Sweat dropped from a smiling face as he was hoisted upside-down by the legs with a thick rope. A single thought arose in his mind, “Was this really voluntary?” Like one of those coin-operated, three-clawed, prize-retriever machines at a games’ arcade, the rope swung around and dropped him slowly into a bath of blue paint. An audience of thousands looked on as the cargo was swung like a pendulum towards a blank canvas. Blue paint splattered everywhere. We all roared with laughter. As for the man, he got to go home with a one-of-a-kind art piece: a blue silhouette of his own body against a white background.
We all have regrets in life. As fate would have it, one of mine is having turned down the chance to be that blue-painted man when I was pulled aside and asked to be a volunteer at a Blue Man Group show.
That was an experience that I missed out on.
When I tell this story, I’m reminded that not all experiences are worth having in the first place, let alone regretting. Last week, I wrote that pleasure is the first reason not to go vegan. It came in the middle of a snowstorm on a roof in Jerusalem. It came with a second part: the only other good reason not to go vegan is missing out on all that life has to offer.
When it comes to food, travelling, other cultures, new experiences, dinner parties and meeting for drinks down at the pub – I love them all. Admittedly, the most difficult part of going vegan is actively removing yourself from some of these experiences.
I’ve been on an overland journey from Europe to Asia. I didn’t try the pickled chicken feet in China or the roasted tarantula in Cambodia. I didn’t survive on meat stew and horse milk in Mongolia or wrap up in a fur coat in Siberia. However, for each of these “cultural experiences” I left out, new ones were added.
In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, we discovered a spiritual awaking happening there based around compassion and respect for animals and nature. In Bangkok, we found a hipster Japanese-owned vegan café far from the din of the main tourist streets. In Jerusalem, we celebrated Passover with vegan lamb. Nearly everywhere we go, we connect with inspiring people who have made the switch to veganism. None of these experiences or connections would exist otherwise.
Life is a series of choices, paths diverging in the wilderness. Each choice, whether sampling Peking duck in Beijing or roasted bats in Malawi, rules out other experiences. So just by not going vegan, each of us is already choosing to miss out on new experiences – and probably it’s “the one less travelled.”
There is another side to this reason though. It’s the “socializing” argument. No one wants to be that person at a dinner party who says, “Oh, sorry, I can’t eat that…. I’m vegan.” For a long time, I fuelled my obstinacy with this logic. It was packaged in good intentions – I told myself that I didn’t want to make others feel bad. What I really meant is that I didn’t want to feel left out, didn’t want to make a fuss.
This is the social camaraderie every veggie or vegan sacrifices a little. To be sure, new opportunities and new types of friendships replace the social interaction you might give up. But almost everyone will still go home at Thanksgiving or Christmas and have to explain again why they can’t eat the turkey. Thanks anyway, grandma!
Going vegan is not for the faint of heart. It’s for the big-hearted and courageous – those of us who are willing to stand out in the crowd. The experience of aligning your actions to your values, specifically to values based on compassion and justice, easily outweighs missing out on the shawarma or kangaroo burger. And these days, you’ll probably be able to get the vegan version anyway (more about that in my next post)!