To The Man Who Didn’t Lie

This is a eulogy I gave July 29th for my father, Dan Friedlander. My father was–and, I suppose, still is–a man of convictions and action; an artist, poet, activist, businessman, father. I miss him dearly.

So my dad and I are in the Toronto Airport in 2001 returning from a week biking in Cuba with Ed Groark, Steve Harmon and Lee Greenhouse. US customs are in the Toronto airport and my dad, Lee and I had to sufficiently cover the tracks of our Cuban trip. This was a tricky proposition as we were 3 suntanned men without winter coats in Toronto in February. Our plan was to divide and conquer, believing that it would look far less suspicious if we went through the checkpoint separately.

I went first. The intimidating customs agent started grilling me:

“Have you been any other place besides Toronto”?

It was a tough question. He seemed to have a built in lie detector. Yes, I had. He’d find those 4 cigars and 2 bags of coffee. I was screwed.

“No,” I replied.

“What was the purpose of your trip?”

“Vacation,” I answered nervously.

“Where were you staying?”

“Friends.” I didn’t know a soul in Toronto.

He looked at me, assessing whether it was worth his time to bust my perjury. He decided it was not and waived me on.

A few paces behind me, my father and Lee meet the same customs agent.

“Have you been any other place besides Toronto”?

My father, in his perpetual guilelessness, gave the brilliant answer: “Cuba.”

An hour and a half of interrogation and a threat of a $5K fine later, I met back up with my dad and Lee.

 

My father did not lie. He could not not be himself.  It was a trait held us up in Toronto, that got him fired countless times, that earned your love and admiration.  You could count on him. I counted on him. I never wondered if the weather or popular opinion was going to change his mind. When I sought his counsel, he never pulled punches.  He told me more about myself than I was willing to honestly confess. He did so consistently, compassionately.

I would like to say that he gave me permission to be myself, but I don’t know if that’s true. We both knew the dark side of being yourself; depending on the audience, it can engender respect, scorn, dismissal or trust. It wasn’t until recent year that I observed him finding real ease and approbation stemming from the trait—this crowd is a testament to that.

What he gave me—among many other things—were honest reflexes. As James Baldwin wrote, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” My little fib in Toronto took every bit of willpower to carry off. He gave me a constitution that rejects dishonesty, and I have striven to create a life that is congruent with who I am. In the long run, it’s the only way to go.

Some of you know my wife Jacqueline and I had a son less than 2 weeks ago. His name is Finn Daniel Friedlander.

Fatherhood is a humbling role. I want to be the best father possible, yet there are infinite unknowns. And sometimes I wonder whether parents have any control of who their children become anyway. All they can do is permit their children to be who they already are.

I wish my father were here to help me give my son unlimited access to himself—he was better at it than I am, and most everyone I know for that matter. But seeing as his body is not up to the task any more, his spirit will have to do.

Dad, I love you. I miss you. And I thank you for being yourself. For giving me access to that gift myself. For allowing me to continue to pass this on to my son. And lastly, I thank Diane [my stepmother and dad’s wife of 30 years] and all of you, for really getting who my father was, for loving him just as he was and just as he was not. It is the greatest gift you can give anyone.

Happy Father’s Day

For fear of getting too meta about my post today, I’m writing this text inside a program called “Write or Die.” The program asks you to enter a word-count and a time in which you want to write those words; e.g. I entered 300 words in 20 minutes. If you don’t meet your word-count in the allotted time, you are punished in several different ways depending on the setting you choose. In the setting I am using, when I stop writing, my words are cannibalized–i.e. one-by-one, the cursor gobbles up what I wrote.

I think the name of the program should be “Write and Die.” Even if we keep writing, even if we make our word-count (I hit mine a while back), we still die. The only difference–should we reach our objectives–is there might be a record, albeit a brief one, of our existence.

It’s a strange father’s day for me. I am going to be a father in about 5 weeks. My wife and I are readying ourselves for an amazing journey. At the same time, my father is dying. Complications from cancer are rapidly eating up his body. He is considering letting nature take over. He’ll stop eating and drinking until his body completely shuts down, not unlike closing down programs before a computer shuts down. This may happen in the next week or two.

I am one of many things my father made in the countdown timer of his life. He also made another son. He made a wife happy. He made a stand for the environment. He made an army of friends. He made lots of art (you can check it out here). These are the records he is leaving before his timer runs out.

About 8 months ago, I helped make a human. In about a month, I will make a son (he will make a father). I plan to make many more things before my timer runs out.

