Downshift…

Preying for change…

I’ll begin this by stating in clear terms; I have no problem with the killing of, or the eating of animals.  So long as those animals have been raised humanely by organic methods, or have been caught in the wild by methods which will not significantly reduce populations or threaten the species, I’m good with it.  Man has been eating other animals almost from the beginning, as animals have also been eating other animals, including man.  All who are born, are born as a potential snack.

What I can no longer do, what I am no longer willing to accept, is to eat animals raised inhumanely, sustained callously, and slaughtered brutally.  Between the callousness of their surroundings, the hormones and antibiotics they are reared with, and within the filth they are raised in, high volume animal farming is something I can no longer support.

Shake up in the cabinet…

As I have cleared the last of my farmed meat from my freezer; beef, chicken, pork, and shrimp, and as I have used my last egg given by a caged chicken,  I now begin a process that will have me obtaining most of my protein from plant-based sources – even if those sources contain GMOs.  I would rather eat genetically modified soy curd, than an inhumanely raised chicken, or farmed or threatened fish. Or to put it more succinctly, I would rather have more GMOs in my diet, than OMGs.

As I can access and afford it, I will also include protein derived from un-caged chickens, unchained dairy cows, grass-fed and humanely slaughtered beef, bison, and whatever game and fish I catch, or my friends are willing to provide to me.

This is not a stand against eating Bambi.  If Bambi is in the right place at his wrong time, and ends up on my dinner table, I ‘m down.  This is a stand for how I believe we should conduct ourselves as a species, and as the stewards of this planet.  I am no longer willing to accept the way many corporations raise, slaughter, distribute, and market animal food sources.

BambiII

Guess who is coming to dinner…?

Sensationally speaking…

I understand the video below is social media sensationalism at its best.  I also understand that it’s real – nothing seen in it has been contrived.  These, and similar methods of animal processing are all around us, and have been for decades.  It is only social media that has many of us seeing red for the first time, over seeing red for the first time.  Seeing this video was simply the final push I needed to take this personal stand I have been on the verge of for more than a decade, but have selfishly resisted.

Judge Not, Roy Bean…

In this decision I am not passing judgment on anyone else, nor am I advocating similar actions by others.  The complexity of our food system – of our society has expanded to a point where answers and truths can no longer be established by outside sources.  In this era of increasing complexity, I truly believe that the best answers and the best truths we can depend on must come from within.

Sadly, people are certain to judge me on this decision.  There will be jokes cracked, social media friendships threatened, more than a few snickers.  That’s on them, not on me.  Though I don’t believe I will waiver on this, as I have not wavered on not owning a vehicle, I certainly won’t attempt to predict the future – I consistently suck at it.

 Restaurant not impossible…

Though I expect making these changes might offer some challenges in the beginning, I’m not too concerned about the adaptation process.  My weak link though, will be in restaurants. I eat out often, sometimes several times a day.  Most everything I eat in restaurants I have deemed acceptable until now.  That definition has changed.

Most of what I order in restaurants has been chicken or egg based.  My friends may roll their eyes as I add tofu or textured vegetable protein to a garden salad at the local diner.  Perhaps not as much if I just thrown a little ground bison that salad, and call it good.  We shall see.  Regardless, eating out will need to be modified.

Did somebody tell me that the restaurant chain, Chipotle, offers tofu...?

Did somebody tell me that the restaurant chain, Chipotle, offers tofu…?

The hustle to keep up the muscle…

Lastly, as a lifelong weightlifter, bodybuilder, and weekend athlete, I have raised myself to be the ultimate carnivore.  I have eaten red meat most every day of my adult life, often by the pound, with a belief that animal protein, beef in particular, is a requirement for strength, energy, and forging a tasty aesthetic.  This is going to be tested to be sure, since my bodybuilding aspirations remain intact.

If my strength, energy, and aesthetic suffer for a lack of feedlot beef, farmed fish, and caged eggs, my soul certainly will not suffer.  In these days, and in these times, my interest lies much more with soul-building than with bodybuilding.  Be well… rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this by The Alabama Shakes. Enjoy…

Minimal-list…

There but for the grace…

I was homeless by choice.  Divorce and separation from my family set me into a state of unclear thinking.  I walked away from my priorities, and from my family with almost no money.  My Ford Windstar became my home.  I parked it at the outskirts of town most nights, and parked it by the beach on nights when there were a few extra cents in my ash tray for gas.  My future was uncertain, my mind clouded, and I faced each day cloaked in regret.

