Sunday, July 3, 2011

You are how you eat?

Today in church I had the sensation that we were all getting enlightened together.

It was a lay service, meaning led by people, though one trained minister, a chaplain, did speak. She was followed by three others, people I know from brunch after church.  The subject was Animal Ministry, which is a growing thing among UU's, and I had a little fear it would be the kind of thing that about legislation, and not very inspiring. It was very far from that.

Each of the four speakers began with a story of what a certain animal has meant to them. One mentioned that sometimes it seems a pet has chosen you.  This has happened to me with three cats now.  I could tell you in detail my state of mind, how I vacillated about each animal.  Each has been a cat I didn't think I wanted. Sherlock was a tomcat who never stopped trying to get out, and became a biter.  Sheba, who was initially afraid of me and every other living thing, turned out to be much older than the shelter thought - it nearly broke my heart when she died a year later. Now Tashi, who put her arms around my neck when I picked her up on a day when I just went to see the kitties, is much more of a kitten than we wanted, runs and bounds around so that we almost fall on her.  But we love the play more than anything.

Each talk today was about tender compassion for all living things. Lisa spoke about how her pets led her focus deeply on them, to expand her ability to love. By mid-service I had cried two or three times, almost sobbing the first time.  Touched. I remembered how, in Crazy Wisdom one student spoke about Chogyam Trungpa crying on the platform when he announced the death of his friend, Shunryu Suzuki; it showed everyone there that it was okay to cry.  That it is being human.

Several speakers talked about how they became vegetarian or vegan as they realized the suffering of animals.  And not very far into the service I knew I was doomed - I would have to stop eating meat, too.  Sitting there I could see the karma pushing me along for some time now.  Most recently, we took our grandson to a restaurant that heaped pulled pork on the nachos, and it sort of disgusted me, and I didn't enjoy eating it.  Yesterday I noticed the library had a new Peter Singer book on the social cost of eating animals.  I've read him before - his logic is relentless. At the time I thought, "If I take that out, I'll have to stop eating meat."  So this was coming.

After the service I told Laurie, my kidney donor, that I've been waiting for this - for her kidney to catch up with me. She has been vegetarian for something like 14 years.

I've practiced vegetarianism before, but had to drop it as my kidney function got worse and my diet more restrictive. And when you're tired, meat-eating is much easier in this culture.  But now I can eat legumes, nuts and seeds, dairy products, whole grains, all sorts of fruit. It looks like a treat, actually.  And now I find myself in a mini-culture of other people who feel the way I do. By accident, if anything is by accident.


  1. I was a UU for years off and on. Sadly, there is not a fellowship within 4 hours of where I now live, and I do miss it. Ah well....
    I wish a cat would come choose me before I have to go searching for her.
    Also, I am one of those kind of vegetarians where I don't care for meat as it messes with my stomach but occasionally I just love to have a hamburger. I find that when I am in pain, I tend to crave sugar ever so badly. It is like I cannot get enough sugar and I want nothing else. I read something about this somewhere and the idea that sugar helps with pain.
    No accidents, only luck.

  2. I am lucky, I have vegetarian all my life. My Mum brought me up as a vegetarian. Obviously I could have chosen to become a meat eater. I am not anti-meat eating (I'm sure there is a better word for that...anti-omnivore??). Each to their own, I say. I have always said that if you can kill it, then eat it. I personally cannot kill anything, I cannot watch a creature suffer, so I cannot eat them. I am not a very good vegetarian, and I should make more of an effort really. But also, more recently, I am not much of an eater either. Not because of any illness, but because I have found that I only need to eat to survive, and I need little to survive. I think we generally all eat too much and we don't listen to our bodies.

    I suppose I have been brought up to see, and continue to see, that that pile of food is a living creature who has died for our 'benefit'.

    If a doctor came to me and said that in order for me to survive a bit longer on the planet, I would have to eat meat, I would simply die more quickly! I couldn't do it. If that is what is meant to be, then that is what is meant to be, but I couldn't eat a creature for my own benefit. Perhaps that makes me a bit mad, but I do see every creature as equal in my world, and just as I wouldn't eat my next door neighbour, or my dog, I wouldn't eat any other living creature either. Heaven help me if science discovers that a carrot has feelings, that's all I can say.

    I hope you do manage to become a vegetarian, as it sounds as if that is what you truly want to do. I can't tell you if it is hard or not, as I have never had to do it, but many people I speak to reached a point where they just didn't enjoy it any more, for one reason or another, and that helps, I think. I hope it is an easy transition for you too.

    :-) P x

  3. You might also try reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" which talks about the positives and negatives of all sides. This is an issue I'm constantly torn over.