And perhaps the only thing we can do in the interval between birth and death is write our stories, craft our art, sing our songs, make our families, to leave some record of how much we cared and loved.

Happy father’s day dad.

You Don’t Know the Ending To Your Story (Part II)

[Apologies for the delay. Heroic circumstances I won’t bore you with–or, more likely, I will bore you with at a date in the not-so-distant future.]

Given Jacqueline’s lack of communication I decided that if I couldn’t live with the one I loved, I would love the one I was with, who, unfortunately, was Mary.

When people break up once, it can be chalked up to momentary insanity. Many relationships mend and even improve after one of these meltdowns.

When people break up twice or more, the situation is usually irreparably fucked. It shows that the first time wasn’t a mere cloud in the sky, but a permanent climatic condition.

Mary and I would break up 5 times before the final one stuck. The reunions looked much the same: I would feel lonely and low, she would suggest we hook up for “sex only,” we would enjoy about 10 minutes of pleasure before finding ourselves entwined in the same dynamic.

Casual sex is like casual murder or casual cancer. The delusion that sex is, or could be, casual, I suspect, is the root of many relationship problems. Many of us not only have sex with people we wouldn’t consider having a child with, but we have sex with people we don’t know or like.

I definitely didn’t know Mary before I slept with her. And though I liked Mary, I “liked” her in the sense of, “that was a really nice customer service representative,” not “I want to spend my life and have children with this person.”

When I have sex with someone, the relationship ceases to be casual. I suspect biology is involved, but I can’t say for sure.

When this happens, there are a few common ways to deal with it:

  1. Detach emotionally. This is typically, though not always, the guy’s plan of attack. His sexual conquest led him to emotional imprisonment. After his psycho-sexual needs are met, he realizes there is another person in the room with her/his own needs, which are often quite different than his. Rather than addressing these needs–ones he never had plans to fulfill in the first place–he detaches and generally flees.
  2. Establish false attachment. This is typically, though not always, the woman’s tact. She idealizes a situation. She equates sex with love and brands her sexual partner as a lover. She makes her happiness and security depend this person she might barely know.
  3. Turn your hookup into a relationship. Don’t call a mistake a mistake. Don’t admit you don’t know or like your sexual partner. Assume you’ll eventually get to know him or her. Let the initial dishonesty blossom to such an extent that your whole life feels like a sham. Wait until your body can no longer handle your fraudulence and explode at some unexpected moment.

I chose option 3. It wasn’t pretty. The last time I saw Mary, she had cornered me at my gym and spat in my face. I’m sure I deserved it.

Single again, I wasn’t sure what was next. I had my fill of crazy, but I was unsure how to attract sane.

I went on a relationship fast. I resolved that until I got to the heart of the problem–i.e. me and my willingness to engage in messed up relationships–me and the female sex were better off being single.

I went to work on myself. I took workshops. I cleared up stuff with my mom. I made a female friend who taught me a great deal about being comfortable with women.

2003 ended up being a really amazing year. I had made major emotional strides and at the end of the year, I decided to write an email to acknowledge all the people who had made it so great. I expressed my gratitude for the past year. Even though hard as hell, it was great.

As I finished putting my send-to list together, I came across Jacqueline’s email address. I was still a bit resentful that she never returned my previous emails, but I figured why not add her. She was hot.

Less than a day later she replied to my email. She loved it. She complemented my openness and gratitude. Game on.

Then she told me she had moved to Chicago. Game off.

You Don’t Know the Ending To Your Story

I met my wife Jacqueline 10 years ago on the L train. I gave her a long look, thinking she was a girl I had gone on a date with recently (Jacq still doesn’t believe me, but I swear that’s what happened). My too-long gaze compelled her to ask what I was looking at.

I replied that I thought she looked like someone I knew (whose name is Jen and lives in SF now…I swear), but that she couldn’t be Jen because we were on the L train and Jen lived in Park Slope. Jacqueline remarked on my lack of sound reasoning (the first, but far from last time); she said people show up in unlikely places all the time. She told me how she ran into someone she went to school with in upstate New York while visiting Masada in Israel. People show up in the unlikeliest of places. She was right (the first, but far from last time).

We proceeded to have a long conversation. I remember little about it other than being totally smitten. Here was a girl who was intelligent, spiritually centered, well-traveled and smoking hot with pale blue eyes, paler skin and an awesome body. She was the whole package.

