same reasons, and because I once did a homesteading sustainability project in Canada where it’s frozen tundra for half the year, and I was practicing the 100-Mile Diet and End of Peak Oil thing.

Sustainable meant what I grew or my neighbors grew. That was an eye-opener, let me tell you!

One might think there are no environmental, sustainability or health reasons for considering abandoning veganism, but there are—but I’m not going to get into that here, because it’s a whole other kettle of fish…err, carrots.

Dear Vegan: I love you.

I love that you take a stand about something worthwhile and necessary. I love that your heart beats for the voiceless and that you care enough to make noise. You educate and innovate—soy dogs, soy burgers, soy bacon.

What you give to the world is awareness—and again, compassion. We need veganism, and we need your passion—your point of view. Being vegan made me aware. Awareness is the first step toward change.

When I tune out, it’s when I feel that I’m being shamed, fear-mongered or guilt-tripped into the vegan belief system. Because it’s not the only way. It is a way—a way that is good, thoughtful and loving. But still, just one way—one option.

I stop listening when veganism is preached like the gospel on Sunday morning, with innuendos of my heartlessness, my murdering ways, my lack of care for the planet, or indication that I’m un-evolved. Because I have my own work here, as an earth-builder. When you say those things, I don’t think less of myself, I simply stop hearing your message of love for all creatures. I am a creature too.

I listen when I sit at a restaurant with you and see what you’re eating—admiring your choice, without being stared down for mine. Then my heart is open to your message, and I can applaud your commitment. I can love the purity of your choices.

I listen when we farm together, caring for the plants we eat, just as we care for those cows that should be on pasture instead of in a feed lot. I listen when we can have a good discussion about our choices and neither of us leaves the table feeling belittled.

I listen when you also listen to me, when I say that plants are people too and deserve the same respect in harvest and in their growing time as any animal. We learn from each other.

I listen when you teach me about what moves you, but you hear me also. We can make vegan meals together—I love them! I won’t ask you to cook meat with me out of respect for your choices.

We can make this world a better place if we are mindful of the way we speak to each other, if we practice loving-kindness and if we teach by example.

My ears close when I am dictated information meant to convert me. I know I have no right to convert anyone.

My ears close when veganism is served on a plate heaped full of anger, hate and venom—because then I cannot see your compassion. I hear fundamentalism, and I cannot digest the message. I hear that you’re superior morally and spiritually to me, and that does not take into account how I choose to express my spirituality.

But I do appreciate it when we can both—in our own way—make this world a little bit better by working together and finding common ground, even if I may never do it your way, and you will never do it mine.

I don’t even care to make you intellectually understand my way—it’s my journey, and my journey is sacred. I’m simply sharing my heart.

The most “love mail” I get is when I write about sex and relationships. The most “hate mail” I have ever received was when I last wrote about my vegan to carnivore journey. Before that, the most hate I was showered with was when I left Christianity and became a pagan, earthlovin’ witch. Both times, I shut down in response to the judgement. I walked away with nothing to ponder.

I’m baring it all here. I’m risking showing vulnerability (and the inevitable hate mail) to say: we’re not so different. We both care. We are both here to make a difference with our precious existence.

Yes, in the end, I still “kill to eat.” As do you—something has to die. I believe in the consciousness of plants. But I’ve said this before, and that is not as relevant a discussion as the one I’m suggesting here.

Why can’t we all just get along? That is my question—although I fear (there’s that gut reaction again) that you will tell me it’s because I continue to murder the innocent.

But let’s say I don’t have that reaction. Let’s say I stand in my truth, and see that you stand in yours, and that neither of us is “right” or “wrong” but that we just are.

We can be sisters and brothers in the pursuit of mindfulness.

We can eat at the same table—peacefully. That is what I’m after.

“Through my love for you, I want to express my love for the whole cosmos, the whole of humanity and all beings. By living with you, I want to learn to love everyone and all species. If I succeed in loving you, I will be able to love everyone and all species on Earth… This is the real message of love.”  ~ Thich Nhat Hanh


Author: Monika Carless

Images: Flickr/Glenn3095

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina



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