What does science, religion, and facebook got to do with the raw foods? Everything!
I have been longing to understand the world since I can remember. Since I was able to walk, I would stare at the smallest creatures I spotted and study their behaviour with intense interest. Since I was able to speak, I would ask the ‘weirdest’ questions about what puzzled me in the world. These questions made perfect sense to me, and I was surprised at the surprise of those I asked. I wanted to understand the world because I felt that, for some reason, there was something for me to discover.
One of the peculiar things I spotted and wanted to understand is humans. This has probably been the most frustrating research topic for me, as it is humans that are the source of most of the misery occurring on this planet. Why would they create that misery? Why would they not want the good? Why would they be so cruel or stupid or senseless? Of course, I am one of them, and so I felt responsible for what was happening, yet at the same time I felt helpless and unable to make sense of their behaviour. I observed that whenever I would talk to humans, each of them would seem to be absolutely certain of their point of view, which would usually be that if anything is wrong, it is with others, not them, and that their beliefs and their behaviour is perfectly justified. I have realized that one key source of all the misunderstanding is that each human perceives the world and processes the information in a completely unique way, different from everyone else. That they may often have a limited ability to see beyond the perimeter of their individual perception.
I observed that sometimes I meet people who agree with me on many things, I often meet people who agree with me on some things, but I have never met anyone who would agree with me on everything. In fact to my surprise I met some people who would agree with me on a number of fundamental issues, which would make me think that perhaps we agree on many, only to find that there were some other fundamental issues that we disagreed on completely. If I were to visualize this, then my guess would be that the percentage of people I agree with versus the percentage of topics I agree on with them, might look very roughly like this:
Clearly, every person’s ‘agreement diagram’ will look different, depending how unusual their views on the world are, but my guess is that the general pattern is the same. The higher percentage of topics, the smaller percentage of people we agree with!
As example of a topic, consider same-sex marriage. Recently on facebook, I have expressed my joy at the news of the historical US Supreme Court decision that “the Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection under the law mean that states cannot ban same-sex marriages” (ref). I thought, there has been such a long and hurtful discrimination of some people who were denied the rights everyone else has been enjoying. This has been unexpected, and wonderful news to me, and a positive sign that the humanity is evolving, and that humans are becoming more aware, more compassionate, and more educated. That the planet is becoming more in tune with Love.
I have listened to some speeches on this topic that moved me or made me smile (ref, ref, ref, ref, ref). And then, I read comments by some who would say that being in same-sex relationship is immoral, and who would see my view as such that condones the sin, and is not in tune with God. The irony is that I see their view as such that condones hatred and discrimination, and is not in tune with Love, which is what God is believed to be. If my partner was a female, then by their logic I would be immoral, purely based on my partner’s gender. I do not doubt that such people have best intentions. They may be completely unaware of how hurtful and insensitive and offensive, what they say, is to the recipients of such words, their loved ones and their families. How far from Love it is. And so I think that when people disagree on such fundamental issue, which is what is Love, then it is not surprising that we see so much violence and sorrow created on Earth by humans in the name of God.
Having different views is not the issue. The issue is when people try to impose their discriminatory views on others, as if they owned the planet. When they take away from others their right to freedom, happiness, safety or peace. And when I say others, I mean it in a comprehensive manner. Other humans, other beings, other forms of existence, the whole planet.
This brings me to another example of a topic that I would like to mention here, which is exploitation of animals. I have been fascinated by animals since I first saw them.
When I went to the zoo with my mum, she would have really hard time getting me move around as I would get stuck in a spot and just stare, and observe, and would not want to move. Until she was able to draw my attention to another fascinating creature, which is where I would get stuck next. And so on.
What are animals? I learned that they are beings with many characteristics similar to humans, who like us have thoughts and emotions and values, though they look and behave differently, which is what I found so fascinating as a child. I dreamed of my future work to be with animals, in a zoo, or as a vet perhaps. I once attempted to be a student of biology, and this ended when I realized I couldn’t memorize countless names of things, but working out maths was effortless to me, which is how I ended up being where I am now. So how did I reconcile my love for animals with eating them? Well, it’s been a long journey. From the tradition I was embedded in since birth, through the experiments that made me see that humans can live without eating meat, discovery that plant-based diets is what I feel best on, to the realization that the issue is a lot deeper than just the dietary. The evolution of my beliefs made me understand that what is prevalent in the society is not necessarily what is right or correct. Actually, I knew that the truth is not something decided by the majority of votes, through my study of maths. So I think that although the vast majority of humans see using animals as a normal part of our everyday life, it is neither necessary or right, or the best for us or the planet (ref).
