Hang on kids. This is going to be kind of a long entry.
So, back in the early 90's when I was in college, for mostly nutritional reasons, I flirted with being a vegetarian, my freshman year. I thought it would be a grand experiment. It was challenging, but rewarding. I found myself having a much higher energy level, lost weight, was mentally sharper, too. I was also cold a lot, and my energy didn't wane gradually, it would just drop. I think that was partially because I wasn't eating right and getting things I needed from other places.
Anyhow, another big thing happened to me that year. My parents separated, leading to a very ugly and tumultuous divorce. I really, REALLY hated my father in a way that defies description and understanding. I learned stuff about him that affects me to this day. And, I wanted to self-soothe, with a dose of cheeseburgercillin, so I did, and that was the end of the grand experiment.
Years went by. About four years ago or so, I saw this documentary, Food, Inc. about where meat in this country really comes from, mostly. I was horrified at the factory farming process, and the many different ways it damaged every party involved. The farmers, the immigrant help, the consumer, not to mention the animals themselves all were getting royally fucked over just so the BMW driving a-holes who own the big companies could profit. And what's yet more crazy is that it's not even a cost-effective way of doing business. Local sourced food is healthier, better quality, less economically impactful, too.
So I decided to become an ethical pescetarian. That is, I'd eat land animals like chickens, cows, and pigs, but only if they weren't factory farmed. I did that and stuck to it pretty well, for a couple of years. Then, time and circumstance wore away at me, and I let it go, which I have regretted until recently.
Because I saw a documentary, called Unity, about the nature of nonduality and how it relates to life on earth. I agree with most (85% or so) of what the film has to say. (And yes, I've watched the whole thing.) It's not an easy film to watch.
It opens with a particularly difficult scene, where you watch two cows in a chute headed to get the forehead-bang-of-death at a slaughterhouse. The first one goes, after being prodded with an electric cattle prod. The door shuts. The hammer falls. Horrible. But more horrible is what happens next. The second cow is terrified. It knows the score. It tries (but fails) to turn around, so it can come back the way it came. It doesn't want to die. Spoiler alert. It dies. The movie tied this quite brilliantly to an idea I've been struggling to express but which has been nascent within me for a while. We, the denizens of earth, human, animal, and plant are all part of the universe, together. Separate, but equal. The very word universe means all turn into one.
Part of why we slaughter one another so easily, even though it's a pointless, absurd thing, is because we see some people (and animals) as the other. Not to be gross about it but if someone knocked a puppy in the head with a hammer for fun, or to do some research on it (say cosmetic testing), you might be horrified. But when you sit down for a McSufferBurger you don't think about it. Because that's just some cow, someplace else and you don't identify with it. It's not like you, it's not your cousin or family or whatever.
This is also true of our relationships with people. That's why you hear people say such pithy crap statements as "All muslims are bad" or "Those lousy republicans/democrats/socialists/whatever are all idiots." We find our in-group, love hanging out with them, and when bad shit happens to the out-group, we don't care so much.
I've been heading at a steady pace now towards opting out of acting like this. I don't want to be cruel to people. I don't want to feel anger or negativity except as a reaction, and a transient one. I have a belief that I'm responsible for the amount of suffering I cause in the world, and I want to reduce it as much as I can.
After watching the movie, talking to some wonderful friends about it, and getting support from them, I made the decision a few days ago that I was going to be a full-on pescatarian. No more chicken, no more beef, no more pork. I want to do this because each bite of meat I eat is me contributing to the system that causes that animal suffering. I can't save them all, I can't unkill the ones that already died. But I can make a difference. There's a really great story about that making-a-difference thing called The Starfish Story. Check it out.
You might ask why not go full vegan? Believe me, I thought about it.
My friend Monika, who was a pescetarian for 15 years, told me something very smart.
"You reduce suffering where you can. There is always room for improvement but its ok to have limitations."
She's right. And that's the root of all this. I want to, as much as I can, reduce suffering. I don't want to eat something that felt a lingering sense of dread before it died so I can eat it. There's some degree of debate about the way fish brains work versus mammal brains, and that says they don't experience suffering and dread in the same way or to the same degree. It doesn't matter. This is my line, today, and it belongs to me, by and for my own reasoning. I'm good with that.
Let me stop a sec, to say an important thing, okay?
This is about me, not about you. I'm totally okay with you not doing what I do. I don't have answers for anyone. Questions, on the other hand, those I have aplenty. And I'm spending my whole life attempting to find answers to them that work for me. That's what this is.
So, I got started. The very last little bit of meat I had was some chorizo soup-in-a-pouch I had left in my little cabinet in the kitchen at the office. As soon as I finished it, I knew I didn't want to do that again. I packed up the other meat-containing soups and brought them home for my family. I went to the supermarket and bought some lovely fresh fish. One night I made parmesan crusted fish. The next night I pan seared it, and made a kickass lemon cream caper sauce to go with it. My sister in law tried both, and loved them, even though she says she doesn't like fish.
I was a bit hesitant to start, because in my quest to reduce suffering, I didn't want to cause my wife and sister-in-law suffering by it. But we talked it out. They've been awesome. They get it.
My friends have been awesome too. My friend Jacy sent me this long email with all sorts of tips, resources, and info. He recently converted from a strict vegetarian to a pescetarian, so we're going to be "fishitarian buddies."
There's stuff just now I do miss. I keep bumping into foods I loved which I won't be eating again. Korean BBQ galbi is one, Bon Chon Korean fried chicken is another. But as Wayne Dyer said, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. I'm not losing a hamburger, I'm gaining a fish-in-law, or something like that.
A co-worker of mine was telling me about a Korean fish place that has sashimi-prepared-to-order for you, where you pick out the fish, and as they are preparing it, they bring you a little parade of interesting appetizers as you wait. I really want to try that! I'm all about adventurous dining.
Which leads to the end point of this rather large post. I was back at the office, and needed to get lunch. I wandered the neighborhood to a nearby café and got myself a veggie burger and fries. This fabulous creation:
It was GOOD. Did it taste like meat? No, not particularly. It tasted like what it was, a veggie burger. I've had lots of these over the years and during my various states of meat-consumption. I've had absolutely disgusting terrible ones, and really quite good ones. This one was more toward that end of the scale.
It reminded me of an important truth. I wasn't giving up meat. I was embracing something about myself that I've been looking for, for a long time.
It feels good.