An open letter to the graduating class of 2021
(20 to 30 minute read):
If you didn’t already know it, you may be learning it now. That life,- turns on a dime. Without a moments notice, the rug can be pulled right out from under your feet.
That may be the biggest lesson of this tumultuous past year.
In taking a look back at my own life, I have some fond memories from my childhood of traveling to visit my grandmother. Upon my arrival at her home, I would find my way down a flight of creaky old steps into the basement where I would find a treasure-trove of boxes full to the brim with old photographs, and artwork, and all kinds of antique objects,- it was a magical world in that little basement!
The main attraction for me though, were the shelves where she had neatly stored hundreds of back issues of “Readers Digest.” They had a series of survival stories in them called ‘Drama in Real Life,’ that I really enjoyed, and I’d sit there reading quietly for hours.
For example, I remember this one story about a man who was out hiking with his wife, when they were attacked and savagely mauled by a grizzly bear! But they survived their injuries and basically crawled back to civilization;- an exciting read for a ten year old!
But what I’m getting around to, is on the way in and out of the basement, I would pass by a shelf full of paper towels, covering the entire length of an old, dank cinderblock wall.
We used to lovingly refer to my little grandmother as a ‘pack-rat.’ As a little girl she had grown up in extreme depression-era poverty in the hills of South Carolina. She didn’t throw anything away if there was the slightest chance that it could be useful one day. And I do mean,- the slightest!
Well as the story goes, one day we were all gathered around in the living room of her small home, shamelessly teasing her about her pack-rat ways, when someone turned to her and said, “What do you think is gonna happen? Do you think the store is going to run out of paper towels??”
And then we all started just laughing our asses off.
But then I have this super vivid memory of her,- this sweet, kind, quirky little old lady looking over at me, knowingly nodding her head, and with a twinkle in her eye, she said;-
“Well,… it can happen.”
That little old lady knew more than all of us put together.
In the blink of an eye, everything that is normal, can be not so normal.
God promises us nothing, but the here and now.
We tend to get so comfortable in the present, sometimes we forget that it can all disappear in an instant.
At this time in your life, I know that you personally may be struggling with choices regarding career, and continuing education, and where and how you should live your life,- all of the things a person would normally be wondering about at your age,-… but in this case, all amidst a background of the fear and uncertainties created by a global pandemic. Like everyone else, you have no precedent to look to. No guide. And you may be asking yourself,- “how will I find my place?,”… “How will I fit my life into this world?”
You may be feeling as if you just stepped out of a cave, your eyes blinking in the sunlight. It’s a strange, new world.
On top of this, it’s possible that you may also be a very special individual who is looking around and recognizing with urgency that there are some very important issues facing the world. These may be things that you learned about in class, or these may be things that you learned about reading out on your own:- things like the slow destruction of our planet, and the impacts of air pollution, and water pollution, and global warming. And you may be feeling dwarfed by the enormity of it all.
And wondering,.. “Is there anyway I can live my life in this world,.. in a way that actually makes a difference?”
The reason I am writing you today because I want you to know I truly believe the answer is yes.
You CAN make a difference.
A big reason why I’m spending my time writing this is to make that point!
But should you choose to take on the challenge,- I mean really take your shot at making this world a better place,- I don’t care whether it’s through science & technology, or politics, or just good old grassroots activism,- there’s something that I want to share with you that I think you should know about.
So that you’ll recognize it as it approaches.
And for most of you it WILL approach, trust me.
Just to give you a little heads up.
See, the thing is,- if you are a rare gem of a person, (and I know that you are!) and you have the outlook of a youthful idealist, for lack of a better word…
… and you’re thinking of dedicating your life to the mission of making the world a better place…
Then, beginning as soon as you graduate, the ‘system’ that rules this world is going to try to make you forget about the ideals that are in your head right now. Try to get you to dismiss your ideas, as young and foolish!
Nope,- this is not anything spooky or weird.
And nope,- it’s not a conspiracy theory.
It’s just a plain simple fact of life.
And here is how it works:
The world is going to try to make you forget the questions you are asking. It will try to make you forget the things you want to change. It will try to make you forget about any form of activism or risk-taking.
Responsibility will rear it’s ugly head!
The world will try to get you to lower your vision; to drop your eyes away from the distant future, and it will try to get you to narrow your focus right down to the path at your feet. The way it will do this is by using your own good common sense against you.
As you move into the next stage of your life, there will be student loans to pay, and there will be utility bills to pay, and planes to catch, the next house to show, and expensive healthcare payments to make.
There will be some practical issues that you will need to pay attention to!
And they will be competing with the desire you are having now, to make the world a better place.
Using these practical everyday things, the system will begin to make you feel,… how shall I say?,- kind of like you’re in a little spaceship.
And you’re flying close to the outer rim of a black hole that’s trying to suck you in! Get its hooks into you! Keep your mind on making the next sale. Keeping your head above water. Getting the next paycheck. Making you forget where you were originally headed.
That’s how it starts.
You see, when you start to feel small in the world, you start to feel vulnerable. When that happens, you shift your focus to self-interest.
It will be a wake-up call. The cozy confines of school, with it’s sheltered community and lively discussions of academia,- those things will be a thing of your past life. Out in the real world, things work different.
Welcome to reality my friend!
Speaking of friends;-
There may be pressure from your friends.
