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the vegetarian life

December 15th, 2005 | 3 min read

By Nathan James

The girl that I am in love with has recently become a vegetarian.

Being a vegetarian is not normal. Vegetables are nice. I like them. The girl I love is nice. I like her. but being a vegetarian is not normal.

However, the prospect of eating only vegetables (and cheese, etc. etc. i.e. eating only everything but meat) has made me think carefully and existentially about food. I say existentially because I'm wondering how much of our experience with food derives from food, as opposed to our imaginings about food, or the significances we attribute to eating certain foods, etc.

My first reaction to the thought of "going vegetable," as I might call it, must have come from one of the involuntary muscle groups I think, if muscles can cause emotional responses. Because I did not need to think about how to respond, or think even about what "going vegetable" might entail for me, there was just simply and suddenly a great big sense of being aghast. My mouth might have hung open a bit. I probably blinked once or twice. I was thinking about In 'n Out. I probably licked my lips. I was thinking about Orange Chicken and chow mein. I was thinking about all the blessed number of hamburger variations out there. I just kept thinking about meat and meat and meat, accompanied, as I mentioned with a distinct sense of being completely aghast.

I don't even think I was particularly cognizant of the connection between the Sushi Crab rolls in my mind and the aghast sensation all through my body, but only that they were in very deep conflict with each other.

I can't say how long this lasted.

But within the week I was able to move on, and I began to process "going vegetable-ism" with the much greater control (which some presume to call clarity, though I'm not so sure) that our heads give us.

I don't know how to explain this, or convince any of you about this, so, I'm just going to assert it: the pleasure that comes from food itself is negligable, meaning, you can neglect it and be fine. Steaks are yummy. I don't think anyone's contesting that. But yummyness itself is negligable.

I realized that there is a disparity between the full significance and pleasure I get out of eating meat, and the actual pleasure that is in eating meat. Call me crazy. But I bet you're crazy too.

Why? is the next question. On one hand, in my head, I can totally swallow the idea of giving up meat. But then I find that I have these attachments to meat that far exceed what meat even has to offer.

It's the very same way with any one thing that we get really excited about. Nothing sucks quite as much as exposing your unharnessed excitement for T. S. Eliot to a well versed scholar of poetry who then replies, "Yeah, Eliot's pretty good." And suddenly you realize that Eliot is a human poet who wrote human poetry while all this time you've been reading him as a endless genius god of poetry. But when the well-versed prick of poetry calls the spade a spade... all you can do is admit that you were caught up in an excitement that exceeded the poem's actual successes or failures.

On the other hand, nothing is greater than to connect with another person who is as unreasonably excited and lost in the enjoyment of the same thing you are.

What do we make of that?

It seems it isn't hard to be the stoic. You will perhaps always win the argument. but there is some sort of virtue, perhaps, in discovering more pleasure in a thing than the thing is worth.

But there too is a fine line between that and idolatry. idolatry too is the taking of pleasure or placing of hope in a thing beyond what the thing is worth.

I have now opened more cans of worms that I have hooks to fish with. And I must leave these thoughts off squirming as they are either to bake in the sun and crust on to the dock or else to find their own way back to cool soil where someone else can dig them up again and sell them to some other fisherman who isn't as sleepy as I am right now and needs to go to bed as badly.

alright, enough.