How I became a chill vegan
Ending one relationship the laid-back way
Today I wasn’t aggressively interviewed on TV by a wild-eyed carnivore intent on breaking my beliefs. I didn’t give an emotional speech to a group of young children, slack-jawed in moral outrage at the barbarous acts humans commit on sentient moist-eyed animals. I didn’t use images or shocking video footage to elaborate on the arguments I didn’t present. I also didn’t break into a laboratory, and free a cage full of startled rabbits.
A few weeks before those things didn’t happen, I became a chill vegan.
To start this off, a disclaimer. This is not a manifesto decrying the fundamentalist vegan cause. Fundamentalist vegans definitely did enlighten me. They make news. They got my attention. They are the amphetamines to my codeine.
Chill veganism feels a little more, well, chill.
“That’s why chill veganism has the baggy practical fit of a hand-me-down jacket.”
The Dalai Lama said of fundamentalism, “It prevents followers from thinking as individuals about the good of the world.” He had a point. That’s why chill veganism has the baggy practical fit of a hand-me-down jacket. And it’s not that hardcore vegans don’t care about the ‘good of the world’. Far from it. They probably think about it more than a marathon runner thinks about the comforts of their favourite armchair. It’s just the self-loathing that comes with failure to live up to really strict life rules is kinda, well, not chill.
Then, I started to wonder if the Dalai Lama said that because he eats meat.
Lhamo Thondup, better known as the 14th incarnation of the Dalai Lama, is from a lineage said to be incarnations of the Bodhisattva of Compassion (called Chenrezig in Tibetan). Naturally, that compassion extends to animals. Right? Wrong. Despite spells of vegetarianism the Dalai Lama eats meat.
Which made me ask myself, ‘Is talking vegan as important as being vegan?’
In an interview, Paul McCartney described writing him a letter about it. “He wrote back very kindly, saying, my doctors tell me that I must eat meat. And I wrote back again, saying, you know, I don’t think that’s right. So we had a little correspondence.”
“I resolved to avoid talking loud and doing nothing. And I wouldn’t look for new recruits.”
Earlier in the same interview McCartney had said, “I don’t want to go laying it on people — ‘You really should be vegetarian.’ I like them to come to it themselves.” ‘Laying it on’ monks must be the exception. He also said, “If I go on tour…I come back, and it’s like, yeah, broccoli!” Thus making up for what he lacked in consistency with probably the strongest ever endorsement of a vegetable.
Having read that I resolved to avoid talking loud and doing nothing. And I wouldn’t look for new recruits.
Jiddu Krishamurti had lots of smart things to say. And the reason many people took him seriously? There was a real unity to his words and actions. In short, he was all set to be head of a rag-tag religion, had an ‘awakening’, bailed out rather suddenly, but continued to share his ‘journey’ throughout his life. One of the smarter things Krishnamurti said was, “The constant assertion of belief is an indication of fear.”
I know the feeling. A few days ago, chanting an internal mantra of veganism, I stepped grimacing sticky-eyed into the daylight and swung open the fridge door. There sat five eggs. They had the comfortable composure of a line of plump patients settled into beanbags in a dental waiting room.
In Marina Abramović’s performance art piece, The Artist is Present, she invited audience members to come, sit opposite her, and silently stare into her eyes, just for a minute. On the first day, in one of those meetings, she opened her eyes to a new guest. It was her estranged partner, Ulay.
I felt like Marina Abramović and those eggs were Ulay. I couldn’t remember buying them (eggs have that happy knack of showing no outward signs of ageing, unlike Ulay whose body looked beautifully but extensively lived-in). It was clearly before my chill vegan awakening.
I’ve started to have Marina and Ulay moments every time I go to the supermarket. I stare at (now) inanimate animal products like lost loves. My arm extends for a second, then I let the idea go. Watching, I must look like a singer from the 80s, during the most intense moments of a ballad, grasping the air then pulling back the clenched fist for emphasis.
Anyway, I eventually ate the eggs.
I think I ate all five in one big orgiastic blasphemy of an omelette. Which would have been the equivalent of Marina giving Ulay a redemptive, breathless tongue kiss (they did tenderly touch hands, for the record, eyes washed with tears).
Eating them made me think of something Abramović said, “People put so much effort into starting a relationship and so little effort into ending one.” Before I ate them, I thought about those eggs in a way I never had before. (That’s not entirely true. I once, jokingly, asked for three chickens for my birthday. And got them. They were to torture my life for years after, and their egg laying habits became something of an obsession. I have thought about eggs.)
I’ve been doing the 80s ballad air-grab in the supermarket egg section ever since. And I think about ending that relationship daily. And that’s what chill veganism is: a quiet commitment to persue a path that’s animal product free, for today, at least.
A Speaker, Writer, and a #chillvegan Based in Vietnam