"You're vegan? Well.... ...what do you eat?"
This is one of the most common questions we vegans are often asked. It is also one of the most curious questions as well. Is this really the best response people have? Are people really not aware of all the non animal foods that are available today? Unless the person asking is emerging from a cave after a life of seclusion or they are just arriving from decades of living among the ice drifts of the north seas most of the people who ask this question more than likely already know the answer.
However, this post is not going to attempt to answer that question at all or even attempt to dig down into the obvious transparent quality that this line of questioning from people infers. Rather, this post will pose another even more important question.
Why are we vegans never asked what we feel?
We are constantly asked by the curious in relation to our veganism what it is that we eat if we don't eat animal products. Yet the fact remains that we are never asked what we feel. Nearly every comment or question is usually tossed to us with the intention of avoiding anything authentic, ethical or compassionate. It appears as if the omnivores of the world have all attended the exact same continuing education course titled....
"How to Deflect Any Possibility At Getting To The Essence of Someone's Ethical Veganism....101."
Well, prepare yourself to be unimpressed by the results of their schooling.
But seriously and with all due respect.... Why is it when we further express to others that we've chosen not to eat animal products for ethical reasons the question concerning what we feel is never proposed?
Maybe we simply need to begin the dialogue ourselves and mention to the questioner that our choice is not merely about what we eat but really much more about what we feel. Investigating the nature of our emotions and sharing them directly may take some practice but the work itself can help transform our conversations with others about who we are.
This M.O. may provide us with a much more gentle approach when articulating our inspiration for opting out of who we don't eat rather than what it is.... we do eat.
If we can make it clear that it is what we feel personally that moves us it may in fact dislodge the usually defensive reactions which many people have when we talk about being vegan. Discussing what we feel is very different from explaining to someone why we are vegan and it may make all the difference...in the world.
When we can go straight to the emotional aspects of how it feels for us to live on this planet with so much violence against non humans and how it feels to have our hearts broken over and over again everyday we can begin to make our experience personal for others. When we layout what we feel regarding our reasons to not participate in the exploitation of non human animals and allow the meaning to become rooted in who we are provides us a much greater opportunity to ignite the awareness of those questioning our veganism.
This is about revealing our truth and about unrolling the sentiment behind our basic convictions. Maybe its a way we can expose that extra layer of grief to other humans which we animal rights advocates and ethical vegans live with day to day. We live with the knowing how unnecessary, how brutal and how tragic the short life of a farmed animal is.
Maybe we can express that our sorrow is even claustrophobic at times because we realize we have no way of stopping the machine that kills so many millions everyday as it does one by one and life by life.
What does it feel like for instance to have empathy that extends beyond our own species? What does it feel like to have that empathy crushed, ripped and torn? What does it sound like? What does it look like and taste like?
What does it feel like to attempt to stay one step ahead of the pain we feel for animals?
Maybe there is no way possible to stay ahead of the pain but rather have the courage to stay in it. Pain not fully felt will never heal.
In fact staying with the discomfort we have over the suffering and injustice committed against non humans also keeps us pledged to fight and speak out on their behalf.
Defining our experience of being vegan and sharing those feelings may be the only door way we have. It may in fact be the most efficient way to open the door for others as well.
Now before this feels like a sudden dash into abstract or speculative ideology we must remember that nearly everything we do is really only a reaction to what we feel.
Communicating to others that we are what we feel and that our love for animals and our hoping for a more compassionate and less violent world is what brought us here.
Having compassion for others is what links us to the chain of living vegan yet it is what most often is also overlooked. Having compassion for ourselves in regard to what we feel is often overlooked as well. Discussing our feelings of why we are ethical vegans with those who question us can be a reward to ourselves and a gift to the animals who will somehow be ironically pushed out of the argument in favor of protein myths or vitamin B12 sales pitches.
Comprehending what is we feel allows us to have a wisdom and composure that goes further and deeper than we can imagine. Being able to touch our sorrows and our grief as well as our anger and frustration allows us to express our being vegan with others in a much more rational and calm way. This may be the most important angle we have in illustrating, demonstrating and teaching our veganism to others. This is not an easy task and most of us are lucky if we have 5 minutes a day when we can slow down enough to focus on what we are feeling and then to be able to express it with a no drama...(Obama) like focus is even more difficult.
Yet, it can be done and it might be the key to making a connection from our hearts to others. We live in a world of others and we do need to make the best of that world.
When we can have our priorities straight emotionally and our concentration is precise because we have connected to what it is we feel it enables us to be grounded enough to be real without being offensive. Our attention is more focused to express ourselves clearly and truthfully. Then we can begin to realize and make this point to others that our feelings of grief, sorrow and pain are actually born from our compassion, kindness and love.
Our frustration with the way humans abuse and kill animals comes from our wanting others not to suffer and lose their lives. Our empathy felt is our empathy experienced and we can begin to have insight into our sameness with the animals and our sameness with other humans as well rather than always looking for the differences.
Maybe this is what leads us to the wisdom in understanding that our sadness and anger comes from a place of warmth and goodness. We are what we perceive about the world and our ideas themselves have the power to change us and possibly others forever.
Feeling what it is that makes us who we are enables us to embody and convey ourselves in a more rational and direct way. When we pay close attention to what we feel moment to moment in living vegan we can make the detailed claims that are necessary for others to understand our subjectivity. A subjectivity based and born from empathy and kindness and from caring about those whom we love. When we can articulate this truth for others they will understand that there is nothing irrational about feeling grief or even anger when the ones we love are killed.
Explaining to others we are vegan because of what we feel rather than what we don't eat allows us to bring the reality of our motivations out into the open and to the rest of the world. It gives us the chance to connect with the fact that our feelings of sorrow, grief, anger and frustration were instigated by our caring, compassion and empathy. When we move into what we feel it can open us to a better way of sharing who we are with the world and the others who are not.........yet.