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Articles Reflecting a Vegan Lifestyle From

Vegan lifestyle articles that discuss ways of living in peace with humans, animals, and the environment.

FROM Plant Peace Daily
October 2020

Who we include in our circle of caring/compassion is often determined by whether or not they are familiar to us and if we have connected with them in some way. By letting go of fear and taking the time to connect to any other living being, even those that are the most unfamiliar, we never see their group in the same way again.

Ramana Maharashi

How many of you have experienced the frustration of being seen as part of some group rather than being seen as an individual? Personally, I don’t want to be seen as just a woman or just an old person or just an American or just a white person. There is something in humans that makes it difficult for us to not judge individuals based on their group. The judgment is often based on a meaningless physical characteristic or a cultural difference. Within our own species it is challenging for us to not judge others based on how they look, their language, their sexual orientation, their gender, their education level, etc. Also, if we do not share language and culture it is difficult for us to understand other humans. We do not know if the other person is funny, intelligent, or what we have in common with them because we are so strongly oriented to verbal connections.

Years ago, I experienced a lesson in this. It was one of my first wake up calls to my own judgmental attitudes. I was working at a peace camp in Costa Rica. We were a large group of volunteers from all over the world working on getting the camp built and ready to open. I was in charge of three of the smaller groups. I would buzz around on a bicycle and give direction to the three groups. One of the groups was 9 women from an indigenous tribe who were there volunteering and it was the first time they had ventured out of their small village.

Their job was to paint the entrance sign for the camp. I left them with yellow paint and brushes and ladders. Our common language was Spanish, but none of us were fluent. I asked them to paint the carved letters yellow on the giant brown sign. Then I got on the bike to check on another group. When I got back to the women, they were all laughing and they were covered in splattered yellow paint. The sign and the ground under it were a mess of yellow drips and puddles. I asked them to show me what had happened and one of them demonstrated how they were dipping the brushes into the cans and throwing paint onto the sign. What I learned was that they had never seen a paintbrush and had never painted and didn’t know the step of dragging the brush along the edge of the can to get the excess paint off. I thought, “This is going to be a long couple of weeks. These women don’t have many skills”.

The next day, the caretaker brought a truckload of machetes to me and these same women and told us to clear an area for a cabin. The women each grabbed a machete and went to the rocks nearby and started sharpening them on the rocks. I stood there with my machete, clueless about how to sharpen it. When they asked me what was wrong, I told them I had never sharpened a machete before. They all looked at each other and I can almost guarantee they were thinking, “This is going to be a long couple of weeks. This woman doesn’t know much.”

It taught me an important lesson. We learn the skills necessary to survive in our own culture and our own circumstances. Intelligence and skills are not a one size fits all. It also made me think about how easy it is to misunderstand and judge someone in our own species. And that led me to a better understanding of how easy it is to misjudge another species. We do not share their culture and language. As with other humans, unless we spend a lot of time with an individual of any species, it is easy to see them as simply their group. I have seen people who meet a pig or a cow or chicken for the first time and it completely changes their idea about the group. Beyond rescuing the individuals and giving them a great life, this is one of the great benefits of animal sanctuaries. Most people are forever changed when they connect one on one with farmed animals, monkeys, chimps, elephants and others at a sanctuary.

Most of the injustices in the world stem from the inability to see a thinking, feeling individual in another living being. Slavery, abuse and murder of innocent beings is not limited to our own species. It is still challenging for humans to care about all humans, so it is not surprising that we are limited in our ability to care about all species. Why can many humans care so deeply about one species and not care about another? There are people who love dogs or cats, but feel nothing when it comes to the animals they choose to eat or wear. There are hunters who love their dogs and easily shoot other species. Many people are excited to eat their holiday ham or turkey but would be horrified if there was a dog or cat roasted and served. The difference with the dog or cat is that we know individuals of those species. We have welcomed them into our homes. We have called them “family”.

My dear friends from Kenya used to talk about how LGBT people were the “sick ones in the human species” and should be either killed or put on a separate island so they didn’t weaken our species. After months of them being with all my friends, I asked them who their favorite of my friends was. They all said Sarah. I asked them, “Why Sarah?” They replied that Sarah was the most beautiful, kindest, funniest and smartest of my friends. When I told them that Sarah is a lesbian (I had asked Sarah’s permission to tell them), they laughed. When they saw me not laughing, they sat in shock. “Sarah can’t be a lesbian, you are joking, right? We love her. It is impossible she is a lesbian.” In the months and years to come, this Kenyan family became the most outspoken advocates for LGBT rights in the Kenyan expat community. Knowing and caring about one individual had opened their hearts to the entire LGBT community.

Much of our work on earth is to find compassion for those who are different from us. The Webster definition of compassion is: sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

Who we include in our circle of caring/compassion is often determined by whether or not they are familiar to us and if we have connected with them in some way. By letting go of fear and taking the time to connect to any other living being, even those that are the most unfamiliar, we never see their group in the same way again.

Which humans and which species do you still have strong judgments about? Who do you see as different from you and less deserving of compassion? You can make this your challenge: find someone in that group and connect with them, get to know them as an individual. Whether it is the homeless person asking for money on the street corner or the chicken living in a sanctuary near you, take the time to find out who they really are. You will be forever changed.

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