Some people may see me as eccentric, heck, I think that I'm eccentric. But I can't help it, the happiness that I feel inside is spilling in unpredictable and often unconventional ways. The joy of feeling my essence moving through me in radiant waves creates jolts of energy spiking as I come across new sources of inspiration. Life is beautiful, so very beautiful. Breathing is bound-defying, speaking is liberating, singing is exhilarating... Life is full of color. I want to share the color that I see with every person that I encounter. I don't care if I will be misunderstood or gossiped about. I have been given a gift to see the world in a more innocent way, in a way that allows me to recognize the magnificence of even smallest details - from the tiny ray of sun dancing on a wooden floor of my apartment, to clouds being marched by September wind, to fullness of color in the petals of a rose, to the sound of golden orange leaves rustling under my footsteps. Every breath we take we breathe in life. And every breath is followed by an exhale. And so it goes, in synch with the rhythm of all, the cycles of expansion and contraction, the cycles of life and death. Nothing is permanent, nothing stays still. It moves with the wind of life in a graceful orchestrated way. The drama of life, with its endless ups and downs, is nothing short of art in the making. Each moment is a unique representation of reality, never to be repeated again. What a waste it would be to fret about silly inconsequential things in life while missing the real deal!
Modern lives here in a "civilized" world are hectic, to say the least. We are bombarded by things coming at us all day long. At work, at home and everywhere in-between there are responsibilities to take care of, goals and ambitions to pursue. The more we achieve, we more responsibility we take on. No wonder at all that most of us have a hard time managing our priorities or making sound decisions. And in our "spare" time, when we are commuting to work or sitting on the coach half-asleep watching TV, we are fed by advertisement to further impair our judgment and tell us what we should want from life and what is normal. The news makes us feel powerless and the lack of inspiration robs us of our right and responsibility to question what we can do to change the world to be a more peaceful harmonious place.
As an animal rights activist, I have talked to many people about taking steps to make a difference, and most become defensive or say that it doesn't matter because they are just one person and one person cannot change things. Deep down we all know that it isn't true, I can easily produce a list of amazing people who have singlehandedly changed the world, and so could anyone who takes a few moments to focus on remembering their contributions. We, the people, need to take pride in our humanity and learn humility, for all life is precious and it isn't just our species that have been awarded this amazing gift. And we need to snap out of this numbing haze that we find ourselves in and think about the consequences of our actions and about our contributions to what the world has become as a result of them. We need to take responsibility and adjust to a kinder, more compassionate way of living, to appreciate and honor ourselves, our human and non-human brothers and sisters and cherish our planet. Every individual deserves love and respect, including animals. When we stand up for them, we are also standing up for ourselves.
Most people claim that they want world peace and that they love animals, but when presented with an opportunity to shift to a non-violent way of living they hold on to old habits as if their life depended on it. I was stunned by the way my fellow Buddhists responded when I explained to them how raising animals for food promotes violence and wastes valuable natural resources. There was a moment of silence and then people started grasping at straws as to why they had to continue doing what they are doing despite the fact that billions of animals are dying every year in this country alone and before they die they are treated like machines, without any compassion, love or respect. If we truly want to work to promote world peace, we can't turn behavior that seeds from violence on and off as it’s convenient to us. If we participate in violence by producing and consuming animal products, we have a foundation of violence in our bodies and our minds. How can we then be peaceful with each other? Do we think that we can be violent at certain times and not at others? After being desensitized by the “necessary” violence, it becomes the norm and a habit.
I know that it isn't easy to face what is being done and take responsibility for your part as a consumer (which essentially translates to paying factory farms to kill the animals for you or enslave them in horrible conditions to save a buck during milk and egg production). It took me some time to get where I am, but now that I have fully grasped the reality of situation, I can see clearly that making excuses for irrational behavior is a sign of addiction. One should feel compassion for people who are addicted and for those who feel that their actions won't make a difference. And I do, but the bottom line is that the suffering of those beings that are treated as machines and slaughtered for food is so much more acute then what people who eat them ever experience. Sorrow that I feel in my heart is overwhelming at times and there is little room left for making sure that I don't step on people's toes. I try not to tell anyone what they should eat while they are eating it, but if you repeatedly comment on how good-looking “your” bacon is, I will mention without fail that it must have come from one-good looking pig and I won’t feel the need to apologize.
