I know I’ve posted some 'heavy' commentary lately, but I’ve had a lot on my mind, to those of you who come to this blog predominantly for the food, I apologize – this is more commentary.
This post is going to be quite a bit more personal than usual, I generally try to limit my commentary to things that I feel will educate or enlighten people, but I think that getting one’s feelings out in the open can be very therapeutic, which is something I need right now – and perhaps if any of you desire, you will learn more about me. This will probably be hard to follow, but hopefully will be at least partially coherent.
::Climbing on my soap box::
I think whoever said ‘ignorance is bliss’ was not only spot on, but must have been a strong seeker of knowledge. You see, at least in my experience, the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. There are times when it can feel like the weight of the world are on one’s shoulders and you have no clue what to do or even what’s really going on anymore.
I’ve said before I’m a much different person now than I used to be, what I mean by that is that I used to be a quite selfish person who didn’t see beyond my own conception of reality. I’ve often wondered where I began to see a world beyond myself, and to question who I was as a person. I think I began to change while in college (big surprise). I took a social psychology course with an incredibly radical teacher who opened my eyes to many concepts that made the world around me make more sense, and also to ask more questions – of others and myself. This started what one could rightly call an obsession with knowledge and learning.
Over the years I have experienced my share of cognitive dissonance. Basically what that means is that I had closely held beliefs and views that were shattered upon being exposed to new information. It makes for a lot of discomfort, but it also opens up the possibility for personal change, which is how I tried to approach it.
Long story short, I’ve changed very much over the past few years – my values, my priorities, my view of my place in the world and my responsibility to others. But perhaps more important than that is I’ve almost gone from one extreme to another – from being too selfish to not selfish enough, to a point where I find myself needing to seek balance, to find consistency, to determine what parts of the things I’ve learned that I want to internalize, and how to break the notion that I need to fit into some sort of ‘box’ (this is also called conformity).
Once I began to question and accept basic things – such as the history taught to me in public school was akin to propaganda – as is our modern ‘mainstream’ media, that politics is dirty and really has little to do with ‘we the people’, and the ‘real world’ isn’t necessarily a friendly place, I began to look at more specific concepts. I began learning about things like peak oil, the environment, social justice, economics (the American economy is a dirty and quite scary ‘house of cards’), and so on. This led me to begin to change many of my behaviors (and of course Brett too, these are changes made together) such as giving up a junker car rather than fixing it or getting a new one, becoming a vegetarian, reducing my waste, reducing my spending, reducing and being conscious of my energy and water consumption, making more mindful choices, learning to cook, learning to garden, trying to educate others, and so on.
But what I found at every turn was that the problem was bigger and more complex than I had originally thought. There was always more to do and that I could never possibly do enough. The more I learn, the more I also realize how unprepared myself and the world is for the ‘doomsday’ version of how tomorrow might be – due to war, famine, climate change, economic collapse, declining energy, you take your pick.
Awhile ago, I began to feel guilty spending my time doing activities that I enjoyed, such as playing video games, enjoying music, being outside, watching birds, etc. I could be learning more, reducing more, educating others! I know now, having given myself time to get my head around this that I have been being irrational, but just because I understand many concepts of psychology does not make me immune to falling prey to them myself. This guilt led me to spending pretty much all my free time watching documentaries, researching more, formulating posts and commentary, even joining and delving head first into activism (I quickly decided that I do not think political action is really the most effective avenue for change at this point.), and to be completely honest, the world out there isn’t all that pretty. The problems are big – probably too big, and there is always more to be done – but what I have been coming to realize is that I don’t have to be the one to do it all – it’s impossible, and wouldn’t even be desirable if I could. I can’t even know everything about one subject– things are just too complex.
Lately, the world has seemed a pretty bleak place to me, our prospects seem pretty bad at times, and it seems the problems are so large in number that they may be insurmountable. I have worried greatly for the future – to the point of not really enjoying the here and now, which is all we really have, we have no way of predicting the future. In my guilt and worry, I’ve forgotten how far I’ve come, how many positive things I am doing to make things better, and the amazing person I’m doing it with – I now need to learn how to balance the enjoyable aspects of life with the ‘real’. I’ve come to accept that I can’t feel guilty for enjoying myself or doing something simply for the sake of joy, what good am I to the world if I feel helpless and depressed all the time? Not to mention, there are still many things to smile about right now. Relationships, nature, cooking, gardening, music, being silly, letting loose – essentially, I need to lighten up, which isn’t something I ever thought I would have to tell myself, I’ve always been such a laid back person. Honesty with oneself is not always pretty, but honesty is something I value very much, and I have to hold myself to the same standards as I hold others.
