The Rich Vegetarian


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Matter & Desire

This is a special book. Full disclosure, I haven’t read it fully yet. It was originally written in German, and although I think the translation is faultless, it isn’t easy to read. It feels like a poetic exploration in parts, and yet the message is unmistakably clear. Life is an eternal romance, or perhaps, it is a lot of sex and death.

“In Matter and Desire, internationally renowned biologist and philosopher Andreas Weber rewrites ecology as a tender practice of forging relationships, of yearning for connections, and of expressing these desires through our bodies. Being alive is an erotic process–constantly transforming the self through contact with others, desiring ever more life.”

The book isn’t talking about propagation of species, or survival of the fittest. (Or maybe that’s exactly what it’s talking about.) It isn’t talking about me becoming food for the ants, and the ants becoming food for soil bacteria. It’s far more mundane; it’s about our everyday interactions, and the absence of any real boundaries.

This book beautifully describes how we are constantly and continually changing (and being changed by) the other. The transformation isn’t an active or conscious choice; it is the nature of this organism. And the change occurs at the so-called boundaries, where “two become one,” as the Spice Girls sang. This is the tiny space of melding (or melting) and merging, of absorbing and being absorbed, of the little death of the individual (where a piece of “you” wears off), or of a sea change that begins at the outer edge and travels inward. That’s the sex, and that’s the death. All of Nature willingly submits to this play (except humans, maybe?) without any thought toward self-preservation, boundaries, individuality, or self.

(This dovetails nicely into ideas around boundaries and vulnerability, no? I have little to contribute to these conversations because one, I have highly “porous” boundaries AND two, I have been “vulnerable” all my life before I even knew what the term meant. Not to say that I overshare my feelings, or dump my stories on everyone around. “Vulnerable,” to me, simply means that I present myself to the world largely as I am — sans barriers. That I have little to hide, or protect.)


Yesterday, on a whim, I wrote: “When restless or bored, DO NOT seek entertainment.” A number of people responded: Then do what?

To reach for entertainment, to seek to be entertained—when you feel restless or bored—seems totally natural. What else is one to do? Watch a Netflix show, browse dance videos on Instagram, munch on a handful of raisins—all fun, harmless options that engage the mind and give a little bit of pleasure.

Here’s the thing, though. Pleasure and entertainment are entirely opposite in nature. To derive pleasure from an activity requires keen participation and active engagement. Entertainment only asks that you sit back and watch.

Does anyone pick gardening, or cooking, or dancing as entertainment options? I imagine not. These activities require YOU to do the “work.” Ask any gardener, or cook, or dancer… and they will probably tell you how pleasurable these activities are. We watch gardening shows, cookery shows, and dance shows with a lot of enthusiasm… because they are entertaining. (Not necessarily pleasurable, though.)

When I feel restless or bored, entertainment serves as a filler… but it doesn’t alleviate the boredom. And I am left feeling vaguely unsatisfied. In fact, I think seeking pleasure may be a better alternative… at the very least, I will be keen, attentive, engaged. The other option is to do nothing, obviously. Be still, silent, quiet and watching.

A State of Wanting

Windows Blinds

To be in a state of wanting (not want) is so awful.

It may not even be that your friend has adorable children, unbelievably adorable pets. (And you don’t.) Or that your ex-colleague has a gorgeous home. (And you don’t.) Or that your cousin has an extraordinary garden. (And yours is struggling, a true “work in progress.”) Or that your neighbor seems to vacation in the coolest places.

No, none of those “material” goods and pleasures.

It may be that your schoolmate is so incredibly self-assured. (And you aren’t). Or that your sister is literally oozing with creativity; she seems to move from one creative project to another effortlessly, producing incredible works of art! Or that your friend is so articulate… you are in awe of his ability to string deep, profound meaning from simple words. Or maybe it’s a distant cousin who has gone through deep shit in her life, and come out smelling of roses.

