Making the Switch

Dave glances at my plate of spinach, beans, and brown rice as I eye the meatballs Not me... yetnestled in his spaghetti.

“You eat like a rabbit,” he says.

“Rabbits don’t generally eat garbanzo beans or cooked rice,” I reply.

“But still…”

As the conversation changes, he forgets my rabbit food, and I forget his meat. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what we have.

According to a 2008 study by Harris Interactive Service, about 7.3 million people are vegetarian in the United States—that’s about 3.2 percent of the population. Most are young, from middleclass backgrounds, and live in the Western or Southern regions of the United States. I’m one of them, a skinny, grain-eating, tofu-crunching middle-class American.

Nothing radical there.

We vegetarians eat about three meals per day—just like our omnivorous counterparts. We don’t all use organic paper and beet-juice ink or attend regular services at hippy churches on weekends.  Most aren’t PETA extremists who throw red paint at fur coats and survive on seaweed and unpronounceable grains. Perhaps our farts smell a little bad sometimes, or we’re be a pain to take out to dinner, but most of us are pretty normal. At least I think so.

Still, some people berate me with things like, “why the hell would you do that?” or “we deserve to eat animals,” or my personal favorite, “you’re going to die because you’re not getting enough protein.”

Others aren’t so malicious. They just don’t understand, or grow up thinking that all vegetarians fit the same model. But we are all very different and have very different reasons for becoming vegetarian.

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A quote on love

I’m a bit too busy today to write a full post, so I figured I’d leave a quote I’ve been thinking about regarding love, especially with Valentine’s Day earlier this week. symbiosis-oxEnjoy.

A Tibetan mystic saying goes: We are here to realize the illusion of our separateness. The spiritual sentiment has a biological cognate. Our xenotropic drive — to merge with what is not us, temporarily in sex, or permanently in symbiosis or cross-species hybrids — is more than a metaphor. But it also offers spiritual solace. When we hook up with another, in sex or love (or, more rarely, both) we prove that our isolation is not permanent. In the fullness of time, we may all be linked. In the meantime, eros brings us together, making us more than we are alone. Cupid’s arrow, quivering into the heart of loneliness, kills us even as it sets us free.

-Dorian Sagan, in Death and Sex

There’s a difference between quiet and silence. Before I graduated high school, I climbed

Photo I took from the summit as the sun rose.
Photo I took from the summit as the sun rose.

Mt. Marcy, the tallest mountain in New York State, with one of my high school friends, his dad, and another scout. We started our ascent at midnight, reached the peak by 4 a.m., and waited for the sun to rise near five.

On our walk up, our breath mingled with the humidity, revealing webs of water vapor in the light of our headlamps. We sometimes talked, but mostly, things were quiet: the shuffling scratches and thuds of our footfalls as we scrambled over rocks, the heavy pants of our breath,  The occasional slosh and swallow of our water, and the continued cracking and hissing of wind laced through forest.

Now and then, I’d hear an animal, it’s sudden rustle breaking the background.

Quiet is a sense of monotony, a pattern, like a radiator rattling and blowing in a classroom. You forget the noise is there. It’s like the air, bearing down on us, stirred up in with fingers, vibrating in pulsing with invisible waves. Yet we feel like nothing is there. Continue reading

So another year’s gone by…

David Copperfield and Co. celebrate the New Year
David Copperfield and Co. celebrate the New Year

Two summers ago, my high school friends and I hit the road through New Hampshire, climbing a mountain, going to a theme park, ghost hunting, and staying in sketchy hotels and campsites in the White Mountains.

The state motto for New Hampshire is “Live free or die,” taken from a toast Revolutionary War hero John Stark wrote for the 1809 anniversary to the Battle of Bennington. Poor health prevented his attendance to the anniversary, but his words penned and mailed have endured:

Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.

I saw the words on the roads in front of us, emblazoned on license plates and signs, and they’ve stuck, always on the hazy edge of consciousness. Live free or die. They’ve become my own motto.

I leave this year laden with memories. Despite difficulties, it’s been the best one of my life so far, because it’s the first year when I’ve felt fully alive.

Continue reading “So another year’s gone by…”

Sunset on the Allegheny River

I went for walk tonight along the river that runs behind the school. The sun was setting

A picture of the trail just after sunset.
A picture of the trail just after sunset.

over the hills, making me think of a piece I wrote four years ago during my freshman year. At the time, I didn’t know anyone, so I would sit by the river often, writing and reading Aldo Leopold, Khrishnamurti, and Thoreau.

The silence and solitude of the path still moves me. I think the piece captures that well:

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Echoes and identity

I’ve been reading Camus’ preface to Jean Grenier’s The Islands, published in 1959. Like much of Camus’ later work–he died Jan. 4, 1960–the preface is nostalgic, yet mature.

The Allegheny River Trail at dusk, taken by me.

Grenier’s book proved a major influence on Camus as a young man. In return, Camus dedicated his first collection of essays The Wrong Side and the Right Side and The Rebel to Grenier.

In the preface, Camus describes how he felt when he first started reading Grenier’s The Islands:

A garden of incomparable wealth was finally opening up to me; I had just discovered art. Something, someone was stirring dimly within me, longing to speak. Reading one book, hearing one conversation, can provoke this rebirth in a young person. One sentence stands out from the open book, one word still vibrates in the room [. . .] Already, at the same moment, in response to this perfect language, a timid, clumsier song rises from the darkness of our being.

Reading The Islands pushed Camus to be a writer. Other books aided the decision, but as Camus says in his preface, only The Islands lingered. It transformed his worldview, and he continued to quote it for the rest of his life, repeating the phrases as if they were his own.

There are moments, words, people that define who we are, that consume us like kindling in a violent flash. From there, we rebuild on a new foundation. But the fire never burns down. It continues to smolder.

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