We human beings are a complex, multi-faceted species. The consciousness that motivates us is a dichotomy in which a battle rages between the violent, angry, unreasonable, selfish, jealous, greedy, cruel part of our nature and the gentle, compassionate, kind, reasonable, just, empathetic, generous part. Whichever part we choose to nurture is revealed, moment to moment, in our behavior, which molds our individual and collective character, and ultimately determines our destiny.
The state of the world in which we live indicates that so far, our collective violent nature is winning the human race. From a very early age, we are fed heaping portions of it. Our history is fraught with violence, our books are violent, our entertainment is violent, our sports are violent, our heroes are violent; even our gods are violent. But the most insidious influence is the violence we ingest in our food, in the form of the bodies and things that come from the bodies of other species. When we eat these foods, as we do throughout our lives, including our formative years, we consume all the violence that brought them to our plates along with the misery of its victims. By the time we become “adulterated,” we are contaminated on a cellular level, so that we accept and even expect it as the norm.
From the beginning of recorded history, we human beings have been killing, exploiting, abusing and in general, perpetrating one or another form of violence upon every species in our power, including our own. Violence is so much a part of our human history, that it feels safe to assume that this behavior is inherent in our species, and it may well be. We teach our children, by example, that anger, which is its trigger, is a natural, acceptable response to those who disagree with us. For our governments and even our religions, violence is the “go to” solution of choice for many problems, including that of violence itself. It is so ingrained in our culture and psyche that few of us take the phrase “peace on earth” any more seriously than we do “have a nice day.”
How can we oust such a powerful force from our very nature to become the gentle selves we know we can be? How can we even acknowledge, lest we be perceived as weak, that there is a part of us that cringes at even the thought of violence and is shocked and sickened at the sight of it? Is there any hope at all for a peaceful resolution of the opposing forces in our nature, which are driving us mad? If so, the answer must be the pillars of sanity we call reason and compassion.
Veganism is reason and compassion in action. It is a spiritual, yet practical giant step toward that end, available to all who are willing to take it. It is a force for justice and sanity that empowers our gentle nature to lead us out of the ocean of violence in which we are drowning, to the safety of its shores. By eliminating animal products not only from our diets, but from our lives, we actually lose our appetite for violent behavior, with each day that goes by. And miraculously, as we do, we evolve ourselves to a gentler species. Our minds are brighter. Our hearts are warmer. Our health is more vibrant. Our integrity increases. Our self-esteem soars. By simply living a gentler way, a new perception emerges, from which nothing ever looks the same again.
Count Leo Tolstoy said, “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields,” and those we consider some of the greatest minds agree. Voltaire, Shaw, Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, Franklin, da Vinci, Gandhi, The Buddha, Einstein, Schweitzer, Socrates, Plato, Plutarch, Cicero, Pythagoras and many others have written that in order for human beings to create real peace on earth, we must first stop feeding ourselves and our children products of violence. Isaac Bashevis Singer, the great Yiddish story teller, believed that our heartlessness and utter mercilessness toward our fellow earthlings for our own gratification is reason enough for the pandemic guilt, depression, anxiety, disease, and never-ending wars that plague our species.
Whichever part of us wins this age old struggle between our violent and gentle natures will determine the destiny of the human race.
Which will we choose?