“I’m vegan and I’m not vegan.”
“How is that possible?”
“Well, I am vegan at your house, but when I go home….. my parents won’t be vegan.”
“Your father is trying but finds it difficult with all the family having different views. And your mommy said she would eat whatever is delicious.”
“But she won’t. She won’t even try. And I don’t know why my daddy won’t be vegan.”
Not wishing to alienate family members nor confuse my grandson, I found this a troubling conversation. Obviously, this five year old is thinking about the underlying reasons people make the choices they do. He’s figuring out how he fits in. I paused for a minute, then went on….
“Maybe you are always vegan. Being vegan means doing the least harm (ahimsa). It is not really just how you eat. You have no choice what to eat when you are five years old, but if you care about other beings and how they feel, maybe you are still vegan.”
“No, I am only allowed to be vegan here.”
Making Sense in a Nonsensical World
I try to listen and not interpret things too much. For a five year old, most things are pretty cut and dried. One day he had asked me why I care so much about animals. Another day he is admonishing me to be careful when I am removing a bug from the house. Some days he rails against me for not having his favorite nonvegan fare available. For him, it is all part of growing up and trying to make sense of things.
I am still trying to do that even now, as a grandmother. Sometimes it feels like I am trapped in someone else’s nightmare. I live in a nation that seems in love with violence and guns, with politicians even using them in their political ads, with violent rhetoric ongoing without pause, even when another shooting claims the life or lives of innocent people. Veganism is my stand for world peace, and for the animals that live in this world, too — at least for a little while, until they are hunted, or vivisected, or led away to the abattoir. It is an era of denial, whether giving tax breaks to the wealthy while running up massive debts or denying any climate change problems even as the physical evidence mounts. It is also an era of alienation. People are on edge.
Satyagraha: Holding Firmly and Letting Go
According to Gandhi, a part of Satyagraha (holding firmly to truth) or resistance to injustice means letting go of results, doing what you believe to be right without concern for where that might lead. Gandhi believed in a strong moral force that came from nonviolence, from refusing to participate in systems that were unjust. He also believed that it was important not only to do no harm to those with whom you are in opposition, but to wish them no ill will. One has to be willing to suffer.
I think I will be able to protect my friend Skitter the cat for her whole life, since she is getting on in years right now. For my grandson, I have less assurance that he will have a safe or peaceful life. The principles of Satyagraha give me some small comfort; I try not to become invested in results. I am working to create a more peaceful world for the beings on earth, but all I can really do is refuse to participate, to the best of my ability, in the injustice that is going on around me. I can try to reach out and educate others. And I can make sure that, at least when he is with me, my grandson always has a place to be vegan. As he ties on his shoes to go out in the world, I am left wondering what kind of world he will inherit. But I know that is not for me to realize. It is enough that today, he is talking about veganism.