You may see them lovingly scratching their heads,- wondering what to do with you!
There may be pressure from your family.
Possibly from romantic partners.
The people around you will need you to fall in line.
As you move forward, the best advice I can give you is to always listen to your own inner voice, and listen to your heart.
Don’t be afraid to be different.
In the world we live in, the term ‘responsibility’ refers primarily to protecting and safe guarding our own lives and assets as individuals. And those of our immediate families.
The framers of our constitution, as descendants of the enlightenment movement from Europe, thought of this as our ‘sphere’ of influence.
With the concept of selfishness at its core.
If your sense of responsibility is calling on you instead to transcend your sense of selfishness, and instead to protect the planet, and connect with the lives of future generations, don’t be afraid to let that feeling grow.
My first wish for you today, and the main reason I am writing to you, is that no matter what challenges life throws at you, I hope you will always remember who you are at this time in your life. Never forget that child that’s inside of you,- and never stop believing that you can make a difference in this world!
You are a one-in-a-million person, and I want you to know that I believe in you, and that I truly believe that this pandemic, or anything else that helps you find your inner strength, can be the best thing that can ever happen to you and to this world.
My generation, like every generation before it, has dropped the ball. You may be our last hope.
This time is your calling!
“You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way.”
…. (Jonathon Livingston Seagull)
As I’m writing to you, I’m sitting on the beach on the outer banks of North Carolina.
It’s a bright sunny day with a cool breeze, my toes are buried in the sand and I’m surrounded by all manner of seabirds. Yellowlegs, standing like sentries at the surfs edge. Seagulls flying all around, and pelicans diving down from high above, smacking straight down into the ocean headfirst!
Best of all, there’s a cute little sand crab about 10 feet away. His eyes are like two little round saucers, perched on top of two long stems. He’s cute, and very shy, and I know that he wishes I would go away! I see him peeping up out at me from his little hole, and cautiously scooting out,- around about a foot or so.. Then if I move even just one little finger, he just zzzzips back into his hole! I’ve affectionately named him “mr. skittles!”
He must have had a big cappuccino this morning when he got up!
As a child I spent many a summer here on the outer banks, vacationing with my family. Names like ‘Manteo’ and ‘Wanchese’ were familiar household words to me. I grew up collecting shells at Nags Head. Scampering around the Hatteras lighthouse. Skipping stones on the Roanoke sound. Exploring the wonders of the tidepools. Everywhere falling in love with nature..
Now as an adult I am reading that the oceans are threatened by acid rain, the sea levels are rising because of global warming and melting icecaps, and the coral reefs of the world are slowly dying away. Experts are predicting that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish!
And I’m asking myself,-
“What are we doing here?”
A Few Things I Would Like to Share With You
A science class experiment.
Bacteria are one-celled (unicellular) microorganisms that can only be seen with a microscope, but as they reproduce they can form rapidly into huge, fuzzy colonies that can be easily seen with the naked eye. The purpose of doing this science experiment is to demonstrate to students how quickly bacteria can reproduce, in a geometric progression, when one cell splits into two cells through a process called binary fission.
This process of growth can begin quickly,- in as little as 20 minutes!
The way the experiment works is that, under the care of a qualified instructor, sterile powdered agar is mixed with water and nutrients, and heated and poured into an empty petri dish. Then a source of bacteria is added. The most common method of adding bacteria is to place a dirty coin right in the middle of the dish. The bacteria will start to grow immediately, and over a period of days the students can watch as the dish fills up with the fuzzy bacteria.
As the nutrients are devoured, the fuzzy bacteria completely fill the dish. And then finally, when the nutrients are depleted, the colony dies off.
End of experiment.
Global warming,- is a real thing.
Habitat destruction,- is a real thing.
We are living in a closed system.
Are we no better than a dish full of mindless bacteria, gobbling up our resources, and expanding? Until there is nothing left?
The adults of my generation, just like every generation before us, are spending our days sitting on a set of railroad tracks with our heads down. We are looking at our phones, checking our graphs to see how our stocks are doing, plotting our next move, planning our retirement, paying our bills, mowing our lawns and trimming our hedges, and all-in all, doing well in keeping up with the Joneses.
Presently using our charts and graphs to determine how we can maximize earnings during covid.
Should I buy?,- or should I sell?
And all the while, there is a headlight of a train that has appeared in the distance. It’s just a faint twinkling-star kind of light at the moment; a bit far away. And with a few drips of water from a melting glacier,.. (going plink, plink, plink,..), and a few photographs in a magazine of some solitary polar bear struggling to survive in some distant, faraway land where the ice is melting all around,.. there’s nothing really to worry about. It’s all too far away. The train is only a faint tremor in the ground at our feet.
Will we wait, to turn our heads at the very last moment?
When the ground at our feet begins to shake and rumble with a roar?
That is the nature of our species. To put off todays problems for tomorrow. For the sake of profit. And convenience.
For the sake of comfort, in the present.
I’m writing you today because our world needs a generation of brave, young, fearless leaders. A generation that is not afraid to be different, not afraid to be looked down upon by their elders or their peers for doing something different, and pursue something other than the greed and lust for gold and power and comfort, that so much characterizes our world. A generation that is not afraid to break ranks.
Don’t let anyone, or anything, tell you that you can’t do it!
