Today will be my final day as a meat eater for the foreseeable future. Maybe I’ll indulge in proteins from fish on occasion but for the rest of the time my diet will be wholly vegetarian. It’s not a massive inconvenience, the M&S veggie burgers are the best I’ve ever had, better than the beef equivalent in fact. It’s not a new experience, I was previously vegetarian for three months of last year, pushing myself to go as long as I could never attempting such a diet before. Christmas broke me of course, who can resist?
I never really thought of it as a lent as such until I was reading Seneca today on my lunch break. Beforehand, it was instead a strange need that I felt despite having no real moral stance on vegetarianism before. As someone growing up in a household with an Italian heritage, to refuse meat was seen a little like an alien request and even months into this attempt, the packs of salami in the fridge were looking very friendly.
“Still, my determination to put your moral strength of purpose to test is such that I propose to give even you the following direction found in great men’s teaching: set aside now and then a number of days during which you will be content with the plainest of food, and very little of it, and with rough, course clothing, and will ask yourself, ‘Is this what one used to dread?’ It is in times of security that the spirit should be preparing itself to deal with different times; while fortune is bestowing favours on it then is the time for it to be strengthened against her rebuffs.” – Letters from a Stoic XVIII
It’s like this summer heat, desiring the cool weather while in the winter we crave the heat. We teach ourselves to appreciate what we have, what we don’t have and that we never needed a thing to begin with. I read somewhere that some stoics have slept on the floor of the kitchen with nothing but a single pillow to appreciate the beds. Perhaps this trial of the self is similar yet also extended and not as fleeting as a night on the tiles. While a simple task for veteran vegetarians, for me this is a task each day after day reflective of the path of philosophy itself. Who knows, if it sticks as a matter of conscience and tribunal of the self, so be it.
When I think about it, I realize that I could give up plenty and still live my life wholly. Someone said to me today that they aspire to be rich. And I replied:
“To be rich you must first be prepared to be poor.” – Z
We can all afford to be poor. Being rich is not a thing of material but of self and for that you need only the items you were born with. It’s good practice at least, this little test of mine to go meat free. Test yourself, see what you can afford to lose and still remain wealthy.