I never doubted that I would have a home again; an apartment, a room to rent – something.  I sensed though, that I would never be a homeowner again.  This was in part due to the circumstance, and in part because I never bought into the dream.  From an early age, home ownership seemed more a ball and chain than an American right.

Home homeless on the range....

Home homeless on the range….

Living in a minivan though, that was not in the dream either.  For six months though, it was my reality.

My income came partly from work, partly from savings, and partly from what help my mother could give me from week to week during this difficult time.  In my homelessness, there was at least some security if not prosperity.  I had enough income for essentials, and a few dollars left most weeks to share.  Maybe it was because I was homeless myself that I felt this need to share.  I have always felt a connection to the have-nots, and especially to the have-nothings.

Pier pressure…

On Friday or Saturday evenings, I would drive to parking lot at the Ocean Beach pier where many homeless of varying ages, and backgrounds would congregate.  If I had just few extra dollars, I would buy a few loaves of bread, and a couple jars of peanut butter.  From the back of my minivan I would offer sandwiches to anyone who would accept one – no documentation of homelessness required.

Not quite as pretty when you see a homeless mother of 3 living out of Chevette at the business end of the pier...

Not quite as pretty when you see a homeless mother of 3 living out of Chevette at the business end of the pier…

If I had a little more money, I would buy a couple of large pizzas and put them on the hood of my van – a free slice for any takers.  Doing this always made me feel good.  In that sense, I guess it was a selfish act. I knew inside though, that there were stories behind the faces of those who gladly accepted my offerings.  I never felt like I needed to know those stories, but just knowing they existed was enough fuel my gestures.

I recall a disproportionately high number of homeless teens at the OB pier.  Fifteen and 16-year old runaways were not uncommon.  Those were the stories which guided me back each week.  I would hear tales of abusive stepfathers, overbearing mothers, and addictions.  I wasn’t so naïve as to believe all these stories were true.  Nor was I so hardened by life, that I discounted them.

At the end of the evenings, when all the food was gone, as the stories fizzled, and the kids filtered out to feed their addictions in abandoned buildings and dumpster bins, I would park my van in a safe place.  I would then lay down in back, count my blessings, and sip from a cup of rum to help me forget my non-blessings.

 Minimal-list…

Before long though, I was back to living a normal lifeI was living in an 1,800 square foot, 3-bedroom, home with a TV in every room – even the kitchen.  I was driving a Jeep, and collecting surfboards like they sports cards.  My days of homelessness were well behind me, yet I missed the simplicity of them more and more as my life expanded.

My Bonsall condo; a TV in every room, and 3 bedrooms for one man to choose from...

My Bonsall condo; a TV in every room, and 3 bedrooms for one man to choose from…

One morning, as I was transcending from one room into the others, in preparation for my impending day, and with ESPN going in all three rooms, I realized how ridiculous it all was – to me anyway.  Thirty minutes later I set all 4 of my televisions on the front sidewalk with a sign reading, “Please, take them away from me”.  An hour later they were gone.

Maybe a year later I gave away the Jeep in favor of a bike.  Not long after, I gave away my furniture and moved into a little guest house, furnished with just enough.  It was a far cry from living in a minivan, but the romance of minimal living was my increasing reality.  As my list of possessions grew smaller, my list of freedoms grew larger…

Actions speak louder than blogs…

As I have reflected more recently on the short-term homeless state of my middle life, I want to do one simple thing that can make a difference for the long-term homeless, and I want to do it regularly.  What kind of thing, what kind of action…?  I don’t know.  I will simply take it from week to week.

I’m a pedestrian living in a warm climate, and in a small town.  I cross the paths of homeless people multiple times every day of my life – even children.

I am Bill Gates by comparison to most...

