"You don't have to be who you think you are."--Jeff Bridges
"Our diseases are our attachments."--Henry Miller
We have always liked to eat meat. Not a little, or every once in a while, but everywhere and all the time. We used to go to all-you-can-eat buffets and fill our plate with bacon, and once went an entire week eating nothing but bacon cheeseburgers. Our local sandwich shop actually has a sandwich named after us because we are the only one who orders it, and it is the biggest and most calorie-laden thing they sell.
Thus, when we saw an interview with Whole Foods CEO John Mackey in which he explained his new diet of eating only plant-based foods (basically veganism, in which you eat no animal products, including eggs, milk, etc.), our initial reaction was revulsion, perhaps mixed with a bit of pity. After all, who would choose to live that way? Why deny yourself the pleasure of eating meat?
Obviously this presented us with a bit of a conundrum (yet again!). If nothing matters, then how can eating different foods...matter? Further, if John Mackey can be happy eating this way (and he claims to be), why can't we? (Not to mention the billions of people, now and in the past, who have eaten mostly plants.) The answer, obviously, is that being a "meat lover" has become part of "who" we are. It is part of our identity--something we cling to--an attachment that grounds us as an individual.
In other words, it is bullshit.
And so, we have undertaken what we have termed a "small-scale identity-shedding project." We began a couple of months ago, when we went for a week without eating meat. It seemed difficult, and we endured more than enjoyed it. Now, however, we have committed ourselves to a vegan diet for some indeterminate period.
To be clear, this is not about health, or some moral statement about eating meat, it is about truly embracing the ethos put forth in this blog--that nothing matters, and circumstances are irrelevant. Thus, we are emphatically not claiming a vegan diet is "better" than one composed entirely of meat (for example), only that we should be indifferent between the two. (And moreover, that our belief that we really like meat--that this "defines" us in some way--is exactly the sort of illusion so antithetical to true contentment.)
The line between preference and "meaning" is a thin one, and we are always at risk of slipping from one to the other. If we "care" about eating meat (and we cannot deny that we do), then it matters to us, and we are one step further away from being content.
(There is another side to this as well. Given that there seems to be a general human preference for meat--meat consumption rises along with income--we also look at this as a "Stoic-like" denial of pleasure that will cause us to appreciate eating meat all the more in the future.)
It is so, so, so hard to keep one's focus on the meaninglessness of life. We constantly need to fight against our human tendencies to label this, that, and the other thing as meaningful, and our ephemeral selves as real.
This is water. This is water. This is water.