It is very hard to let go of the tradition. It is easier to empathise with other humans, because at least they look like us, but animals? What have we got to gain from caring about what we do to them? If there is nothing for us to gain, why should we be concerned about this at all? If we did to humans what we do to animals, this would not be OK, so why is it OK to do it to animals? If it is true that at least 84% of humans believe in God (ref), why is it that such a widespread belief in God does not translate into a loving treatment of animals being a norm? Some arguments I heard from religious people, would be that humans are more important than animals, that it’s OK to use animals because they have no soul, or consciousnesses (rubbish!), and can’t even organize themselves to defend themselves (so someone being vulnerable gives us the right to hurt them?). Could it be that religion puts people on a pedestal we don’t deserve to be on? And why is it that some vegans who claim to love animals, display hatred and violence against humans? Could it be that some people turn veganism into religion in the same way that some turn God into religion? Without a true, deep meaning. Only on the surface. Only as far as the words go. Surely, if we go deep into our hearts of hearts, and find Love there, there could be no hatred in our hearts then. Do we humans lie to ourselves using different forms of religion, different beliefs, to maintain our selfish, shallow existence, to meet our selfish needs, without compassion, without Love? What is wrong with us?
According to Google trends (ref), the interest in religion has been decreasing, while in veganism, has been increasing, and they matched each other just this year:
I am not sure whether this is a good or a bad thing. A friend of mine has noticed, “The narrowing of focus is my biggest problem with vegan movement. Separatism, elitism, and aggression“. I see her point. One vegan said, “It’s painful to see people using the language of a political movement to describe this type of totally self-indulgent vacation” (ref). I see his point too, though he himself is a rather self-absorbed individual. Is having masses of self-absorbed people who call themselves vegan, a good thing, because at least … they eat plants? How do you awaken a shallow mind preoccupied with thigh gaps, weight loss, selfies, and self-advertising, rather than selflessness, education, and personal growth? How do you turn the tide of mindless mobs impervious to what’s outside their narrow focus? How do you inspire minds to pause and contemplate on the potential effects of their actions, before they join a crowd of bullies?
Imagine if someone invented a machine materializing words. Imagine that if you get connected to it, and say something, it becomes a reality. How careful would you be about what you say? Would you spend a good amount of time contemplating what to say before you say it?
Now, consider this. Such a futuristic idea is not too far from what the reality actually is. Your words are powerful and you have the ability to change the course of humanity in more ways than you may possibly realize. You may wish to take these words in a metaphoric, spiritual manner, but there are some physical reasons behind this, which all have to do with the way the humans are connected.
On Google trends, Love beats both vegan and religion
but facebook beats vegan, religion, Love and even sex.
Social media such as facebook, youtube and instagram, form a complex network that connects all humans, and as some suggest, links you with every other individual in the network in a small number of steps. Are we ready for this sort of potential? Have we got enough responsibility and maturity to match the powers that are given to us?
Science has offered some interesting insights that can help us understand our differences and our limitations. Recent scientific understanding of the human brain is that we differ indeed, and we do so in a more profound and complex manner than we once understood (ref). The brain of each individual can be thought of as a unique mosaic, which drives the way we think and behave, and is completely different from everyone else’s. And then, on top of that, come the cognitive mechanisms underlying human cognition. Specifically, humans “tend to prefer explanations that offer certainty and a sense of purpose when it comes to their lives”, and it is easier for them to align with beliefs “they grew up with and that dominate their communities” (ref). So in order to understand more sophisticated complexities of the existing world, such as for example the evolution (ref), we may require to override not only the cognitive systems that govern intuition, but also our upbringing and peers.
That is, in order for any human to grow, in order for you to grow, you need to remove yourself from the crowd, from the social media, from your social group, and do some serious reflective thinking. You need to ask questions and explore, and be brave to break away from the tide of stereotypes that have shackled you. So that you may find the inner light.