Now is your time!
“A group of people live under the earth in a cavelike dwelling. … The people have been trapped in this cave since childhood, shackled by the legs and the neck.. Thus, there is only one thing they can look at. [They watch straight ahead as a fire casts shadows on the wall.] And these shadows, the flickering images of puppets on the wall, are the only reality they know.”
… from Plato’s “The Republic”, 375 BC.
“Their power of illusion is so great, we can’t be sure of anything we do, or anything we see.”
… from Star Trek “The Menagarie”, 1966.
“The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth. A prison for your mind.”
… from “The Matrix”, 1999.
“But I recycle!” people say,-
“I do my part!”
– Recycling –
The Opiate of the Masses.
There are so many things that can distract us from the consequences of our actions. Keep us feeding this carbon-burning machine!
This is why I refer to recycling as …. (drumroll please),-
“The opiate of the masses.”
See,- when us older ‘adults’ (as we like to call ourselves) are in our survival mode, that’s when we are most vulnerable to these kinds of things. I am just as guilty as everyone else,- I’m no angel! And that’s why I want to talk to you about it.
Because when I look in the mirror I recognize it in myself. I want to share what I see.
Figuring out how to keep life moving forward from one day to the next. Making our mortgage or rent payment, and our health insurance payment. Finding something extra to put into our retirement account. And hoping to have a little something left over to pass along to our kids when they’re all grown-up. We need to have something in our mind to help us believe we are on the right side,- something to help us believe we are doing the right thing for the world as a whole.
This thought keeps us comfortable.
I feel like, for most of us, this is the need that recycling serves.
This is what it feeds.
It’s not about us though, or our children. It’s about our grandchildren.
The truth is that new production of plastic far exceeds the impact of recycling. There is no magic wand that saves the garbage we throw in recycling bins.
It is an illusion.
As you move on to this next step in your life, what I am asking you to do, is consider embracing the first, critical step in becoming an environmental activist,- which is becoming a conscientious consumer.
It is the primary form of activism that we can each, individually undertake.
Carry within yourself the recognition and belief that everything you buy, from your coffee in the morning, to your food in the afternoon, to the automobile that you drive to school or work, has an impact on this world!
I want you to know and recognize that you have an amazing energy passing through you! And you can use this energy to make this world a better place. By connecting your personal purchases with their past, as well as to their future consequences. In this way, you are doing something more!
This is the vote that counts the most,- more than anything!
Every dollar you spend on an environmentally friendly product helps spawn and grow that industry!
So what I’m asking of you is this,-
Please keep recycling!
But every time you drop an item in that recycling bin, I’m asking you to let that act, in the very essence of that moment, be a reminder that recycling is only a small first step! Just a drop in the bucket!
Your purchasing power is the sacrifice that you make, and the vote that you cast, every single day, and every single moment of your life!
The money that you spend has the power to bring life or death to the animals, planet, and people of this world. It is your energy, and your connection to the past, present, and future. And as this energy flows through you, it shapes and creates the world around you.
Your life is interconnected with this world!
This is about lifestyle and our choices as individuals. Setting an example for others. We have to join together in halting the buying, producing, and use of single use plastics. We have to stop cutting down ancient forests, stop polluting our air with fossil fuels, and stop polluting our water with chemicals.
And we have to stop waiting for someone else to take the first step.
And the time is now.
Because we are out of time.
We know, as a race, how to produce clean energy. We simply choose not to.
While we pursue the scientific advances necessary to make things better, and easier, and cheaper to implement, we have to keep in mind and remember that it’s not really our science that’s lagging behind,- it’s our social institutions. Our social constructs regarding profit.
And most of all, our choices. As nations. As states. And as individuals.
And in the meanwhile, …
We need you now, more than ever.
We need a generation of awakened, wise youth, who can turn their eyes away from the shadows on the wall, smash thru the glass walls of the menagerie, disconnect from the matrix, and walk out into the sunlight. And most of all, cast your eyes up from the concerns in the path right at your feet, to connect with a more distant future.
Every time you invest your money, or your time and efforts, in purchasing or creating, an environmentally friendly product that’s expensive now, you help make it cheaper for the next generation. You grow that industry.
Conscientious consumerism is not dead. The hope that springs from it starts with you. The things that you pay for, pay for an energy that you create, that you feed, and a future that you have the power to give life to…
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all.”
One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
A Few More Things
Among the most important social-cognitive abilities a child develops as they grow through life-stages, is the ability to step out of one’s own perspective to view another perspective. It could be said that one of the primary differences in higher reasoning differentiating humans from animals is that we can put ourselves in the ‘‘mental shoes’’ of others and imagine how others perceive, think, or feel about an object, event, or situation.
Depending on one’s level of cognitive development, the same object or event can be seen or construed in multiple ways, and in the study of child psychology and developmental psychology in particular, it is no different. Researchers have derived a number of different techniques for addressing the question of how and when children come to acquire an understanding of perspectives. Their progress can be mapped along the way.
In one possible type of study, a researcher places a simple arrangement of objects in front of a child. For example, placing a cone-shaped object on a table right in front of the child, and a cube-shaped object at the opposite end of the table, away from the child. The researcher then asks the child to draw a picture of what the objects look like from that point-of-view.
