The change. In one of my recent posts, I talked about strugling with the decission to eat animal flesh again, beyond fish.
Well, I am. At least for now.
About a week or so ago, I tried turkey bacon. I picked turkey bacon specifically so my girlfriend (who's an observant, reform Jew) could have some, too. It was good. I didn't faint from ecstasy or anything, but it was tasty. Then this past Wednesday, I made the decission to open up the floodgates and let chicken and pork back in. Pork was a less painful (for me) choice. I got some good, smoked-cured pepper bacon. Had it. It was good. Again, no spontaneous orgasm, but it tasted good.
There's been a ground-swell of a movement in the world--and here in Portland--regarding bacon. It's nearly cult-like. T-shirts, songs, festivals. All about bacon. There was that hideous KFC concoction, the "Big Infarction" (or whatever they called that monstrosity) that was nothing but fried chicken, bacon and cheese. Hell, we even have a punk vegan bakery here in town that has perfected a vegan bacon doughnut (which is in and of itself a clone of another Portland icon: the VooDoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Bar).
The Cult of Bacon reaches in deep, grabs people by the chitlins, and apparently won't let go. Personally, I blame Anthony Bourdain for this. But even cynical über gastronomes like Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay wind up being affected by the reality of the meat-making process. When you are faced with it personally, you can't not be. This is a life, and it would much rather live in its environment than have one of its muscles land on your plate for dinner. So it must be killed.
I have had some hard lessons over the years about food, animals, life and death. I won't go into them here and now, but suffice it to say that I have killed many, many animals over my lifetime. When I was a deer hunter, when I was a small-game hunter, when I fished. And beyond. Each and every death has affected me, and I carry the karma of those actions up to--and beyond--this very day. I am mindful of it. I will be for the rest of my life, be it a fat vegetarian life or a thinner meat-eating life. Death is very important to me, in a number of ways, and I can't, and won't allow myself to ignore, or be desensitized to it. Not for humans. Not for animals. This decision has been very hard for me. I have literally agonized over it for weeks. Some would say that's silly.
They can kiss my rump-roast.
I was chatting on-line with a close friend and dharma brother the other day, and I told him about my decision.
Me: Gotta say, eating meat again is really weird...That acknowledgment took me by surprise, but I really, deeply appreciated it. Someone whom I really care for, look up to and respect, without prompting told me that they recognize that I'm different in my approach to this situation than I once was. That my heart is in the right place, and is engaged in the decision, and moreover, that this decision is hard for me. I wasn't looking for a pat on the back. I wasn't looking for consolation. But the recognition of the fact of the moment was very helpful to my mind and spirit. This comes as no surprise to a Zen practitioner. That's what we do. That's what we're all about: The recognition of the fact of the moment.
Dharma Brother: Yeah. It takes some getting used to. I know you're being conscious about it.
On that same bacon-fetching trip, I also bought some chicken sausages. I had them over the weekend with my girlfriend as roll-ups on low-carb flat bread. Again, good. Again, no loss of control or flesh-eating Nirvana.
Yesterday, I took the big jump and purchased some frozen chicken meat. Thighs and breasts. I haven't eaten chicken meat in... six years. I basted them in low-carb barbecue sauce (a southern mustard and vinegar "mopping" sauce) and did them over mesquite, pecan and cedar wood on my smoker, along with a Normandy mix of veggies. I sat outside, looking at the thigh meat on my plate. I said my meal prayer with a bit more solemnity than normal. I looked at the meat before I cut it. I looked at it after I cut it, on my fork, examining the sinew, the muscle, the tissues. I prayed that the life this animal lived at least got it further down the path towards enlightenment. I thanked it for its nutrition to my body, and acknowledged that it had died. Not just died, but was raised and killed. For ME.
Then I tasted it.
This tasted wonderful. Better than the bacon. Better than the sausage. Very, very good.
I worked on processing the guilt I felt. The niggling feeling of hypocrisy. I was a happy vegetarian. I was glad that I was reducing suffering in the world.
All suffering but my own.
I will be a vegetarian again. It's important to me. But right now, I need to take some drastic steps to bring my life back into balance. I'm 42, disabled, and morbidly obese. If I don't lose this weight--for real this time--I'll be dead far earlier than I should be. I have just finally found a trajectory for my life. I will not be able to follow this path to its fullest if I'm dead from a stroke at 54 or a heart attack at 56.
So I am asking the animals for help. This time, though, there is a change. A real change. I am no longer willing to be numb to the grave importance of this Great Matter. I refuse to blind myself to the truth of this very complex and nuanced issue.
I am okay with being looked at as a hypocrite right now. In the end, this is about me. It has to be. I will always respect vegetarians and vegans. It is without question the most compassionate and conscientious way to live and nourish yourself. But it is the greatest demonstration of personal strength to admit when you need help. I most certainly do.
The low carb diet is working. I'm not dropping weight left and right, but I know I'm building muscle and converting fat. I need that so desperately right now. I haven't been able to walk as much as I was, yet I'm not only not putting weight on even though I'm eating more, but it's still trickling off. This will be very helpful when winter comes and I can't go walking outside like I am now. I need to re-arrange my apartment so I can get a stationary bike back in here. I can't let circumstance or the environment stop this process.
Not until I'm done.
May all Beings be at ease, and may they forgive this dumb monkey for being so weak as to need their help again.