I've spent some time this weekend doing some serious soul-searching. About why it is that I'm on this journey, and what it all means to me as a person.
The guilt of existence
We seem to be bombarded with messages about all of the bad things which the actions of humankind are responsible for: (global warming through excessive carbon emissions, animal maltreatment, overpopulation, famine, etc), and I have to admit that I have a tendency to internalise things. I realised over the weekend that I have been harbouring tremendous guilt on behalf of all humankind, and tremendous resentment towards humankind, for creating all of these problems.
So what do I do? Out of guilt I cease all forms of anything which might compound these problems. I flagellate myself for bathing instead of showering; I cringe when I switch on a light. I'm deeply apologetic to mother nature for living in a tarred, built up city which has displaced so many of her creatures. And while it's not a bad thing to be aware of our personal impact on the environment, I reached a point this weekend where I realised that this guilt will be the end of me. And in thinking through my existence guilt, I found some pearls of wisdom:
Live with consciousness and gratitude
The world’s problems are not entirely my fault. I am part of them, but that unfortunately is the reality of the situation. I can make conscious choices to minimize my impact, but that is all I have the power to do. Were we designed to eat meat? Well, the 'expert' opinions on this are many and varied, and many sources suggest that we may have been (I have included some links below to articles and videos which deal with different aspects of this argument). Some meat. No need to go overboard.
I think of a scene in Avatar, a film which really is all about living in harmony with nature. The Na’vi civilization did eat meat, but they killed it themselves, with consciousness and gratitude. They thanked the hunted animal for its life and its nourishment – “I see you, brother, and I thank you”. (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMnT1VTinpo for the particular scene, although unfortunately the video is awful! I can’t find any other online clips of the scene. But there is an interesting interview about killing animals in a Halaal way, thanking the animal and invoking God’s blessing on the food – see link below.) They don’t kill more than they truly need, and they do so with humilty and thanks. Not with machines and conveyer belts.
However, unless we actually run the farm / slaughterhouse, we don’t really have much control over the way in which animals are treated or killed. For some, that is a reason not to touch animal products. For us all, it is a reason to live with consciousness of the value of any animal’s life, and gratitude for that. And I think gratitude and humility might just help us to make more ethical choices, anyway.
2. Live with forgiveness
Although nobody on the planet is solely responsible for creating the world's problems, we are all part of the problems. We are all flawed and could all do with an injection of humility. So...cut a brother come slack! There's no need to be judgmental; no need to be resentful. We are a collective being, and when we can respect one another, maybe we can even start to act as a collective!
So...what is 'healthy' living?
Well, I think it is up to each of us to find our own balance, in terms of nutrition, ethics, spirituality, environmental concern, etc. No one source has all the answers. I’d like to think that if we are open to it, reverence for nature will be our guide. As for the specifics, well, take a look at the information out there and make up your mind for yourself...
What other people have to say on the matter:
All of the articles below present views quite different from ‘Earthlings’ (in my last post). They are not against, and many of them advocate, eating meat. Most of them advocate eating small quantities of organic meat / animal products. All of them advocate going organic. It’s more expensive, but the argument goes that you need much less than you think you do!
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuOs8Itt2X0&feature=related [Home video interview with an ex-vegan doctor about what he thinks humans’ relationship with meat should be, from the perspectives of health and religion (Judaism). He does seem to get a bit uncomfortable when questioned about ethics…]
- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1058758/Why-need-eat-red-meat-MasterChefs-John-Torode.html [This article mentions some of the nutrients which can only be acquired from animal proteins]
- http://fitnessblackbook.com/diet-tips/why-we-need-meat/ [An article whose primary focus is on the importance of protein in a ‘healthy’ diet. While this protein can be obtained from vegetables (e.g. beans), one would need to eat an almost unobtainable amount of beans, thereby exponentially increasing the body’s carbohydrate intake – not great!]
- http://www.heenamodi.com/2008/07/28/why-do-we-need-to-eat-less-or-no-meat/ [This article looks at, amongst other things, space considerations – producing meat takes more than 20x the space it takes to produce the same quantity of vegetables.]
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WqHzTJMCjA&feature=related [Interview about Halaal (which means 'permissible') practices for killing animals, tying in strongly with the humanitarian ideas of Avatar. Granted, of course, the theory and the practice of Halaal may be worlds apart.]
'Til next time!xx