After the child draws a picture of the objects, the researcher then asks the child to draw the objects, “as if” the child were sitting at the other end of the table. This question requires the child to imagine what the objects would look like from the opposite perspective. Although it’s not always easy to quantify the results, a child’s progress in understanding different perspectives can be understood and mapped in this fashion.
Studies differ along a wide range of indicators, but many have found that the development in the ability of children to understand perspectives often accelerates between the ages of 3 to 5 years.
This development continues into more advanced emotional and cognitive stages throughout life..
In a sense, for some people the process is never-ending. For others, this type of development slows down or ends early in life.
Once upon a time,…
When I was in high school, I once had the honor of standing alone, just for one beautiful fleeting moment, in front of the tomb of Galileo Galilei, in the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence, Italy.
In a state of awe,- most likely with my jaw hanging open!
See, this moment was one of many memorable moments in time that I experienced during my visit to Italy.
Attractions like the statue of David, the Sistine Chapel. Rome and the Vatican and St. Peters, all visions etched into my mind forever… The reason this particular moment stands out to me though, is not because of anything so special that really happened while I was there that day,- it was more just because of the sense of honor that I felt for this amazing human being.
If you didn’t already know it, -Galileo was a brilliant man, convicted and sentenced in 1633 by the Roman Inquisition to live out his life under house arrest.
And for what crime?
Galileo had stated that the earth was not the center of the universe.
He was a ‘proponent’ of what we call the ‘heliocentric theory’.
Like a few other early astronomers, Galileo believed in models of our solar system that suggested that, instead of the sun orbiting around the earth, which was the prevalent thought of the day, it is actually the other way around:- the earth is in orbit around the sun.
As you may know from your history classes, during the time Galileo lived, the Church was considered to be the most powerful entity of the day.
It had the power to take life.
The power to torture.
The power to imprison.
And yet in spite of all of these risks, Galileo stood up for his beliefs and publicly stated what he knew to be the truth.
An act of incredible bravery.
I remember standing there and asking myself,- who amongst us would have the strength and courage to do that?
Where is this going?
Something more that I learned during that same time period of my life…
And unfortunately it is on the darker side of things…
I learned that there is nothing quite like the feeling of putting your hand on the bricks of an oven used to incinerate people during the holocaust.
That was the moment when it became real for me.
Before that, I had only read about it in books. It didn’t seem so real.
This was another of my experiences traveling in Europe with my family as a teen.
In Germany, the historical remains of Hitler’s concentration camps were preserved, and serve as a permanent reminder of what can happen, hidden unseen behind walls. In remote locations outside of our view.
There is some debate over how much ordinary German citizens knew about the atrocities being committed in Hitler’s camps. And at what stages they became aware of it. But in any case, historians believe it is almost certain that in the beginning they knew less than they did later, as the agenda was developed and promoted and advanced.
My point here in bringing this up, is that when things happen in a way that is hidden from us,- what I am asking you to do, is to remember that they are hidden for a reason!
Ask yourself,- why is the perpetrator of this act keeping things hidden?
The answer is they are hidden so that they don’t trigger us!
So they don’t trigger our thoughts, and our emotions, and our awareness. Our actions. Don’t get us thinking too much.
If we don’t look, it makes it easier for us to go along with things. Be at peace with ourselves. Just go with the flow.. Block it out of your mind!
We can pretend certain things are not happening, even though we know, (in the back of our minds), that it really, truly is happening. We just don’t want to think about it. Gradually, we just accept it.
And we accept the advantages and conveniences that we gain from it.
A wall blocking things out makes it easier for us to function in a day-to-day sense, and stay comfortable and cozy.
Bringing Things Together
“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” ….. Nikola Tesla
Did you know that Nikola Tesla, the man considered by many to be the mastermind of frequency and vibration,- would not sit down and eat a steak dinner?
Did you know that Albert Einstein, the Nobel Prize winner regarded as the founder of modern physics,- was a firm believer in animal rights?
Buddha, Tolstoy, Da Vinci, Gandhi, Twain, Plato, Pythagoras, Socrates, Shelley,.. the list goes on. There are so many. History is littered with the names of brilliant people who were either vegan, or vegetarian, or who shared a belief somehow in the concept of animals as sentient beings.
And then there’s me!
The North Carolinian vegan web designer, slash server extraordinaire!
But seriously now,- with all joking aside..
At this juncture, I would like to take a moment to introduce you to a personal belief that I have held dear to my heart for a very long time;-
And that belief is, I believe people are hard-wired to detect insincerity faster than just about anything…
We are all programmed for it.
I believe our inner voices send us messages, tipping us off, letting us know when we should be wary about a person or situation.
Have you ever said to yourself, “I don’t trust this situation,- something seems a bit off.” ?
Or maybe,- “I don’t know why, but this feels a bit sketchy…”
That was your inner voice talking to you. Your intuition.
Because I hold this belief close to my heart, as I’m writing I’m asking myself,- how can I represent myself honestly and straightforwardly here;- share my thoughts, my hopes and dreams, all without a false veneer?
Not pretending to be something more, or something less, than what I am.
The reason why?
I wouldn’t want you or anyone else to trust my words here today, only to find out tomorrow that I had a hidden agenda the entire time. At that point, I would risk losing your trust forever.
