Sunday, April 12, 2009

30 Years

Thirty years ago today I stopped eating meat. It's why Easter is important. Very gratifying that the whole world recognizes this. Makes me humble.

Being vegetarian has shaped a fair bit of how I think of myself. Not a big deal. It's like being American, or blond -- just what I am. Good? Bad? I think people should like what they are, provided what they are has some integrity to it. It's not a matter of pride, the things that we have that we didn't earn. That's just common sense, for all that racists and the inheriting-rich may not get it. Within the set of what we are given, though, is what we do with it. I took a pretty decent body and made it better by treating it properly. I deserve recognition for that, but only because it's not as common as it should be.

As for not eating meat, I've said it before, but it bears repeating. The poisonous thing about meat is not the quality of the nutrients. Some of them are good, or at least okay. In moderation, even such bugaboos as saturated fat should not be a problem -- and it is certainly better, by orders of magnitude, than transfats. It may be that animal proteins could leak, via the dreaded and perhaps hypothetical leaky-gut, causing an auto-immune reaction that leads to disease. I tend to think so, but I might be wrong. What's not wrong is that meat rots in your gut the way it rots by the side of the road. That's poisonous because putrefaction is poisonous. Dead bodies are for burning. They should be eaten only in moderation, or rarely.

The Bible? Jesus ate fish. Noah was given as food every moving thing that lives ... he must have been Chinese -- so that mystery is finally solved. Moses handed out laws governing which animal flesh might be consumed. True, all true. But ours is not the world that God created. Eden was an orchard. Adam was a gardener. Vegetarian. Why didn't you know that? You should more diligently study the Holy Word of God Almighty. You're like some sort of pagan. Y'see, while we can eat just about anything, and under duress, as in a Fallen world, we must eat just about anything, it's not necessarily optimal. You cannot deny this, if your perspective is biblical. If it isn't, well, you're going to hell, so you have bigger worries. But I'd think you'd want to live as long as possible, and eating corpses doesn't seem a great way to do that. Ghoul.

But my point is not diet. It's identity. We think of ourselves as a collection of qualities and characteristics and labels. Being blond was made important to me because it was used as a means of ridicule when I was a kid. I come from a long line of assholes. Easter is almost over, so I can say that. Being tall was important because it shaped my outlook -- as a teen I never had to give any thought to being big, the way someone shorter might. I don't think this was actually a good thing -- I'm wishing there'd been things I'd been more ambitious about. Like everything. And so on. Our inherited attributes, and the way we think of them, is a big part of who we are.

I have almost a mania for anonymity. I just don't want to be noticed. A lot of reasons for this. But starting early, it goes back to labels. I've told how I had to fight for my very name -- originally they called me Jackie, but I'd heard that spoken with so much hatred that when I was 7 or 8 I turned it into Jack -- after much physical pain. And again as a teen, when my father started playing games with my name; and again when he named another of his sons Jack. And my father himself, who has had a number of names. The name he was born with, then his calling himself Jack, then he changed his last name, same as mine -- which he used for only 12 or so years -- then another, and then another, and then another. With a few short-termers in the mix. And with the name-changes came an actual change of identities. I have three brothers, more or less, each with a different last name.

We are not labels. That's just vocabulary, and the concepts behind vocabulary. We're not concepts, either, for all that identity changes over time. I am not the desperate little boy driven to inarticulate existential despair by brutal family members. But he's in here, somewhere. Still crying, I'm sorry to admit. I'm not the disassociated teen, or the manic young man. I'm not even the fearful ice statue that presently contains my spirit.

The image of a wake comes to mind -- the water trail following a ship. Is it just movement in water? Changing but maintaining an identity? We don't need to over-emphasize the philosophy. It is what it is, because of the ship that makes it. Another ship would make another wake, even on the same course. Some definite thing is responsible for the wake, whatever the wake is. Which is the identity? -- the ship or the wake? I don't know -- too philosophical. But it's the ship that is useful and meaningful.

Yes, there's the ship of Odysseus, which over its ten-year wanderings had every single piece of wood, rope and metal replaced. Yet it was the same ship. It maintained its identity. Have I lost the thread of my reasoning? But I don't have a real point, here. I'm not teaching anything. I'm just chatting with you.

Well. Easter. A time to consider the possibility of renewal. I'm not doing that, but it is such a time. What I'm doing is contemplating, superficially, the last 30 years.

Except for my son, and a few other things, these years have been wasted. That makes me angry. Lucky for me I have relatives I can blame.

But I have to confess. I slipped tonight. Badly. Spent hours again, after being so good, hours and hours watching Ivan. I feel so dirty.


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