Monday, January 07, 2008

Vegetarianism--The One True Way?

Paul's Kundalini video has started a minor firestorm of commenting recently. Someone had the nerve to suggest that a person who really had the experiences he had would never wear a leather jacket because, god forbid, a spiritual person should allow an animal to be killed. It's such a typical comment for a "my religion is better than yours" kind of person to make and -- probably because I grew up Jewish and have experienced the results of such knee-jerk religious bigotry in my own life--I got a MAJOR button pushed.

Coincidentally or not, I had been having fantasies recently of putting another video up. This one would be on appearances and personas and the games people get pushed into playing in order to be seen in the light they want to be seen in. I knew very well that Paul wearing leather and me wearing a polar fleece jacket wouldn't fit the image of spiritual counselor/healer in this day and age. But what would? Should we come out looking all corporate in business suits looking like Deepak Chopra in his earlier days (before he relaxed) on the lecture circuit? Or maybe we should do the flowing robes and turban thing to grab the New Age psychic guru kind of crowd. I know a white woman who grew up in this country who puts a big red bindi on her third eye and several so-called shaman-types who do the deerskin and buffalo robe routine.

By the way, what about the real Native American shamans who eat meat and wear buckskin? What about African tribal healers and others—hey, what about the pope and Christian spiritual leaders for that matter? Since when did the vegetarian version of spirituality become THE spiritual model the rest of us are held to?

I wrote about this in an article that's being included in a book about spiritual caregiving that I just released. It's in the chapter about conflict resolution, aptly enough. Here's the excerpt that says where I'm coming from on this best:

When I was in my early 20’s I attended a gathering that made a lasting impression on me led by Manitonquat, a wise elder of the Wampanoag Indian tribe in Massachusetts. I was with a group of people who wanted to change the world. Most people in the group were staunch vegetarians and most of the group believed that how they lived and the food they ate (or didn’t eat) was an integral part of their overall mission. Yet their families and many other people rejected their behavior with incredible vehemence. People described how hurt and angry they felt about this and their feelings of rejection led them to reject their elders with a vengeance themselves.

This, of course, didn’t sit well with our leader and he made his views on the subject perfectly clear. Manitonquat had chosen a mostly vegetarian lifestyle himself, and actively promoted the kind of thinking that motivated this choice in his groups. But he strongly believed that taking too extreme a stance was counterproductive. He liked to teach the sacredness of all things, ourselves as human beings included, and that made a big difference in what he most wanted to impart. He believed that if he could help get mainstream Americans, through his teachings about loving the earth and loving each other, to only eat as much meat as they needed and to start by experimenting with other yummy protein sources one day a week it would have a much greater impact than converting a small group of people to become total vegetarians (which might not be a sound choice for the planet, in his opinion, anyway).

Now, to be honest, I didn’t really understand what he was talking about until many years later but then his words came ringing home. I chose to give up being a vegetarian to cope with serious health concerns and couldn’t believe the condemnation I heard from my vegetarian friends for “giving in.” Their polarized stance made me feel unloved and angry because I realized that if they couldn’t support me in a life choice that had an obvious and immediately beneficial impact on my personal well-being, how could they ever expect anyone else to respect their perspective about what was best for the well-being of the planet (i.e. all of us)? The damage inherent in polarized politics became painfully apparent to me in that moment, as it has quite often in recent times.

It makes me angry to think that this kind of thing even needs to be talked about. But I know Paul and I know him to be sweet, smart, intelligent, deeply moral and spiritually-motivated to the max. It pisses me off when youtubers or anyone else feel the need to tear him or other people down for no good reason. And it bothers me no end that despite 3700 people viewing his video, half of the very very tiny number of people commenting say something mean, judgmental, stupid or spiteful. We moderate the worst ones out and I stopped allowing commenting on my videos altogether because I don't want this kind of drama eating up time in my life. But Paul isn't done with it. Maybe there's some value in us learning to respond to crap. Maybe it gives him a chance to hone his thoughtful response writing skills. I don't know. But it sure got me going so I decided to write my own.


nicole meredith said...

hah! i honor you and paul as healers, in part, BECAUSE of the leather jacket and the polar fleece! but i'm not all of the people all of the time (which is, let's face it, ultimately a good thing!).

much much much love & support to you both,

Anonymous said...

Walking in Balance

Not being enticed into the extremes

Extremes exist to remind us to stay in Balance

As Spirits we are having the human experience of trying out choices and seeing how they work for us

We always have the ability to make different choices

Paul looks so GOOD in that leather jacket!