In the interest of this kind of transparency, I would like to discuss and share upfront with you, and in introducing this site, how my personal diet and lifestyle choices speak centrally to the message I intend to convey.
The tiny faint voice of a who echoing out to you from a vast sea of people…
For those of you who don’t already know me personally, my name is John Edwards, and I am a web designer (slash) restaurant worker living in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Just an ordinary person!
But I am vegetarian for 29 years, and full-on vegan for about 10 years. And 55 years old!
As I see birthday number 56 coming up around the corner, depending on your age, if you’re a young person, you may be figuring out how to begin your life, launching yourself on this amazing journey into the unknown, at the same time I am asking myself what I want to do with the remainder of my days!,- fully aware even since my youth that the beauty of life is such a fleeting thing!
Mark Twain once said, the two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why. As I cast my own eyes towards the future, I have realized what I want to do. I know that I want to share this lifestyle. This amazing thing that I have found.
In my own mind, I think of this concept as ‘living a higher life.’ With the primary goal of acting as a ‘benevolent caretaker’ of the life on this amazing, beautiful planet.
As my friend who very first introduced me to this lifestyle is dearly departed from this world long ago, my wish is to carry this torch forward, to share the light and pass it on to anyone willing to receive it.
In that effort, so far basically I have lived an experiment with my life. Avoiding darkness and turning towards the light. I’m not a Bible-thumping Christian but I do honor and revere the words of Jesus Christ. Rather than considering myself a religious person, I consider myself ‘spiritual.’
In my own spiritual life then, I have extended this experiment both in terms of minimalism, as well as in love for the planet.
Most of the time, without fear of the consequences.
People often ask me why I became vegan, but I rarely have time to fully answer why. The short story is that I am vegan for the animals. It’s love,- pure and simple.
Love for all of the sentient life forms on this amazing planet.
And if there were no other reasons, I would consider it sufficient since for that reason alone I would like to live my life without inflicting cruelty on any other living being.
But there are more reasons.
I am also vegan for the planet, as well as for the benefit of my own personal health.
The rest of the details I plan to set forth, including my exact diet, for you to follow or not-follow as you wish, and my exact exercise plan, and all of the reasons why, in my forthcoming blog here. Including every detail of diet and recipe free of charge. Omitting nothing, and freely available to anyone wishing to learn more. Explore if you are interested, if not,- of course there is no grudge!
As you will see, I am a firm believer in freedom of choice.
This is at the crux of my life philosophy. The point of sharing this world-view of love and kindness, couple with freedom of choice, is the very heart of my reason for writing.
The energy I get, the immune system boost I get, and the feeling of clarity and well-being I get from living an eco-friendly and cruelty-free lifestyle are the best thing that has ever happened to me, and nothing makes me happier than sharing it with as many people as I can!
Here in the everyday real-life world, there’s hardly a day that goes by that someone doesn’t ask me,-“Why did you become vegan?”
“What do you eat?”
“How do you get your protein?”
And it may surprise you how often someone says, “I tried it myself once, and I only lasted for about three days!!”
In speaking to these ‘frequently asked questions’, I would like to discuss the ways in which I believe lifestyle choices have the greatest impact on your personal health, and your energy, and importantly, the ways in which this energy passes through you,- in the same manner as being a conscientious consumer, reaching back from the past, to the present and future; including as well how it sets an example for others, as well as impacts the world around you.
To recap;- the reasons I became vegan are 1),- for the animals;- 2),- for the planet;- and 3),- for my health!
And it is so incredibly easy!
Vegan for the animals
Some people say you have to be uncomfortable to grow. I just say,- sometimes life can be a rollercoaster,- and you have to hold on tight for the ride!!
So hang on tight! This will be over soon enough! You can get through it!
In explaining vegan for the animals, I like to answer a question with a question:-
The question: What is vegan for the animals?
The answer: What’s the difference between a piece of smoked tempeh on your plate,- and a piece of bacon?
The answer is that the piece of tempeh didn’t have to be forced down a dark hallway with an electric shock wand, shrieking and crying and begging for its life the entire time, only to end up watching as its friends get their throats slit right before its eyes.
Or get gassed. Or get boiled squirming alive.
That energy,.. that fear, that terror,- that is what you are eating. That’s what’s on your plate.
Did you know that an adult pig has basically the same emotions, and intelligence, of a 3 year old child?
Did you know that cows are basically big dogs?
But while the cows get repeatedly “raped,” or”inseminated”, or whatever choice of words you prefer,- spanning the course of their entire lives,- their bright, playful puppy eyes just gradually grow dim. The light goes out, and they lose all hope. We keep them perpetually impregnated, so that our species can enjoy the luxury of milk and cheese.
After they have their babies, industry workers tell us the mother cows may even attempt to hide their newborns, because they know from past experience that the handlers are coming to take them away. After the children are taken anyway, the mothers will cry for days,- just like your mother would.
This process continues over and over until the day comes when, just like their egg-laying counterparts, their abused bodies, like spent cogs in a machine, just give out and they get slaughtered and ground up.
Animals beg us, and plead for their lives. They are as smart as our children and as emotionally sentient as all of us. Yet the majority of us feel and hear nothing when they speak to us.
Believing that this mass assembly-line treatment of animals is ok, is a construct that we get indoctrinated into beginning with our own births. We are taught to see only the final, packaged product, rather than the history of energy and emotion infused into it.
