Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Great Separation

Thousands of years ago, man lived in harmony with the rest of the natural world. Through what we would call Telepathy, he communicated with animals, plants and other forms of life - none of which he considered "beneath" himself, only different, with different jobs to perform. He worked side by side with earth angels and nature spirits, with who he shared responsibility for taking care of the world.

The earth's atmosphere was very different from what it is now, with a great deal more vegetation-supporting moisture. A tremendous variety of vegetable, fruit, seed and grain food was available. Because of such a diet, and the lack of unnatural strain, human life span was many times longer than what it is today. The killing of animals for food or "sport" was unthinkable. Man lived at peace with himself and the various life forms, whom he considered his teachers and friends.

But gradually at first, and then with increasing intensity, man's Ego began to grow and assert itself. Finally, after it had caused many unpleasant incidents, the consensus was reached that man should go out into the world alone, to learn a necessary lesson. The connections were broken.

On his own, feeling alienated from the world he had been created from, cut off from the full extent of its abundance, man was no longer happy. He began to search for the happiness he had lost. When he found something that reminded him of it, he tried to possess it and accumulate more - thereby introducing Stress into his life. But searching for lasting happiness and accumulating temporary substitutes for it brought him no satisfaction.

As he was no longer able to hear what the other forms of life were saying, he could only try to understand them through their actions, which he often misinterpreted. Because he was no longer cooperating with the earth angels and nature spirits for the good of all, but was attempting to manipulate the earth forces for his benefit alone, plants began to shrivel and die. With less vegetation to draw up and give off moisture, the planet's atmosphere became drier and deserts appeared. A relatively small number of plant species survived, which grew smaller and tougher with passing time. Eventually they lost the radiant colors and abundant fruit of their ancestors.

Man's life span began to shorten accordingly, and diseases appeared and spread. Because of the decreasing variety of food available to him - and his growing insensitivity - man began to kill and eat his friends the animals. They soon learned to flee from his approach and become increasingly shy and suspicious of human motives and behavior. And so the separation grew. After several generations, few people had any idea of what life had once been like.

As man became more and more violent toward the earth, and as his social and spiritual world narrowed to that of the human race alone, he became more and more manipulative of and violent toward his own kind. Men began to kill and enslave each other, creating armies and empires, forcing those who looked, talked, thought and acted differently from them to submit to what they thought was best.

Life became so miserable for the human race that about two or three thousand years ago, perfected spirits began to be born on earth in human form, to teach the truths that had largely been forgotten. But by then humanity had grown so divided, and so insensitive to the universal laws operating in the natural world, that those truths were only partially understood.

As time passed, the teachings of the perfected spirits were changed, for what one might call political reasons, by the all-too-human organizations that inherited them. Those who came into prominence within the organizations wanted power over others. They downplayed the importance of non-human life forms and eliminated from the teachings statements claiming that those forms had souls, wisdom and divine presence - and that the heaven they were in touch with was a state of Unity with the Divine that could be attained by anyone who put aside his ego and followed the universal laws.

The power-hungry wanted their followers to believe that heaven was a place to which some people - and only people - went after death, a place that could be reached by those who had the approval of their organizations. So not even the perfected spirits were able to restore the wholeness of truth, because of interference of the human ego.

Down through the centuries, accounts of the Great Separation. and of the Golden Age that existed before it, have been passed on by the sensitive and wise. Today in the industrial West, they are merely classified as legends and myths - fantasies believed in by the credulous and unsophisticated, stories based only on imagination and emotion. And although colored and simplified accounts of the Great Separation can be found in the holy books of the world's religions, it is doubtful that many followers of those religions strongly believe them.

- Benjamin Hoff, The Te of Piglet

Monday, January 25, 2010

They're all good animals

Rusty died a few days ago.

She was my mother’s cat and she was 18 years old, although you’d never know it to look at her. She seemed a lot younger. Perhaps it’s because she was so little. Still, 18 years is a pretty long life for a cat. And I can assure you she had a good life.

Actually, she wasn’t my mother’s cat at all; she was my sister’s. But mom had agreed to take care of her when my sister moved away to Arizona more than 10 years ago. So even though Rusty wasn’t technically my mom’s cat, she was my mom’s cat.

My mother was crying when she phoned me to tell me that Rusty had passed away. She was heartbroken and she still is. She said Rusty had been a part of her and now that she was gone, she felt like a part of her was missing too.

She told me how she had been petting Rusty the night before she died and how Rusty had been purring. “Oh, how she purred,” my mother had said. Rusty was still warm when my mom found her lifeless body underneath the dining-room table the next morning.

“She was such a good cat,” mom said as she wept.