We got off at the Lorimer stop–I lived around there and she was transferring to the G train. With such a powerful connection, I didn’t hesitate asking for her phone number. She gave me her email address. I was pretty certain I had met my wife–the lack of phone number was of little consequence.

Let me backtrack some. At the time, I was relatively fresh to the city. I slept in a windowless bedroom in an illegal share with 4 others in Williamsburg–our heroin addicted, 12-hour-a-day-Doom-playing roommate’s cat had recently given us all flees. I worked as a cater waiter, while I wanly pursued affirmation through acting and modeling. And I was involved in an every-other-month-breakup relationship with a woman I’ll call Mary. She was 10 years my senior, a career stripper for 12 years and had a hyperactive adolescent son for whom I became a proxy father.

Thing were going pretty swell.

Meeting Jacqueline made me certain my fortune would soon turn. Mary and I were technically broken up. If I went out with Jacqueline, it wouldn’t be cheating. We would fall in love, I wouldn’t end up hooking back up with Mary. With the backing of a good woman, I’d get my shit together. The future looked bright.

What was most significant about meeting Jacqueline was this: I didn’t believe it was possible that a woman could hit me on all levels–mentally, physically, spiritually. The reason I knew I didn’t believe this was because I had settled for someone so far from that mark. Mary was a good (and hot) woman, but we had almost nothing in common. Then as now, my spiritual life was very important to me, meditating, visiting ashrams and the like. Mary had no particular spiritual bent. I had traveled the world for several years; Mary had never obtained or used a passport. Let me be clear there was nothing wrong with her, just something wrong with us.

Jacqueline was a walking contradiction to the belief that there was no one out there for me.

I wrote her an impossible-to-ignore invitation to our future with proper diction, punctuation and compete sentences (things that have long vanished from my emails). I entered her Yahoo address and pressed send to wait for my destiny.

Nothing.

Second email. Nothing.

Shit.

I was crushed. Her lack of response created a new possibility: That there are women out there who have it all, but they won’t give me the time of day.

[More soon]

Are You Dead Already?

In my last post, I mentioned that I am visiting my father soon. His health is lousy.

My dad and I share many traits–our curiosities, skeptical and questioning natures, our reverence for life, our ability to cry in public. He is my best friend. I don’t want to lose him and scarier, I don’t want my child (due later this year) to be without a grandfather. My last few days have been shot through with paroxysms of grief.

Permitting grief is new to me. Historically, my default emotional response to hard emotional situations is go numb until a threat passes (the odd bouts of congenital sobbing notwithstanding).

I thought I was doing pretty great, breaking down as I was, allowing myself to feel. Feeling is good. It’s real.

While this emotional latitude was, in some sense, a breakthrough for me, it was also missing something: my dad is not dead. Sure, he’s going to die eventually–hopefully later than sooner. But so will I, my wife, every one of my friends…even you. I saw there were two foci I could apply to this terminal condition called life:

  1. Focus on death as loss. Think about the lousy time when we will all be dead, when we will no longer share each other’s company. It’ll probably suck and be really hard.
  2. Focus on life as opportunity. Sure, we have a finite time in these bodies (fraid’ I’m not a big believer in the Singularity stuff). So what? What are we going to do with the time we do have? As Ben Franklin put it, “Dost thou love life? then do not squander time; for that is the stuff life is made of.”

I realized there was life all around me. My wife is having a child. A good friend of mine got a great job. We got some wonderful news at my work. Yes, all of these triumphs will die, fading into memory and dust, but in the meantime there’s magnificence in witnessing the cycles of life as they occur.

I also realized that I could still call my dad, which I did. There will be a time when I cannot do that, but that time is not now.

BONUS ASSIGNMENT: IF YOU DIG MY WRITING, PLEASE ‘LIKE’ ME ON FACEBOOK PAGE. I’M TRYING ON THIS WHOLE SELF-PROMOTION THING; THE NY TIMES ARTICLE HAD ME ALL WRONG.

You Give Me Reason to Shower

In 2010 and 2011, 2 of the coldest years in New York City history, I lived in a house with no heat. When I got home at night I put layers on. My around-the-house uniform included long johns, fleece pants, double wool socks, a t-shirt, fleece pullover, heavy wool sweater, parka, a scarf or two and a hunter’s cap. I slept in the same outfit under a sheet, a fleece blanket, a light cotton blanket I never bothered removing from the summer and four thick, down comforters.