People say things to me like,-
“But we have the right to use the other species!..” (utilitarian).
Or,- “God put the animals here for us to use!..” (religious).
Or,- “We are setting their souls free!..” (new-agey).
Occasionally someone will scamper up to me, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and with a gleam in their eye they will proudly announce,-
“But plants have feelings too!”
These are all great topics for future discussion, (for the blog for sure),-
But to stay focused for now,-
I think what I am asking of you here at this moment, is that whatever choices you make for your own life moving forward, (and I do believe it is your choice, and your own life!) and for your own diet, (and I do believe it is your own choice, and your own diet!) what I’m asking is try not to let a wall go up in your mind, blocking you from making an informed decision, and blocking you from seeing the truth, and feeling it, for what it really is. A wall keeping you from getting uncomfortable.
I feel that inside of many of us, there is an inner child that can feel the pain that we put animals through.
But to continue with our behavior we have to suppress that inner child and block it out. Justify it.
“I don’t want to think about it!,” is amongst the most common phrases I ever hear.
By not thinking about it, we can pretend it doesn’t exist.
This is why I ask you to peek behind the wall.
If you can’t face what’s there, if you don’t want to watch a video, or see the truth with your own eyes, just be aware that you may be protecting something. A dissonance. Between your heart, and your mind. A wall protecting your thoughts and emotions.
Make it real. Discover your truth and live it steadfastly!
And don’t trust any authority that tries to keep things hidden from you.
Animal rights activists take great risks upon themselves by taking video behind these walls.
It’s all about gaining a perspective from another viewpoint.
At the end of the day, the point I am making is that it seems to me as if we are still acting as if we are at the center of God’s universe.
As a race, we have established a set of utilitarian, religious, and new-age viewpoints that have not changed their essential position since the days of the Inquisition.
As we think of ourselves as the center of the universe, we glorify ourselves as a superior species. When we can just as easily act as humble, kind, loving and benevolent caretakers.
“Be kind to every kind,- we are here to serve.”
This is my symbology, as I like to call it,- the motto of my life,- the karma that I hope to pass along to you…
My reason for being.
“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.”
Vegan for the planet
You might be a person who doesn’t believe any of this crap about vegan for the animals!
Ok, so if you don’t believe in becoming vegan for the animals,- what about becoming vegan for the planet?
There is a growing body of evidence that indicates animal agriculture is a primary culprit in contributing to the deforestation of our planet, as well as a major contributor to the greenhouse gases causing global warming.
Forests cover more than 30 percent of the land area of our planet. They help purify the air we breath and the water we drink, and they provide a home for an amazing diversity of wildlife. They also play a critical role in preventing climate change because they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Unfortunately the world’s forests, and especially the tropical rainforests, are under siege. In fact, the tropical rainforests are at the epi-center of the fight to save the environment. They’re being cut down to make room for cattle to graze. In addition, the forests are also being cut down to grow crops used to feed the very same cattle!
There is evidence to suggest that if this land, and those crops were simply used to feed humans in the first place, it could be done in a more sustainable manner, feed more people, cut down fewer trees, and help us slow the progress of global warming.
The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that an area approximately the size of Switzerland is lost to deforestation each and every year.
Agricultural animal waste poses yet another challenge to the environment. When toxic contaminants from farm waste find their way into groundwater and waterways, they pollute our drinking water and kill off aquatic life, contributing to oxygen-deprived dead zones along the coast.
Most importantly, the animal agriculture sector, which includes the production of feed crops, the manufacturing and use of fertilizer, as well as the shipment of meat, eggs, and milk, is pointed to by scientists as a primary contributor of green house gas emissions and the warming of the Earth.
Many experts agree that animal agriculture is unsustainable, and slowly choking the life out of our planet.
Vegan for your health
If you don’t want to go vegan for the animals, AND you don’t want to go vegan for the planet,-
What about going vegan for your own personal health?
It is now widely accepted that a plant-based diet offers numerous benefits when compared to a diet based on animal products, and can be helpful with the prevention and treatment of a host of modern lifestyle diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and hypertension. As well as promoting beneficial weight loss.
I can personally attest to this benefit of weight loss!,-
For myself personally, the last time I ate a burger, the calendar said 1992.
Since that day, I have shed over 60 pounds!
At 55 years old, I feel like I am literally in the best physical condition of my entire life. Except for the last phase of my workout routine when I attempted to ‘rip out’, I have never gone on a strict diet, and never felt hungry. I lost weight gradually the entire time for years as my body leveled itself out. My workouts are light, and airy, and enjoyable. And I never had to train like I was going to an Olympic weight-lifting competition!
I feel great, I sleep great, my mind feels clear.
That same satisfaction you get from eating a steak or burger?
I get that feeling every day,- from eating very hearty, very satisfying plant-based meals! Without eating beef, chicken, pork, or fish. Or wearing any accessories composed of their by-products.
Don’t get me wrong,- I approach you with all humility.
I’m no superman!
And I leave much to be desired. I’m not tall, and I’m not rich! I don’t have the biggest muscles and I don’t have the rugged good looks of a movie star. Let’s just say it is doubtful I will ever run an iron man competition. Nor am I a macho-man who can strap on 50 pounds worth of fire-fighting gear, and clamor up dozens of flights of steps!
