Being vegan, for me, is about imperfectly striving for justice.
Rather than all-or-nothing thinking, it’s small-but-sustained action.
It’s not a finished state, but about always being in the middle (and mess and muck) of it all.
It’s constant, everyday, and enduring—something that keeps me focused daily on the long haul toward justice.
Of the many reasons why I’m vegan, an important one is the ritual of doing something every day (actually many times throughout the day—whenever I eat) that keeps me re-articulating my commitments and re-committing to justice.
As an always/ever-recovering perfectionist, I understand the thinking that critiques this imperfect action, for it will always inevitably fall short. I also understand the experience of being overwhelmed by the weight of so much to do when there’s so much hurt in the world. When feeling overwhelmed, anything more than critique can feel like too much.
Yet, I also know that all-or-nothing thinking leads to weariness (from shouldering such weight). And weightier projects (whether writing books, changing relations, or working to redress wrongs) are done bit by bit. Shifts are made through doing something small that’s sustained over time.
Important thinking about social change emphasizes the significance of small actions over time. Take these few examples (from different activist traditions and with different sorts of misattribution):
- “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”—Margaret Mead
- “You don’t have to see the whole staircase; just take the first step.”— Martin Luther King, Jr.
- “The people are the only ones capable of transforming society.”—Rigoberta Menchu
- “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.”—Mahatma Gandhi
- “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”—Mother Teresa
These memorable quotes promote a sense that doing something (however imperfectly, however small) is better than waiting for change, a sentiment that educator Paulo Freire similarly expressed in dialogue with Myles Horton:
“I am convinced that in order for us to create something, we need to start creating. We cannot wait to create tomorrow, but we have to start creating today.”—We Make the Road by Walking (56)
Truly, we make the road by walking. And as a hiker, I know that walking involves stumbles, falls, cuts, and scrapes—and also some of the most amazing experiences, views, interactions, and learning along the way. Walking builds strength and endurance, so the simple act of walking makes what was previously unimaginable (like climbing mountains or going long distances) possible.
This metaphor of walking guides me as I practice being vegan. And I do see it as a practice with everyday actions, reminders, rituals, questions, and curiosity.
So, why am I vegan? It’s not only for the cookie dough, but also for the constant striving and small-but-sustained action. It’s for doing something to enact a more just world, even if that something is imperfect.
This post is written by Beth Godbee for Heart-Head-Hands.com. Feel free to check out other posts in the series “why I’m vegan” or vegan + gluten-free recipes. Please also consider following the blog via email. Thanks!
Well said. I’m not a complete vegan these days, but reading your last two posts is making me rethink things.
Thanks, James! I really appreciate your feedback. 🙂
I had dinner tonight at The Cheeze Factory, vegan restaurant in the Wisconsin Dells: . I continue to be impressed with the creativity, color, and wide variety of vegan foods … Anytime I miss a food (recently sugar cookies), I find that it appears before me in vegan form. 🙂
I send many good wishes for your own journey through the foodscape! And I’m happy to be traveling companions. Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. ~ Beth
You have always been my teacher. Thank you.
Sent from my iPad
And you, mine. 🙂
I like how you said “small-but-sustained action(s)” for social justice. That’s really important to me too, and I’m figuring it out a lot more these days.
Thanks, Sumyat, and may we keep figuring it out together. 🙂 With you. Beth