I’ve also had to convince myself that there is little value in labels or embracing them – especially when I don’t really fit them. I don’t think I feel comfortable calling myself an environmentalist anymore, I no longer actively do anything to change the way things are aside from trying educate others when I can and living my life how I think it should be lived, I find activism to be ineffective at the current moment. Essentially, one would be very accurate to say that I hold a lot of the basic principles that environmentalists do, but I feel that there are values or opinions implied in the term that I do not necessarily share.
I also don’t feel comfortable calling myself a vegan – not necessarily because of my current dietary choices, but more what it implies. I did not become a vegetarian for ethical reasons, this part of the ‘argument’, so to speak, wasn’t something I reflected on until a later time. I did it because meat production is incredibly environmentally destructive on the massive scale it is today. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve always felt that the way we ‘rear’ modern livestock is cruel and shameful, but at the time I wasn’t necessarily morally opposed to the idea of eating meat in general, it was this meat, reared this way. I should note that I gave up all dairy products before I even became a vegetarian – I have a mild allergy to dairy which causes me to become very stuffy when I consume it, so for obvious reasons, I quit consuming dairy products.
This vegetarian diet worked well for me for awhile, I also began to shop more locally and try to eat things in season as well. Then I began learning about modern, large scale egg production and how harmful this too was on the environment and the chickens. I again felt cognitive dissonance and ruled that I could no longer eat eggs, any eggs. Again, eggs were not something that I had or even still have a moral conflict with consuming. I do understand the ‘pro-life’ argument (though respectfully disagree), or individuals who feel we don’t have the ‘right’ to use animals for our own gain, to exploit them in any way - this argument I can go along with to an extent, but I think competition is a natural part of life and we wouldn’t have gotten to the point humans have had we as a species not been willing to compete. That doesn’t make it ‘right’, but I’m not sure nature understands such concepts, nor ones such as ‘justice’. Those are concepts that humans created who ourselves have much difficulty internalizing as a whole. I am in no way trying to discredit ethical veganism or the more law or philosophically oriented reasons for being a vegan, not at all, I think those are very valid viewpoints, I am just trying to explain why those explanations don’t work for me. And I have to point out that I think it’s perfectly alright that people have many different reasons for doing the things they do. I personally had to get here a different route and I have a different perspective, that’s all.
What I’m saying is, say I had a chicken, I would of course treat her properly, and she would quickly become my companion. Would I eat that chickens eggs? Yes I probably would, because I would know that I was being light on the environment, treating the chicken well, and that the egg would never be fertilized since I would not have a male. Would I eat the chicken? No. Am I going to go eat eggs tomorrow? No, of course not. I am very unwilling to even buy eggs from the farmer’s market as I have no insurance what the scale of the operation is, what the animals were fed, how they were treated, how their waste was handled and so on. My basic point is that I feel uncomfortable calling myself a vegan when I am unsure that I will never consume an egg again, eating eggs isn’t vegan, and for this and other reasons I have chosen not to call myself vegan.
I will say quite openly and honestly that I am very torn about how I feel about honey. Truly. And that is how I will leave that one.
As I have reflected on my reasons for being a veg*n or whatever you would like to call it, I began to realize that I have a tendency to discredit emotion or any sort of effective reasons for my holding a belief, which is silly. I will never eat meat again unless my life depends on it – and even then I’m not so sure, if times were so desperate that I was faced with that decision, they might not be times worth living in. Even if suddenly, all CAFO’s were shut down, and meat began to be reared in an environmentally benign way, I would still not eat meat as I have a problem with eating another creature – plain and simple. I do not judge others for eating meat and do not think the world should become vegetarian, but I personally cannot eat an animal, it just seems wrong. While this wasn’t my initial, or even still, my primary reason for not eating meat, should that primary environmental aspect be removed, then I would just have the moral or ethical argument, and that’s alright.
I feel that I am beginning to absorb some of what I’ve learned and experienced – it’s going to take awhile. I’ve learned to be more honest with myself and vicariously with others. My motivations for the way I live my life are now clearer to me, and I’ve been able to enjoy myself, truly, for the first time in awhile, because I finally talked about it. I will always want to learn more, to keep up with what’s going on around me, to learn to live more lightly and closer with nature, but will also stop to have fun, to enjoy life. It’s hard to accept that one should have to remind themselves to do that.
I guess the ‘moral of the story’ (my advice to you based on my own experience, however valid or useful that may be), is learn about the world around you, do what you can - but don't let it overwhelm you, always stop to enjoy what's out there and who is experiencing it with you. Oh, and don’t let people (or yourself) put you into boxes, it seems easy, and it’s nice to have an quick way of ‘identifying’ with others, but we are all too complex and much deeper than these labels imply. Embrace that.
Thank you for allowing me to go on and on, and rant about nonsense and all the rest.
::Getting off the soap box now::
I promise I will be back with food soon, and I’ll try to post the weekly garden update today. Game 2 of the NBA Finals are on tonight – I don’t know who I’m rooting for, but I watched the first game and it was some good basketball.