“Not in my eyes alone is Paradise”.
Nothing in human life, from birth all the way through to death, is even close to the way I would have designed it, had I been endowed with the omnipotence of the gods. Although admittedly, there is much beauty, truth and goodness to be found in this world, if I had the power of creation in my hands, I would have eliminated all that was not beautiful, truthful and good, so that life on Earth would have been perfect in every way. But, I did not; nor do I or anyone else know who or what did. What we do know is that whoever or whatever it was, for reasons unfathomable to me, infused a limited consciousness into a vulnerable body, sprinkled it with a defective moral character and then, placed it in an entropic, hostile environment.
This is the frightening reality each one of us faces, upon entering this world. What we choose to do about it tells the story of our lives. As for me, after recovering from the shock and wondering what he, she or it could have been thinking, I considered my options. Having been told from the onset that perfection is impossible to attain in a world in which imperfection is its defining trait, I decided to do what I think most people do, which is whatever was necessary to make myself as comfortable as possible, while awaiting the inevitable unknown. Over the years, I stood by, pitying and helpless, as I watched myself sacrifice my most precious values, including time itself, to a life that demanded I tolerate the intolerable, justify the unjustifiable and defend the indefensible.
And yet, even as I appeared to accept the unacceptable, there was a voice inside me that refused to believe that imperfection was an unchangeable fact of life. Granted, it wasn’t my loudest voice, or the one I listened to as often as I did my others, but it was there, reminding me, lest I forget, to hold fast to my dream of a perfect world, with the promise that if I could expand my consciousness, strengthen my body, and evolve my moral character, despite my environment… if I could, in essence, somehow live a virtuous life in this world… that dream could come true.
As Dante said, I don’t think I’m the only one who hears that voice. Legends of Paradise have been teasing our imaginations since the first human being dared to believe in it. All through the eras, we have envisioned it, painted it, prophesied, wrote and sung about it, yearned for it, and secretly hoped, in the privacy of our hearts, that somewhere out there in the vast mysterious we-know-not-what, there really is a world as perfect as this one is not. In those rare moments of epiphany that feel more real to us than all others, it is this shared, mystical voice we hear, beckoning us Home.
Ah, Home… where the joys of beauty, safety, comfort, sweetness and light fill our days and nights… where gentleness has triumphed over violence, so that all beings live together in peace… a concord of many in harmony with all. Whether our visions of a perfect world include roses as far as the eyes can see, or the scent of gardenias in every breath we take, I think we would agree, after all these centuries of living in terror of one another, that first and foremost, Paradise must be peaceful, because however beautiful it may be, without peace, none would be perfect enough for any of us.
Before my vegan epiphany, I believed, as many do, that peace is an airy-fairy dream, as unattainable as Paradise itself. But on that day of revelation, when in awe, I witnessed the light of truth shining upon the violence and cruelty I was causing with every non-vegan choice I made; in that holy moment when I looked into the mirror of my behavior and saw not the peacemaker I had always imagined myself to be, but an animal holocaust supporter, I knew, more surely than I had ever known anything, why the peace I longed for had eluded me all my life… and that in order to attain it, I must first make peace with all who live.
Veganism is as essential to peace as peace is to Paradise. It topples the foundation of violence and cruelty upon which our terribly imperfect governments, cultures, societies and religions are built. It frees us from the self-absorption that fuels our conflicts. It inspires an expansive and inclusive way of living heretofore unknown to our species. And perhaps most important, it teaches us that when we choose to live the virtues necessary for a peaceful world, such as kindness, gentleness and justice, we are empowered to create it.
Without veganism, peace will remain the impossible dream that it is.
With it, we are Paradise-bound!