But in spite of my shortcomings, at 55 years old, what I have found is an energy that vitalizes me, sustains me, and has me in the best physical condition I’ve ever been in. Nothing makes me happier than sharing this aspect of my lifestyle with you!
Working in the restaurant business as long as I have, I frequently work 10 to 12 hour shifts on busy weekends,- physical, hard work,- without taking a break.
My dogs may start barkin’ a bit, but that’s about the only bad thing that happens. Lots of energy!
Several times a week, in the middle of the summer, I run in the afternoon before I go to work at the restaurant,- for miles at a time in 105 degree heat index temperatures through the North Carolina forest. Barely break a sweat.
And my immune system? So far it’s a beast! (knock on wood!)
In over 20 years now, over 20 years!,- I have experienced flu-like symptoms only a few times, and for just a grand total of just a few days,- barely even catching a cold!
And that’s while I’m working in restaurants, where I’m handling cash, and being exposed to the breathing of hundreds of people, at close range, every single day. Every time a bug nips me my immune system seems to fight it right off.
I am convinced that a vegan diet is the best thing you can do for your health. I have heard similar stories from other vegans as well, who have reported similar discoveries to me. And all of this goes without even mentioning the issue of pandemics, originating in wet markets, where viruses mutate and leap from animals to humans in crowded livestock conditions.
After reading this introduction to veganism and the reasons why, if you are finding yourself curious about the vegan lifestyle, whether it’s for the animals, for the environment, or for your own personal health, I want you to know that I am here for you, passionately encouraging you and willing to do anything to help!
But don’t just listen to me. Here are a few resources you can check out:-
The first resource is the website provided by the animal rights organization, PETA. Their website features a variety of short videos to watch, as well as articles to read. This site includes a number of videos taken from behind the wall.
And the best thing about it,- it fits almost any schedule. You can be in and out in as little as twenty minutes with something to get you thinking.
If you have a bit more time on your hands, I recommend watching the 2018 documentary film “Dominion.” (Please write that down!)
In this documentary, you can learn more about the lives that a number of different species face as ‘products’ of our modern-day animal agricultural system. A total of six facets are illuminated: farm animals, wild animals, companion animals, entertainment animals, fur animals, as well as animal experimentation.
If you would like to learn more about the environmental impacts of the animal agriculture industry, I recommend beginning with the 2014 documentary “Cowspiracy: the Sustainablity Secret.” (Write that down too!)
This documentary explores the impact of animal agriculture on the environment in terms of global warming, water use, deforestation, as well as oceanic dead zones.
If you choose to take this journey of learning, during this journey you may learn things that surprise you.
Specifically about terminology.
The way we use words, and how words can be used to mislead us.
Cruelty-free? …. Not likely.
Free range? …. Ask yourself, what does that really mean?
(Three question marks for that one.)
These are all labels given to keep you comfortable,-
To keep you from looking behind the wall.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” …. Mark Twain
A friend of mine once commented, it’s amazing to see what you can do, when you pour love and kindness into your body.
I find these words stirring because they echo one of the highest goals that I would hope to attain;- in pursuing a higher life, shedding limitations and trying to set a good example,- by acting as a benevolent caretaker of all the beautiful life on this amazing planet.
So that’s one of my wishes for you, but only if it’s of your own choosing,- and your own free will.
If you have any interest in trying out an eco-friendly, vegan lifestyle for yourself,- my promise to you is that I will be always be here for you.
In what ever way I can be.
So that you won’t have to go it alone like I did.
And so you won’t have to give up after three days either! 😉
A Note About Time
It’s been months since I first put pen to paper, sitting on that beautiful North Carolina beach.
The leaves have long since dropped from the trees, the seasons have changed, and covid,… is still raging.
Casting it’s shadow over everyone.
As I was out running today, all alone on a beautiful trail around this lake in my backyard, reflecting in the sunshine on how precious life is,… I thought of one last piece of advice I would like to share..
From ashes to ashes, and dust to dust.
You see, time is the most valuable thing that any of us have. God promises us nothing, but the here, and now.
Once I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, about being a parent, when this friend says to me, its not how much money you spend on your daughter that counts. Its how much time you spend with her. That’s what kids remember the most.
And I couldn’t agree more!,- whether its for your family, or your friends, or your classmates, or your teammates, or even a customer that you are taking care of at your job,-
Always remember, at every moment of your life, that time is the most precious gift that any of us have to offer.
If you take nothing else away from this letter, feel free to take this last bit of advice, and put it in your back pocket!
Save it for a rainy day.
What I’m asking you to do, is slow down. Take a deep breath and enjoy every moment!
Take a moment to contemplate your relationship with this world and your life, and what you want it to be.
I know that if you’re out there in school, in your senior year, doing zoom classes, I know you are experiencing some disappointments.
You may be dealing with the cancellation of your favorite sport or activity, or club. Missing your friends. All of that camaraderie,- everything you hoped for. Or that business venture that you’ve given everything to. Gone into thin air!
My heart truly goes out to you. Life can be so unfair.
There is no way to express the disappointment you must be feeling.
But please, please keep in mind,- that whoever you are, and no matter what age you are, what defines you, what shapes you and what constitutes you,- is not what happens in this world around you,- it’s your reaction to it!
And your choices.
