When Events Conspire to Make One Very Stressed

So last night I had everything laid out in preparation to leave today, when kitty jumps up on the desk and inadvertently knocks over a glass of water.  This caused my passport to become a sopping wet mess.  Ink ran through and everything.  So now I’m sitting at the passport office hoping beyond hope that they can print me a new one in time. Someday, I’ll look back on this day and laugh. In the meantime, I’m contemplating skinning my cat.

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A Notice of Absence: 05/31 – 06/15

So, I will be leaving for Europe come Thursday (May 31st) and will not be back until the 15th of June.  Wifey and I are going to Paris and to Stockholm to visit friends (free accommodation)!  So the chances are that I will not be posting anything at all during that time – I expect that my traffic will plummet, but so be it.  I’m going to be sipping cheap wine and looking at art by the masters.  And observing Europe’s on-going collapse in person.  Should be fun!  Hopefully it will also give me some grist for the mill, so that I have some drafts written by the time I return.

This post will remain sticky until my return.

Some Things About Christianity That Turn Me Off (Part 1 of…?)

I have never been a Christian, myself, but I have certainly known many who are and who have tried to inform me of the “Good News”.  Disappointingly (for them), the “Good News” never did manage to take root in my heart (as my readers might have surmised) but that’s not necessarily because there’s no appeal to it.  Surely I’m not the only atheist out there who at least finds the idea – that, despite our faults, the biggest superstar in the whole world still thinks I’m awesome enough to be worth giving a pass to the VIP room – to be a little appealing?  Still, beyond the matter of my suspecting the factual falsity of Christian doctrine, there have been other aspects of Christian belief and practise (across the various strains of it) that turn me right off of that religion.  Here are two:

Holiness

Holiness: I really do not like the emphasis that Christianity places on holiness (in this way it is not alone among religions).  The way holiness is pursued and thought of generally tends to be a dull, dry affair that denies the value of our human life and emotions and tends to asceticism.  Holiness divides the world up into ‘holy’ (good) and ‘profane’ or ‘unholy’ (the category of all that is not holy, whether neutral or evil) in a way that just does not make sense to me.  For example, take the human body.  It is considered a profane thing and, indeed, as something that is shameful and needing to be covered.  As I always say, “if God had wanted us to be naked, we would have been born that way!”  The body simply is what it is, and doesn’t need to prove a source of disgust or rejection.  And if Christians take Genesis seriously, how they may then conclude that nudity is a bad thing escapes my understanding (remember, Adam and Eve were nude until after they had defied God’s will and eaten the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil). Sex is also often used as an example, for good reason (it is one of the things most humans want a lot and enjoy a lot), but is viewed as less than perfectly ‘holy’ by many Christians.  Now, while I will agree with Christians that a totally unfettered approach to sex probably (but only probably) is a vice – as exciting as they are, I’m not completely sure that ‘free love’ and pornography are or have been untainted net ethical gains for society or for those individuals who participate in them – Christians generally, I think, go too far the other way.  Marriage is widely considered the only context in which sexual expression is appropriate (which I just think false) and the sexual lives of Christ and the saints (which is to say, the absence of same) are held up as ideal exemplars – so even if sex within marriage is OK, complete celibacy is best.  I think that this approach denies something important about human nature and also doesn’t make sense.  Eating too much candy is a vice, surely, so the appropriate thing to do with candy is to eat it in sensible portions at a sensible frequency, not to avoid the stuff altogether or to revile ourselves for merely wanting it.

Why not?

Love: Christians often go on about Love, but I don’t like that sort of talk at all.  For many, but especially liberal Christians, Love is a sticky-gooey sentimentality towards others that, frankly, icks me right out.  Partly, this is temperamental, in that I dislike all this ‘peace and love and harmony’ claptrap, but it is also the case that there are people and things in the world that genuinely are problems and reprehensible and deserving of our allergic reactions to them.  Conservative Christians, on the other hand, hardly seem to concern themselves with Love at all (Justice and wrath are more their bag), but when they do they seem weirdly aggressive about it.

Why I Was, and No Longer Am, A Vegetarian

I spent six years as a lacto-ovo vegetarian, which is quite a bit of time, by my reckoning – at the time I went back to omnivory, I had been a vegetarian for just over a quarter of my then-current time on this planet.  So while that may seem a laughable amount of time to some, I certainly did better than most of those who explore vegetarianism for a month or two before finally giving in to their cravings for a cheeseburger (or bacon – it seems most people I’ve spoken with caved-in for one of those two).  My motivations for taking the vegetarian path were mixed, as I imagine most people’s are – although I wish I could say that they were entirely selfless and pure, it simply wasn’t the case.

