07 Nov Maybe I should be a vegetarian?
The villa in Ubud overlooking rice fields.
When I travelled away to “find myself” after leaving my job, I spent some time in Ubud in Bali. It is considered by many to be a spiritual Mecca and I will write a few posts about life there. It was in many ways an ideal place where I lived together with Josefine (who I husbanded in the previous post) in a villa with swimming pool, quietly situated overlooking the edge of the forest and rice fields. But I will not do false advertising. Ubud is as well as large parts of Bali literally drowning in traffic. Hens and chickens must jump to the side to avoid being squashed by the constant stream of cars and motorcycles.
This post should though not be about traffic, but about food. In Ubud I found the largest range of vegetarian food I’ve ever seen. For the first time in life I enjoyed to, meal after meal, eat vegetables like a little gnawer. It was new to me because I come from a family who are meat lovers. I guess my family’s biggest fear concerning me, is that I’ll disappear on my spiritual journey and leave them forever and that I will not bother having a family of my own like the typical man. But their second biggest concern seems to be me becoming so outrageously weird that I turn into a sober vegetarian. Those guys are really strange! I can hear my parents worriedly asking themselves: “But, but what about our classic barbecue with good red wine?!” I love them very much and of course they want me to be happy, but sometimes you wonder… I guess all parents have their sides. I try to calm them down by telling that most people in my current tantric tradition actually enjoy all that life has to offer, including fine wines and meat. As my teacher once said, “if God had not intended for us to eat meat, why would he have made it so damn tasty?” I know it is possible to argue the other way, but it’s a fun statement and it is certainly some truth in it.
During my first week in Ubud, I kept on reading the book “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Safran Foer. All my life I had avoided to look into the cruelties I somehow knew is going on in the meat industry. I think we all know that something is not right, but we avoid the information that is readily available. I have a belief that if we want to be free, we must also be honest with ourselves and that was the main reason I read the book. I will not go into details, but what I can say is that the treatment of animals in general is even worse than I thought and I was also unaware of the tremendous impact farming has on the environment. The industry is also a ticking time bomb in terms of multi-resistant bacteria and the spreading of viral diseases. The fishing was not better, although we do not perceive fish suffering as clearly.
In Ubud there is plenty of fresh and healthy dining possibilities. Vegetarian, vegan or fruitarian – there is something for everyone and the variety of dishes surprised me. Veggie burger, veggie pasta, Mexican style, wraps, soups and thousands of salads, juices, smoothies, porridges etc. I was also surprised how good it tasted! I had many meals in town with non-vegetarian friends and we all agreed that there was no real sacrifice to skip the meat if you live in Ubud. This diet made me feel lighter and I also slept better. It may sound a little hypocritical, but I also felt a bit like a better person when my eating did not cause unnecessary suffering. I was not just a meat-eating, wine drinking and sexfixated anti-Christ – there was another side of me. 😉
Today I try to eat meat from animals that had a good life, for example wild animals and cattle from quality guaranteed farms. Maybe I will at some point in life give up eating meat. I heard about a cool alternative from a tantric teacher from New Zealand that I met. He had been a vegetarian for seven years, but now he ate fish and occasionally meat. He ate, however, only animals that he had killed cleanly himself. A bit like in the movie Avatar. I picture myself in the future being one with nature, skillfully hunting the prey and praying for their souls before they take the last breath and die in peace. But… I must admit, I’m not quite there yet.
I have nothing to be proud of when it comes to my eating habits, more than that I stay in shape. The taste of the meat is wonderful, but the social factor is the most difficult for me to let go of. Most people I know are still eating meat and fish and I do not want to be the one who constantly ask for special meals at dinner parties. But nowadays I have the greatest respect for vegetarians, that is a noble and sustainable decision. This world is full of suffering and in every moment we can take conscious decision to either add to the suffering or not. BUT, my admiration of vegetarians do not extend to those who are forcing their opinions on others and judge them as less worthy. Everyone is responsible for his/her own decisions and who is in the position to say what is right or wrong?