“I know she was,” I replied. I was tempted to add, they all are, but decided not to.

My mom loved Rusty; of that I have no doubt. And I know she’ll get over losing Rusty in time; the pain and sorrow replaced by fond memories of her. It’s just too bad that my mother couldn’t (or doesn’t) have the same empathy and love towards other animals.

You see, my mother loves some animals and eats others. When she hears of animal abuse on television, she’s appalled. Yet she refuses to make the connection when it comes to animals who are killed for food.

Perhaps if she was able to know the other animals, one from every species, the way she was able to know Rusty, she might feel differently. After all, the cow who was killed for her hamburger was such a good cow. The pig who was slaughtered for her bacon was such a good pig. And the little chicken whose throat was cut so my mom can enjoy her sweet and sour chicken balls was such a good chicken.

Maybe then she’d see that all animals are worthy of compassion; that they don’t need to die or deserve to die or want to die. She might come to the realization that they are all good animals, and the needless suffering and death of any of them is tragic; something to mourn and more importantly, something to stop.

The only way to do this is to go vegan.

Rest in peace Rusty.

And rest in peace all you other good animals.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Veganism is hard!

Of all the reasons not to go vegan, this is the one I hear the most. Now I’m not completely convinced that everyone who says it’s hard has ever tried it (or has ever really given it a chance), but I’m assuming they assume it is. I also think a lot of folks equate veganism with extremism and view vegans as uncompromising purists.

To some we’re seen as a special breed of humans with almost supernatural powers of self-control; strange beings who constantly deny ourselves all the good things in life and take pleasure in trying to make other people feel guilty all the time.

Not true. The vegans I know (including myself) lead rich and rewarding lives. They’re as normal (or abnormal) as anyone else and they enjoy and do many of the same things you do. They also respect life - all life - and have devoted themselves to peace, which just so happens to begin with what (or who) you put in your mouth.

And it’s not about trying to make people feel guilty; it’s about trying to make people feel something, anything! Because if they feel something for the animals, a connection, pity, something, maybe they’ll stop eating them.

Personally, I’ve never considered veganism hard and I’ve been vegan for 10 years now. I make almost all my own meals and when I do eat out, I go to places that have vegan selections. I’ve also found that most restaurants are willing to prepare your food the way you want it; all you have to do is ask (try ordering a vegan pizza in a restaurant and see how many people comment on how delicious it looks).

Instead of eating meat and other animal products, I enjoy a wide variety of plant-based foods I never dreamed of trying before becoming vegan. Chana masala (aka chick peas in a curry sauce) is now one of my favourite homemade dishes, although prior to going vegan I wouldn’t touch chick peas with a ten-foot pole. Oh how I’ve grown!

I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything or depriving myself but I feel good knowing that my diet isn’t contributing to the suffering of others. Veganism isn’t about depriving yourself of things, but it does provide you with an opportunity to expand your food choices as well as your circle of compassion.

I also have no desire to use or wear anything that resulted in animals being tortured and killed, nor do I wish to see animals confined (zoos and marine parks) or abused (circuses and rodeos) for human amusement (the other part of veganism). Once I knew the truth about how these animals are made to suffer there was no going back.

But let’s say for a minute that veganism is hard (but not impossible). So what? A lot of things are hard, like waking up early for work, going to school, doing the dishes, cleaning your room, dealing with your mother-in-law, obeying the speed limit, telling the truth, being faithful to your partner and helping others. Did I miss anything?

My point is there are things that a) we need to do to survive and get by in the world, and b) we should be doing because they make us better human beings and the world a better place. Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do the right thing. And going vegan is the right thing. Not just for me or a select few but for everyone who believes in kindness, compassion and the golden rule.

Veganism is a commitment to peace and a stand against the exploitation of those who are weaker than us. Excluding animal products from your life is not the end of the world, but it might just be the beginning of the end to all the violence and unnecessary suffering in the world.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Reasons to go vegan

An article published by the Montreal Gazette yesterday commented on the growing popularity of veganism, stating that: "A novelty only 30 years ago, meat-free diets are rapidly becoming the fashion for people who care about their family's and their planet's health."

For the full story, click here: Vegans move into the mainstream

While I enjoy seeing stories like this in the newspapers, I wish the authors would also include the most important reason, and the number one reason most people go vegan: to stop the exploitation, suffering and slaughter of other animals.

I suppose right now it's trendy to reduce your meat consumption (or at least to say you do) but trendy or not, veganism is compassion in action. It's about recognizing how cruel and unnecessary it is to use, kill, wear, eat or experiment on other animals and then adjusting your lifestyle to reflect that awareness.