In an incident I chronicled in this blog, my pipes froze, forcing me to perform midnight, 30-degree, water-cascading-from-the-ceiling household triage. Shortly thereafter, my landlord (a very loose designation) shut the pipes off. It had become so cold that the water in the toilet froze, forcing me to concoct creative waste removal operations. Because there was no drinking water, I walked around with jugs to fill when I had access to running water.

I lived this way partly because I was convinced that I was being spiritually tested. I was proving that I could find peace and meaning in the face of really uncomfortable circumstances. And I achieved that. I developed a physical and spiritual toughness, cultivating an ability to cope–and occasionally thrive–in harsh conditions.

But it was uncomfortable. Without so much as a fireplace, I was living in conditions that a neanderthal would probably find intolerable.

So why did I do it?

There was the spiritual thing, which had more than a trace of truth to it. Though the spiritual test conveniently coincided with diminishing savings and nearly nonexistent income.

The other reason is this: People can put up with some pretty lousy shit if they believe their behavior only impacts them. I can be miserable when I believe I’m the only one who’s subjected to it. I can live in a freezing home if I’m the only one who has to bundle up. I can let my personal hygiene fall off in tragic ways if I’m the only one smelling it.

What changed–the reason I type without gloves on a January night–was that my life became about more than myself. I got a girlfriend, girlfriend became wife, wife will one day be a mother. The guy who was okay porting collected rainwater from the roof to flush the toilet had little or nothing to do with being a great boyfriend, husband or father. It’s not that one is wrong and the other right–they’re just two different people.

In an ideal world, my motivation would be purely intrinsic, the voice of God would speak through me, divining me an intuitive wisdom that shows me the way of strength and goodness. Every so often, that’s how it goes.

More often, my motivators are extrinsic–something I cherish outside myself compels me to step into a bigger role. I want A, but A is not possible as long as I’m being B.

Let me clarify one point: I’m not promoting betraying oneself. The changes I’m referring to are aligned with who we are (our intrinsic motivation). The guy who got a job, a heated apartment and wanted to take care of others is more aligned with who I am than my previous incarnation as Nanook of Brooklyn Heights.

With these thoughts in mind, consider:

  1. Name an extrinsic motivator in your life. Preferably this is something you want to have or have but are not feeling fulfilled by (e.g. relationship, job, goal).
  2. What way of ‘being’ is preventing you from having this situation work? For me, I was being lazy and proud. Lazy about creating income and too proud to admit that I didn’t enjoy hanging around a sub-zero living room.
  3. What impact are you pretending doesn’t exist by holding onto this way of being? For example, saying you don’t care about something or want something when you really do.
  4. What way of ‘being’ could make the situation work? In my case, I had to grow up–or ‘be’ responsible.
  5. Take one action today inside of this way of being.

Seeing What is Possible, Dealing with Reality

Emily Dickinson: Possibility/Bedroom Dweller.

Emily Dickinson wrote the famous verse, “I dwell in possibility.”  Unlike the famous poetess, many of us dwell in limitation, using the past as our main referent for the future—i.e. because we’ve have never done it in the past, it will not happen in the future.

Possibility on the other hand allows for unprecedented realities.  Something that has never happened can happen simply because it’s possible.  We might not know how it will happen, but when we acknowledge the possibility, we are more likely to take the action corresponding to realizing that possibility.

For example, if we think being physically fit is impossible, based on the fact we’ve been unhealthy our whole lives, we won’t do the things necessary to be fit.  Conversely, if we believe being fit is possible, even if we don’t know how, we can figure out ways to realize that objective.

There is a dark-side of possibility however.  It’s what I call “the narcosis of possibility.” The easiest place to see this is at 12:15AM after a few vodka-sodas.  You invent a possibility, like starting a business.  You can’t wait to start making it happen.  The dude on the next bar-stool is going to design your logo.  Any-fucking-thing is possible!

You wake up the next day with a vague recollection of what was so great about your idea.  You try to muster the enthusiasm of the night before but are preoccupied by thoughts of coffee, eggs and Law and Order reruns.  You think of your lack of business skill, money, etc.  Fuck it.  It wasn’t that good an idea anyway.  Reality trumps drunken possibility once again.

This phenomenon is not limited to buzzed brainstorming.  Many sober minds have conjured great ideas that do not withstand reality.  We get psyched about a project, relationship, fitness plan, etc., but we fail to deal with things as they are in reality.  We don’t acknowledge our level of business training, our emotional maturity (or lack thereof), our state of health, etc.  Instead of developing these things, we become overwhelmed by the gap between possibility and reality, often doing nothing.  There are others who use willpower and force to bridge that gap—these people can make things happen, but generally at the expense of their health and happiness.

