I’ve done a number of posts on my ongoing attempt to cut down or perhaps eliminate meat from my diet, starting with a post last year in which I laid out three perfectly logical reasons for kicking carrion. I’m now about 75% flesh-free, meaning about 3/4 of my meals involve no meat, but I haven’t summoned the will or built the change muscles that would take me the rest of the way.
It’s been a difficult but valuable experience that has taught me a lot about myself and, via that microcosm, about people in general–about our comfort zones, our self-imposed but often unacknowledged boundaries, our infinite ability to deceive ourselves. We speak grandly and glibly of revamping entire political systems, radically changing the entrenched habits of millions, when most of us would have a hard time giving up coffee for two days or taking a different route to work next Wednesday. Everyone wants change, but nobody wants to change. Holding the mirror, I say: Reformer, reform thyself.
I won’t put myself in Thoreau’s company, but posing this challenge about an apparently “simple” matter like diet, and trying to live a different way, keeps reminding me of lines from Walden. What Thoreau did, really, was use himself as a laboratory of change, realizing that many important things in life are not theoretical; you have to be there, take part, do something in order to understand them. I can read all day about war, but I shouldn’t kid myself that I thereby understand the primal reality of war. I understand books about war, but combat is something either you experience and so understand, or you don’t and don’t.
Thoreau didn’t sit around windily philosophizing about what others ought to do. He didn’t make long lists of what he was entitled to and gnash his teeth when others failed to create a world good enough for him. Instead he set out to do something and keep a record of what he was and was not able to accomplish. He trusted that in meeting himself honestly, revealing his successes and failures, he would learn enduring lessons. I share that faith.
The attempt to change my diet has also taught me that what we call “reason” can be a pretty impotent tool when it’s opposed by long-ingrained habit and ancient appetites that have both biological and cultural weight behind them. Still, I continue to look for “reasons” that will help me tip the scale and make the final push toward a meat-free diet. One more showed up in a weekend newspaper article about couples who have conflicts, and even break up, because their eating habits differ so much. I winced when I read this line:
Ben Abdalla, 42, a real estate agent in Boca Raton, Fla., said he preferred to date fellow vegetarians because meat eaters smell bad and have low energy.
Okay, I’ve been a bit sluggish lately, but. . . smell bad? Yikes!
The article also introduces a delightful word, new to me: “Vegangelical.” Read the whole piece here if you like. (And stock up on deodorant.)