Not exactly “material” goods these but oh, you wish you had all of that! Creativity, courage, self-assurance, articulative ability, clarity… and so on.

That gap between what you have and what you think they do is so deep and vast; you are never going to make it across. You feel that you will be left wanting all your life. You are never going to develop those reserves of courage and resilience that emerge only after a crisis. (And you are no Macho Man, you have little appetite for a crisis of any kind.) You know that creativity is God-given, and if you have shown no signs of it thus far, you know that it isn’t going to emerge one fine day, all of a sudden. As for self-assurance, how ON EARTH does one cultivate that?

And then, you are asked to feel gratitude, be grateful… for all that you have. Ugh. You feel like a fraud, mouthing “thanks” when all you feel is this acute sense of wanting inside.

That feeling of wanting is NOT solidified magma, or a deep, impassable gap. In fact, it can go away pretty quick. Not that you will start painting like a Georgia O’Keeffe, or write like a Zadie Smith, or develop incredible courage… None of that. In fact, you see that the disappearing of the sense of wanting has little to do with gaining any of that which you sorely desire. That wanting shows up one day, goes away the next… perhaps reappears around New Years Eve, lingers on in January, then goes away in Feb.

It comes and goes. So you can create art (or not), grow a struggling garden (or not), go skydiving (or not), learn Japanese (or not)… none of that matters. So, rest easy.

“I see it, I do nothing”

A long while ago, when I was young and new to the world of social media, I got an email from a friend announcing that she was “unfollowing” me. (I had no idea what “unfollow” meant.) I think my writing was making her awfully angsty, and she strongly wished to respond. But she is a busy, working mother with little time to respond to silly Facebook posts. So she did the next best thing. But she assured me that she wasn’t “cutting ties.” Instead, we would go back to corresponding the old-fashioned way, i.e. email. She also expressed concern about the increasing trend of negative articles that I had been posting.

Huh? Clearly, I was stumped. I wrote back a nice response. Thanks for being so candid, I am well, I have no problems if you wish to unfollow, I try to be cordial and objective, I try to keep away from nasty arguments, etc. etc.

Needless to say, she hasn’t emailed me since, or kept in touch any way, old-fashioned or newfangled.

Another social media friend had started to act all cold and dismissive. Huh? She was warm to me whenever we communicated, so I had no idea what had changed. Then I couldn’t even find her on Facebook. I wondered if she had deactivated her account, so I sent a message on Whatsapp. She responded. Again, in that weirdly cool, indifferent tone. I was certain she wouldn’t deactivate her FB account because she used it to promote her work. The lightbulb went off a few weeks later. She had blocked me.

Then there was another social media friend who was also warm and sweet whenever we connected. One fine day, she stopped responding to me. I sent her a few messages sharing posts I thought she might like, connecting her with similar minded people. Radio silence. I knew that she had seen the messages. Mystifying! And rather rude, I thought…

All of these strike me as strange happenings. It takes me a while to comprehend that someone might actually have a beef with me Then I wonder, did I say/do something wrong? Was I insensitive?

I view myself as a mellow, mild personality. I don’t get into your face or business. I am fairly courteous and polite. I don’t challenge your assumptions and beliefs.

Hmmm, I think that last one may be the issue. My beloved husband often reminds me that I am rather clueless when it comes to managing perception. (And, perhaps I am challenging assumptions and beliefs in my own way.)

Envy, maybe? Anger? Bitterness?

That I could be an object of envy or that I could elicit anger is a little difficult for me to grasp. Perhaps it is somewhat true. I don’t spend much time dwelling on it. Yes, I understand that people act out of envy/resentment, and it may be that I am an easy target. For one, I am rather unsuspecting, so I don’t get that I am a target. And when it dawns upon me, I do nothing. I simply stop engaging.

Here’s the thing, though. My relative naïveté has kept my heart free from bitterness. Not to say that I don’t experience the occasional twinge of envy or frustration or bitterness myself… I see it, I do nothing.