Let’s start with the ‘selfless’ reasons first.  My vegetarianism was in part born of my newfound appreciation for the fact that animals are conscious entities that feel pain, fear, and the rest of these negative emotions, and that killing them in order to eat them really does cause them harm.  I actually had a moment at work one day when, for no discernible reason, without an environmental trigger, I suddenly ‘experienced’ myself as a pig having its throat slit.  Needless to say, this was a bit of a distressing experience and I went cold-turkey on meat after that (for six years I never ate a single piece of meat) – I no longer wanted to participate in that.

But then there were the ‘selfish’ reasons.  First and most important among these was my own fear of death.  In no small way, my vegetarianism was an attempt to strike a bargain with the universe to the effect that if I did not kill things in order to live, then maybe I would not have to die.  Of course this was futile and, if asked, I would certainly have disavowed this aim, but it was a big part of what was going on, only just beneath the surface.  Second, there were the health benefits that I encountered at the beginning (though they would give way to health problems).  I felt lighter and I had more energy, and no longer felt gross after meals.  Third, it gave me a massive sense of moral superiority over those who did eat meat (this is extremely common among vegetarians).  While I don’t believe that I ever got too sanctimonious (at least, I hope I didn’t), for the first four years I was definitely sure that virtually everyone around me had this basic issue totally wrong.

In time, however, I wound up going back to meat – I broke my flesh-fast with Salmon, one of my favourite foods prior to abandoning meat – for several other reasons.

First, my health was deteriorating.  [1]  Each year that went by, I was putting on more and more weight, and it wasn’t the under-the-skin, jiggly type of fat – rather, it was the hard-packing-around-the-organs type of fat, the sort that is associated with shorter life-spans and heart-disease.  And this while I was exercising more than I’ve ever done in my life (I was running approximately 40km/week at the time).  I was tired all the time, and I was really cranky when I hadn’t eaten recently – near the end I needed to eat about every three hours or I could no longer think.  In fact, I think I was in a pre-diabetes stage.  Also, my sex drive was so low it was in the basement (and I won’t say anything more about that).  My brain knew what it wanted though, ideology be damned (thank goodness for that too) – every time I had a meal I was dissatisfied because I wanted chewy, bloody steak.  I once saw a deer running around at work (I worked in a quarry at the time) and actually caught myself thinking “dinner!”

Second, I consciously realized that I was bargaining with death and that it wouldn’t work in any case.  Obviously, there is the fact that one cannot escape death.  But there was also the matter of the end of my ignorance about just what the dairy and egg industries implied (remember, I was lacto-ovo).  Essentially, you are still participating in a system that requires the death of animals if you are going to consume dairy or eggs.  Dairy cows would normally only produce milk for their offspring (obviously), so they had to be kept pregnant in order to produce milk for human consumption.  The sex-ratio of cows, however, is much like any other mammalian species: approximately 50/50.  What this means is that for every daughter a dairy-cow had, she would also (statistically speaking) have a son.  Daughters, of course, would grow up to give their own milk, but the sons could not.  Dairy farms not being animal sanctuaries (farmers have bills to pay, afterall), the males would have only one destination – the plate.  So all the males would be culled one way or another (veal or steak).  Much the same story can be told for egg operations.  When my ignorance about the process was lifted, I realized that in order to survive (I do not believe long-term veganism is appropriate for human flourishing – I think that’s an ideologically driven fantasy), I still required the death of intelligent beings.  If these animals were going to die so that I could have cheesy-omelettes, then I might as well eat meat too.  I was certainly no longer any more ethically pure than meat-eaters and refusing to eat meat because I didn’t like the killing would just have been prissiness on my part.

All this led me to a reevaluation of what morality demanded of me as regards meat and meat-eating.  I no longer believed in the healthfulness of long-term vegetarianism, especially veganism, but I knew that the only morally consistent vegetarianism is veganism.  But it occurred to me that perhaps I had this all wrong – certainly, eating meat is not a ‘nice’ thing to do, but maybe that didn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done at all.  I thought about the wolf: a natural carnivore, it needs flesh-food in order to survive and to flourish.  I thought about how we don’t think the wolf to be doing something morally wrong when it does what it has to do to survive and flourish.  We don’t blame the wolf or insist that it ought to be something other than it is because some transcendent moral principle demands it – we recognize that such criticisms just don’t apply.  If humans are not simply omnivores, but are obligate omnivores, then it is an error to ask us to avoid animal foods entirely.  I don’t believe that a morality that demands gross contortions of our given nature can actually be a morality worth adhering to.

So I have gone back to meat, but I eat meat with a vegetarian’s conscience.

Endnotes:

[1] Now, self-assured vegetarians will at this juncture tell me that I was obviously doing it wrong, else I would have been able to keep going longer.  Maybe: but I don’t think so.  I read all the books, took all the supplements for B, D, and my Omega-3’s, combined my proteins, and so on.  I think that it genuinely wasn’t working for me.  I make no strong commitments on whether it can work for other people, but in honesty I have my doubts – humans are able to talk themselves out of believing their lying eyes about a lot of things, vegetarianism being no exception.

I Just Finished University

Very happy about that.