Sometimes we can’t admit that just because something is possible, it doesn’t mean we should do it.

Other times we create a possibility aware of the realities we’re dealing with.  It’s something we’ve considered well.  We have an idea and plan to carry it out.  But once the plan is in motion, we don’t ask ourselves often enough, “Is this working?”

Lest I be too abstract, I’m writing about myself.  I started this blog 6 months ago based on the possibility of writing for a living.  This idea was pure, uncut possibility.  According to the past, I had no reason to believe I would make it happen.

I love the writing part and the feedback I’m recieving.  I love processing my life and helping others process theirs.  But I haven’t been dealing with a couple nagging realities:  I don’t love not making money or working in isolation.  I’ve been trying to will these things out of my reality, but I can’t seem to do it.

Sure, it’s entirely possible I can make money if I refine my plan. I could find more ways to engage people.  I actively do both these things.

But the truth is I’m not dealing with reality.  I want to be better at working alone.  I want to be more of a self-starter.  I want to be one of these people—who seem so numerous on the internet—who through pluck and Twitter, amass great followers and fortunes.  But in reality I am not these things—at least not right now.

I have to assess where I’m at, based not on the narcotic effect of possibility, but on the sober truth of reality.  From there, I can create a new possibility.

The new possibility I’ve created is to continue to develop my writing, but with more human contact and steadier income.  There’s an ancient tradition I am going to employ to remedy this situation.  It’s called a job.

Maybe if Emily Dickinson took a similar approach, she would have left her bedroom.

It’s important to note that deviating from an original possibility is not killing it.  In fact, sticking to the original plan would kill it.  My new possibility affords me self-expression through writing, supported by the stability and relationship building of a job.

Here are some things to consider for yourself:

  1. What possibility in your life is being thwarted by reality? In other words, name a dream—one you may or may not be taking action on.  Within that dream, what realities are compromising your ability to take action or enjoy acting?  For example, you want to date, but don’t do so because you have trouble being open with potential partners.
  2. What new possibility could you create if you dealt with reality as it presently exists? Using the above example, based on your lack of skill, you could create the new possibility of being supported, getting a dating coach or asking someone who is romantically fulfilled to find out what he or she does.
  3. Take one action that based on this new possibility right now.

Will You Help Me Make My Dreams Come True?

6 months ago I set out to start my dream career as a personal development writer.  My idea was to create an alternative to the Deepak Choprah’s and Dr. Phil’s of the world.  It wasn’t that I thought those guys were harmful—it was that they didn’t speak to me and my life.  I was not brought up studying Vedic texts in India.  I am not a middle-aged Texan in a suit.  I’m a suburban-born, TV-fed, English major trying to grow up.

I also felt like few were talking about my problems.  I’ve dealt and deal with some heavy shit—family turmoil, drugs, alcohol, broken relationships, career, troubled relationship to technology, etc.  Stuff most of my friends deal with too.  I wondered why few personal development writers were talking about these issues directly.

Through various emotional and physical practices, much of the aforementioned heavy shit has been wiped away as if by transformational toilet paper.  My writing is meant as a way to offer you the same toilet paper squares that were offered to me.  I also want to offer it in a way that is neither intellectually, aesthetically nor aromatically repellent.  I want to speak to the masses who don’t need butterfly and lotus flower visual motifs to denote personal transformation.  For a career and life’s purpose, there is nothing I’d rather do.

Last week I had the most traffic I’ve had in my 6 months of keeping this blog owing to a series of posts about relationships and dating.  It’s popularity made me wonder:  What the hell do people like to read about?  What do they want to see?  How might I better serve The?

So I have an open request for suggestions.  Will you please answer one, some or all of the following questions about me and my writing:

  1. What works?  For example, do you like personal narrative or more instructional stuff?  Do you like longer or shorter pieces?
  2. What doesn’t work?  Is my stuff too long, too wordy, too pedantic, too vulgar, etc.?
  3. What are you favorite topics?  Relationships, goal-setting, beliefs, etc.
  4. What would you like to see that is not here?  Some ideas I’ve had include short instructional videos, guest interviews and an advice column.  Do any of these sound appealing?  Do you have other suggestions?
  5. How would you suggest I improve my outreach and increase readership?
  6. Who do you think are the most helpful figures in personal development, spirituality and self-help (beside me of course)?  What do you like about them?
  7. Do you have any skills or resources you’d like to lend me?  Perhaps you want to do a branding experiment with me.  Perhaps you are a writer who wants to engage a dialogue.  Please let me know what you have to offer (I’ll be happy to help you in any way I can).
  8. Etc.  Something I’m not asking.