For me personally, I had very little to work with during this situation, limited funding, limited resources, but I chose to react by making the most of every single day, in every way that I could.
My intention was to embark on a journey of mastery and self-improvement.
Although I did run out of toilet paper and paper towels once!
(You were right Grandma! May your beautiful soul rest in peace!!💕).
I just want to share with you that I try my best to make use of every single day, in some way, to make myself a better person.
And I hope I can inspire you to do that too!
Cherish your time.
Cherish every single day.
Master it!,- and make use of every single moment!
Take the time, to say hello to a friend, or a stranger, and ask them how they are doing. And then take the time to listen to their answer.
Take advantage of this time to learn a musical instrument.
Take the time every day to exercise. Take a run, walk, or a hike. Experience nature.
Treat your body like it’s gold!
Take the time, to learn about the important issues of the day, and figure out how you can become part of the solution, instead of the problem.
Take the time, to plan how you will make your life amazing in this new upcoming year!
And think about what portion of your time, that you can give of yourself,…to the world!
Don’t be afraid.
Don’t ever stop believing in yourself!
“If you believe in yourself, you’ll be fine. If you don’t, put a sock in it!”
…. A.E. (5th Grade)
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”…Mahatma Gandhi
Personally, I believe that God’s promise to us is that we all have freedom of choice. Freedom to decide for ourselves.
Choice is what defines our existence.
Regardless of your own personal stance on God, and religion, and philosophy, and lifestyle, and whether you are Christian or Muslim or Atheist or whatever you may be,- the philosophy that I am promoting here begins with the choices made by the person you see looking back at you in the mirror.
And the idea that it is never too late to change the path that you are on.
It doesn’t matter if you are 15, or 35, or 55. It is never too late to change.
This is the only thing that’s real to me. Life is choice.
As you move forward in your own life from this day forward, and as you launch yourself on this amazing journey navigating the waters of this uncertain world, what I’m urging you to do is consider a form of lifestyle and conscientious consumerism, that involves some added expenses, added sacrifices, of your own personal conveniences, in investing yourself, or your company, into living a higher life,- of caring for the animals, caring for the planet, for your health, and for our distant, unborn grandchildren.
Making a connection with future generations.
This silly dream that I have, is that one day our capitalist system can, instead of reaching its tentacles out to all of the corners of the globe, in it’s ever-expanding search for resources, and money, in the process leeching out the nutrients from every corner of the world, enslaving and using its animals, children and life, can instead set a noble, sustainable example. As individuals, cities, states, and as a nation.
We can be more than bacteria in a petri dish.
We just need to add a little extra cost to the bottom line. Giving of ourselves, and our time.
Will you share this dream with me?
As the dragon seeks treasure, and sleeps atop a mountain of gold coin,- what will you do with your time?
How will you spend your days?
Don’t ever forget the power of example.
Don’t let anyone else’s fears limit you.
You are unlimited!
You can achieve anything!
Don’t wait for anyone else to go first.
It all starts with you.
A Special Thanks
I would like to sincerely thank all of the people who came into the restaurants where I was working over the years and left tips to support the dreams of employees!
Whether for myself, or for co-workers who were students paying their way through school, single moms, or starving artists, or entrepreneurs in pursuit of their dreams,- all of us,- we couldn’t do it without you!
You are very appreciated!
If you have any interest in following along to see where this goes,-
I don’t care even if your interest is as small as one little grain of sand from this beach where I started out with mr. skittles,- you are invited to connect on social media.
Stay informed of the next update.
Next up is:- #1. The top actions you can contribute to save the environment; #2. Taking a look at eco-friendly vehicles. #3. A simple-man’s guide to the vegan lifestyle, including my full diet and my favorite easy-to-make vegan recipes; and #4. The upcoming article,- ‘the Truth About Trees.’
Or please just share this note to encourage a friend.
Thank you for taking the time to visit and listen!
And thank you for helping me spread this message, of peace, and light, and love…
And at last,
“The self-same moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea. ……….”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
And, the Beginning.
A personal website featuring global warming, links, information, and activism on the world wide web.
John is an environmental advocate, and vegan lifestyle & fitness blogger based in Raleigh, North Carolina.
To follow John on Facebook:
Get updates on upcoming articles, eco-travel, and fitness & lifestyle tips.
References & Resources
Established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to assess available scientific, technical, and socio-economic information in the field of climate change. Links to full-text papers, meeting schedule, speeches and press releases, and an information center offering data viewed as statistics, graphically, and by map.
Vital Signs of the Planet: Global Climate Change and Global Warming. Current news and data streams about global warming and climate change. This NASA website is based on the evidence, causes, effects, and solutions of climate change.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger and improve nutrition and food security.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is an American animal rights organization based in Norfolk, Virginia, and led by Ingrid Newkirk, its international president. The nonprofit corporation claims 6.5 million supporters.
Exposing the dark underbelly of modern animal agriculture through drones, hidden & handheld cameras, the feature-length film explores the morality and validity of our dominion over the animal kingdom. Available to watch online for free.
A groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it. This documentary discusses animal agriculture in terms of a leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution, greenhouse gases, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean “dead zones,” and other environmental problems.
Permissions: Anyone who would like to make a copy of this page has permission to print and distribute as many copies as they wish. They must be free of charge. (This notice must be included: credit to SaveTheEnvironment.com)