I am Bill Gates by comparison to most…

This I commit to, with my social media audience as my overseers:

Through 2013, and hopefully far beyond, I commit to seek out and apply one simple action each week that will positively touch or impact the life a homeless person.   To keep me honest, I will document these actions every Friday on my Contemplative Fitness Facebook page.  Please stay tuned and see if I walk the walk.  Be well.   rc

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Please check back in two weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater.   Enjoy…

Committing Egocide…

I wrote this essay nearly three years ago.  My life has changed more in these three years than it had in the previous 40.  I have taken what I wrote hear to heart, with some weeks being better than others, and I truly feel like progress has been made.  It’s nice to look back at it a few years later, and know that some lessons can be learned, and some progress can be made — if only at a snail’s pace…
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Me, Myself, and Irony

I don’t like myself much.  I mean, I guess I do like the shape of my arms – some.  I like the amount of weight I can lift – a bit.  I like the way in which I can make my bike charge up a steep hill – at times.  That I can (occasionally) still turn a head in a restaurant is also nice, but those are what I do, not who I am.  Increasingly, I find myself lacking mental fitness; the kind of character that makes one a better component of the atom of humanity.

Who I really am is a guy who let his guard down years ago, and now lives comfortably well beneath his potential – because it’s easier this way.  I have taken my eyes off, and quit listening to the best role-model and the best friend I would ever have – me.  Early in life, I had promised myself that if I would follow my own advice, I would lead myself to a life most worthy.  I never intended to break away and become such a selfish asshole, but it has certainly unfolded that way – probably for you too.

Earning my way back, if ever so slowly...

Earning my way back, if ever so slowly…

Ego, Mego, And Wego

For much of my early adult life the person I admired above all others was actually me – or the me I was striving to become.  No hero I could choose to emulate would have as much to offer the world, I thought, as I would someday.  That’s okay, that’s okay, I laugh too when I think about it – now.  But I wasn’t laughing then, I was serious and I had a plan.  My best friend in those years was also me, and me kept me focused on the plan.

There were certainly people I had admired in my wide-eyed youth.  Most I admired for all the wrong reasons, and the heroes I chose never failed to let me down.  But for my high expectations of them, every role-model I had through my teen years fell as slowly as a leaf until the hero-tree eventually stood bare before me.  By my twenties, as each hero had faded into the realm of being only human, I began to understand that hero should be viewed as a personal destination, and not a view to another.  I would be a hero.

Role-models Vs. Roll-Models

It has not worked out quite the way I had envisioned.  One divorce, several broken relationships, countless shots of tequila, foul words uttered, temper tantrums thrown, optimism thwarted, failed business attempts, money earned and money squandered, good eating/bad eating, fitness and fatness, and millions of willful poor choices later, I have long since forgotten about the hero I was supposed to be.  I can now only explore who I am to become.  Allow me to introduce you to another fallen leaf from the hero tree; me, the hero within.

Sports radio host Jim Rome often says, speaking of wayward athletes,

“You are who you roll with.

Meaning, an individual reflects the image and character of who he spends time with; guilt by association, and often by osmosis – taking on lesser traits offered by the other(s).  And that’s where I have failed – I have been “rolling” with my inner-self for too long.

To coin a popular term from this era of social networking, I have decided to unfriend my inner Roy.  I release him because he does me more harm than good, tells me it’s okay to cheat at life, to back off, to slack, to let my guard down, and to put me/him first.  His weary act has grown tiresome and I just don’t want to roll with him anymore.

Can This Really Be Done?

I don’t know, I have never broken up with myself before. I am not in pursuit of a perfect life or being a perfect man.  I am only in pursuit of a change that will get me back on the hero path, not to be confused with the hero destination.  Though it is easy to conceive of and discuss change in this way, it will be something different to achieve that change.  Now primary in my psyche must be a complete divorce from the failed hero-me.

It has often been said that, character is what you do when nobody else is looking.  In a more useful sense I believe that, hero is when you decide to never take your eyes off yourself – 24/7.

Stroodle.  My beacon, my light, and my real hero.  I have learned so much about life by loving this friend!

Stroodle. My beacon, my light, and my real hero. I have learned so much about life by loving this friend!

In that ego-rooted early adult life I lived, I had often joked that the world would be much better off if there were three billion Roy Cohens, and three billion women to worship them.  Now I’m just seeking to create one good Roy, so that one young woman will forgive him.  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this wonderful collaboration of, The Weight.  Enjoy ….