Animal Writes
8 July 2001 Issue
The Vegetarian Lifestyle: Alienation vs. Connectedness

by Psych [email protected] 

Sometime around the time the Beatles arrived on the music scene, I arrived on Planet Earth. Delighted by the panoramic wonderland of trees, birds, blue sky and little furry creatures running through the grass, I thought that I was lucky to have landed on this planet.

My disenchantment began when I started eating what our culture calls "real food." I discovered, by asking my parents many questions about "dinner," that the main course on my plate, was most often skinned, dead, dismembered little furry or feathered creatures. Shocked and nauseated, I began to push the carcasses to the edge of my plate. Sometimes this stopped the repulsion, other times not. I was taken to a Doctor who diagnosed a "nervous stomach."

School started. The smell of the cafeteria sent me running to the restroom. Seen by the nurse, I was again diagnosed as having a "nervous stomach." My mother was instructed to pack lunches. The "comfort" of food from home might do the trick. At first, I found dead, skinned little furry or feathered creatures hidden between two slices of bread. They called this a "sandwich," and apparently everybody loved these. I gagged, and was often sent home. When I got home, they typically gave me a big glass of the pus laden liquid that is extracted from cow udders to soothe my stomach, and were dismayed when this made matters even worse.

"What is wrong with this child" they pondered? It took the adults a long time to notice that I didn't gag on fruit, lettuce, nuts any other food, just dead critters and their excretions!

My mother started packing a bag of veggies and fruits in neat little baggies, and I enjoyed my lunch alone in a classroom, away from the smells of the dead cows, chickens, and fish and rancid milk in the cafeteria.

As the years past, the nausea dissipated, allowing me to be a more social creature on this planet. I am now able to sit at a table with another person who is slicing into a dead animal. As I write that, I am somewhat disappointed in myself. But I am also grateful. I enjoy and thrive on the company of others, even the omnivores, despite our differences (unless of course, they mock or in some other way disparage my vegetarianism).

My own process has given me insight into how others assimilate into this strange and cruel culture.

As we get older, we tend to tune viceral sensations out, and allow ourselves to be conditioned by social pressures to conform (not to mention massive advertising campaigns sponsored by the greedy animal product industries). The penalty for not conforming can be harsh. Alienation is extremely unpleasant, and the push to abandon our nonconformist principles consequently, quite strong. It takes great strength to be the outsider. It takes great patience to wait for alliances that are genuine, and that do not require you to abandon your ideals. Each person must decide the degree to which they can conform without losing themselves completely in the process.

One of the keys to survival of body/soul on this planet is to constantly be aware of your viceral reactions. As physical reactions are often dismissed as "nerves" or psychologized in some other manner, a human being must be wise enough to see physical symptoms as indicators that something is aberrant in their lifestyle and/or environment and make the necessary adjustments. I strongly believe that many major illness could be avoided if the early warning signs of disequalibrium are acknowledged and acted upon. Of course some illness is unavoidable, but symptoms may be lessened by a more astute awareness of what feels "right" and what "doesn't"

Other people should be treated in a kind and understanding manner, however one should not allow others to unduly influence how we live our lives, unless they are honestly trying to prevent us from harming ourselves or other people. We must realize that alliances that are based on the lie of conformity are not genuine relationships. Genuine relationships are based on acceptance and respect, not control.

I am always hopeful that my vegetarianism serves to tune others into the atrocity of the meat industry. I do not preach, as this method is not only useless, but against my principals as well. I am delighted to see vegetarian selections on menus and in supermarkets. I'm happy to know that dead animals make other people's stomachs "nervous! " too. It helps me to feel more connected and at home here on planet earth.

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