We have had a number of surprised reactions to our decision to turn vegan. But let me just say that this was far from my first attempt veganism, having struggled with this concept ever since I was 15. Yes, the age when greater awareness of the social consequences of our thoughts and actions set in. Ethics. Morality. The important stuff.
Thus the ethical conundrum at the age of 15. To go vegan as a personal revolution and statement against the unnecessary violence of the world… Or to risk foregoing the boost to masculine development during the spurts of puberty (ostensibly from meat consumption, but in hindsight I think porn was the greater contributing factor). In any case, most of my vegan friends ended up bigger and taller than I am. It must have been the porn after all.
Happily one does outgrow meat and porn after puberty. I am 32. And I usually attribute this change to marriage.
Most will agree with me on this. That marriage is about love. The skeptics amongst us (and also deep within us) will snicker and say that the reality of it is conditioned by convenience and selfish need. The 2 viewpoints above are in actual fact one and the same. Love is an ambiguous term, wrought with misuse for one’s own ends. Much like God. Much like any other word which implies virtue, to be twisted and shaped into a less than virtuous effect.
My wife, Pris, and I often talk about our favourite movies and these are two that often come up in our conversations. Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. These movies are filmed entirely on the conversations between the male and female protagonists (watch if you have not, spoilers in the next 2 paragraphs).
In Before Sunrise, Jesse (played by a young Ethan Hawke) is traveling alone through Europe and meets Celine (a young Julie Delpy) on the way to Vienna. The dialogue between the 2 is extremely charming, invokes hopeful, somewhat wistful feelings of young love. It reminds me of Pris and myself when we first met. That first smile in the other that throws open an invisible door into a whole new world within ourselves. The first words, gently caressing and feeling the limits of each other, to carefully pull the other wholly into our fractured selves. These are the pangs of a new and hope-filled love. Powerful in its infinite possibilities.
The second movie is set 9 years later when the 2 meet for the second time. This one has a much darker tone underlying its theme. It is about missed opportunities. It is about a reality that is unforgiving which forces us to make choices. Choices we never wanted to make. It is about loss. Pris often asks me why I prefer the sequel. I think it is because, more so than the first, that this movie is about love.
The early stages of love… This… Falling in love. It functions as a mirror through the eyes of the other. In that mirror we see all the possibilities inherent in ourselves. And we like what we see. We love ourselves in the other’s eyes. Then we think: ” We cannot possibly live without this other. We need to always be together.” The irony is that we really do not know much of the other at this point (and the knowledge of ourselves is yet an ideal or possibility mired in the other). Or, in another aspect, we experience the feeling of love the most when the other remains a stranger. Alain de Botton postulates that it is the inherent feeling of loneliness in each of us that drives us towards love. Traversing the greatest distance from loneliness to closeness gives us the most satisfaction.
But reality then sets in. The other gets too close for comfort. Reality bends our wills, forces us to think and behave in ways we never wanted for ourselves. Forces us to see a side of ourselves we do not wish to see, and, upon reflection, forces us to see a side in the other we did not foresee.
Then you start to see that all that has been going on is a dialogue with yourself in the eyes of the other.
Then you start to see that the other is having this dialogue with him/herself as well. Through you.
Then you see that the 2 of you are trying your best to reach out to each other, separated by mirrors.
There is love waiting for you behind this mirror if you can only see it, reach it, touch it.
To break this mirror, we have to use the hammer of compassion.
Then you realize there is no other.
This love is bitter. It is sweet. It goes with you everywhere you go.
Pris, we are together, but still, I chip away at my mirror, trying to get to you. This hammer, inscribed within with the words “Thou shalt not hurt, maim or kill” is extended to all sentient life, through you; and through all sentient life, to you.