I am committed to making this dream take form, but it will not happen without your support.  I urge and invite you to take a few minutes to help me (leave suggestions in comments below or email me at df [at] davidfriedlander [dot] come).

What’s in it for you, you ask?  The answer is that you affirm that you live in a supportive world.  This is not merely a self-serving answer.  If you don’t take action to help others realize their dreams, who will do it for you?  For my part, there is a standing offer to help you in any way that my talents and time permit.  Let me know.

Blown Loads and Blown Lives

Maybe there's more to life then winning at solitary.

When I was 11 I had a pair of orange, paisley-print boxers.  One day, I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom holding them and something compelled me to rub the boxers against my penis.  I did it.  I became erect.  I kept rubbing and a few seconds later I  came.

Few moments in my life are as crystallized as this one.  Later that day, I kept rubbing and kept cumming.  As a preteen and teen, I typically beat-off 3-10 times a day.  I’d usually do it in socks and underwear.  I also had a soft, red wool scarf that I was fond of.

Soon thereafter I discovered pornography.  Initially, I was aroused by just touching myself, but then I found the experience was greatly enhanced by fantasies derived from pictures or thoughts of girls I was attracted to.

In the pioneer days, what constituted porn wasn’t much—envisioning Christine Endler or Lisa Jones; a JC Penny underwear section from the newspaper or, le coup de gras, a Victoria’s Secret catalog.  In later years, I would occasionally score a Playboy or Hustler.  I would keep these magazines for years as I was too embarrassed (and perhaps young) to get new issues.

The internet was a game-changer.  Suddenly there was more porn than I knew what to do with.  At first, I had masturbation sprees—hours spent in front of a screen with dick in hand.  In later years, as my libido waned, my routine became a more civil once-a-day porn viewing.  Surf, beat, sleep.

Nowadays, I don’t look at porn when I masturbate.  I find rifling through the sites, looking for the perfect image or video, more trouble than it’s worth.  I usually imagine a girl—typically one I would never have sex with in my real life—then do my business and go to sleep.

If this seems all a bit too graphic, you are probably a woman.  Masturbation is an unspoken, all-pervading phenomenon; one that, controversial as it sounds, is particularly male.  Many women masturbate; some might even be compulsive about it.  But all guys masturbate, and the majority of us have been compulsive about it at some point. Continue reading “Blown Loads and Blown Lives”

To Meat or Not to Meat

What do I know, I'm just a caveman writer.

After my buddy Jeremy and I hung out the other night, he invited me to a late concert.  I said no.  I had a date.  Because Jeremy is a vegetarian, I couldn’t share what that date was.

I rode my bike to the Whole Foods at Bowery and Houston.  I snuck in, hoping no one I knew was there.  I milled around the produce section for a few minutes, trying to lose PETA agents who might be on my trail.  My covert ops were meant to obscure my destination:  the butcher.  My date was with meat.  We hadn’t gone out in over 4 years.

I’ve been a vegetarian off and on for 16 years.  My reason historically has been the environmental toll meat production takes compared to a vegetarian diet.  My last spell started when I was dating a Mahayana Buddhist.  Mahayana’s believe in an elaborate system of reincarnation, with possible rebirths in hell realms, ghost realms, and many other nasty sounding places.  One of the lower realms is the animal realm.  Contrary to the idealized version of animal life many people hold, Mahayana’s believe that animals are in a state of near-constant suffering, forever at the mercy of their needs, lacking consciousness to transcend them.  Where you go in the next life depends on your end-of-life karmic balance; basically a matter of how much negative karma you’ve burned off during your life.

A Bodhisattva is someone who tries to rid himself of negative karma and achieve Buddhahood (or at least higher rebirth).  He achieves this by devoting himself to freeing all living beings from suffering.  Aiding to that suffering means lower rebirth for you.

I decided to go veg to cover my bases.  I didn’t want to risk lower rebirth.  But even if Buddhist beliefs were hogwash, I could see that most livestock live lives of nonstop, abject suffering.  This is particularly true of livestock raised in the industrial-agricultural meat complex, where animals are shot up with growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics, force-fed, stuffed into diseased and shockingly small spaces, and killed in brutal ways.  I wanted no part of it in this lifetime, much less pay for it in the next.

Continue reading “To Meat or Not to Meat”