I have pledged my life to creating world peace through non-violence toward all living beings. I am committed to giving a voice to those whose cries cannot be heard by the time they become a meal and to our precious planet without which we cannot exist. We are not separate from one another, all of us - animals, humans and environment. Whatever happens to animals also has an impact on people, thus the prevalence of modern disease such as heart disease, cancer and AIDS. Whatever happens to the environment impacts not only the quality of our lives, but our very existence. It is common knowledge that we need air, water, food and shelter to survive. Then why are we letting factory farms pollute our water and soil? Why do we accept it as a normal practice to use poison to grow our crops and pay money for food pumped with chemicals and antibiotics, and sprayed with pesticide? We, the people, are fully capable of standing up for what's right and making a difference, even if the only action we take is refusing to give money to greedy farm factory owners and corporations which put profits above all else. We, the people, haven’t even scratched the surface of our true potential. It is time to live our lives to the fullest, healthy, happy and inspired, and to let other beings have what we want for ourselves - the right to be free.
After learning about observation, imagination and language as fundamentals in creative writing, we were given a homework assignment - to visit a place that we often go to and look at the place with new eyes, in a deeper way, and then describe it in 500 words or less. After much deliberation, I finally chose an outdoor platform of a seven train that I have become overly familiar with during the past year. I figured it would be good for me to give a place another chance by looking at it with fresh eyes, and perhaps, come up with more positive things to say about it. In any case, whether I would actually become fond of it or not, I needed to eventually start writing about things that I didn't like or that bored me. So, I wrote from the perspective of street lamps, totally removing myself from the situation, showing and not telling, observing, imagining and using a few newly learned words that quickly became my favorites.
Here is the result of a fun creative Sunday afternoon on my couch:
"Pine green stalks of street lamps cast languishing shadows on the grainy worn-out train platform. They leaned their clunky metal buds toward the earth in curiosity, as if the oversized industrial bulbs were looking for something exciting. Surely, the sedentary lifestyle was getting to them, bugging them to peak further and move from the overly familiar spot that they were planted on. They longed to be like the visitors of the platform and hop on the train that would carry them away on the snaking, twisting tracks toward some place new. Alas, they have been sanctioned to be silent witnesses, observers of life. But they ached to see beyond the rusty metal rows of train tracks that disappeared far into the distance in both directions. Past the kaleidoscope of grey-brown buildings that looked like a collection of stamps, spilled on the floor by a clumsy philatelist in a cascading heap and stuck together in a moist summer heat. These cluttered buildings, like rows of teeth of a giant shark, were filed down to ennui and left standing at various heights. They were all missing something, an unfinished project abandoned by men. A few lucky pigeons were making the most of the barren rooftop right underneath the platform, catching people's immediate attention with a flutter of wings.
A canopy of a tree emerged out of concrete and brick here and there, triumphantly claiming its space, adding lively color and grace to otherwise dour scene. Playful rays of the afternoon sun winked through the clouds at an impatient crowd of people that were gazing in the distance for an upcoming train. The warm golden disk of the sun has long passed the zenith of its journey and was now leisurely retiring west. Wistful clouds drifted by in rich fluffy bundles past the street lamps, past the homely plain platform and past the disinterested crowd. There was nothing uncommon in the diversity of persons meeting up with the same goal, to get where they needed to go. Solemn, determined faces focused on spotting a train paid no attention to them or the vastness of the bottomless sky. Stark blue in contrast with the whiteness of the clouds, it presented them an escape, into its dreamy depth and away from the noise and disturbance, an everyday extraordinary of peace and quiet tranquility taken for granted by most. Illuminated by the cooling sun, they simply checked their watch, itching to go on with their day as they planned it. Oblivious of the majestic beauty surrounding them, they weren't aware of an occasional ray of sun pouring all the way down to earth, projecting its radiance onto the dullness of man-made disarray, effortlessly adding harmony and expelling the darkness from the farthest corners that the street lamps could see. Maybe being still was not such a curse after all, for in constant movement and hurry there is much to overlook!"