There are a handful of reasons why people go vegan – compassion, cholesterol, climate (and those are just the c’s). An additional reason, one that is perhaps surprising but captivating, too, is that consciously choosing to eat plants instead of animals can lead to a inner brightening, a life filled with wonder. The body benefits, and the soul even more.
I remember as a young girl hearing on a scratchy LP the voice of poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti repeat the refrain: “I am waiting for a rebirth of wonder…I am perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder…I am awaiting perpetually and forever a renaissance of wonder.” I realized that I was waiting for the same thing. There was life as it was and life as it ought to be, infused with beneficent coincidences and more rainbows than average. Without a dose of this wonder every now and then, life would be as constricting as the straight skirts and neckties of the Ferlinghetti fifties.
I was certain at fourteen that I hadn’t abandoned heaven for an earth thatlimiting. I was here to help usher in and be a tiny part of the renaissance of wonder. So I read and went to lectures. I studied religions and philosophies of the East and West, even spending the first eighteen months of my twenties in the monastic confines of the Theosophical Society in America, housed on a late 19thcentury estate in one of Chicago’s western suburbs, and dedicated to “unity of all people, study of comparative religion, philosophy, and science, and the powers latent in man.” I worked there as a library assistant and absorbed lots of information and even a little wisdom. I had ah-hah’s and began to share them as a writer.
I had also become a vegetarian and had learned about being an uber-vegetarian, a vegan. It seemed extreme at the time and without the perks vegans now enjoy — non-dairy milk at coffee places, and accessible salad bars and veggie-burgers — it was difficult.
I slipped and slid – vegan to vegetarian and then a foray into fish (not even vegetarian!), vegetarian to vegan and back again. Then my daughter was born. I had a lot to learn about being a mom, but I knew I wanted to raise this child without harming someone else’s child, regardless of species. Choosing this path, and raising my daughter vegan has brought about some non-surprising results: a clearer conscience, greater empathy for people as well as animals, more appreciation for natural foods and, so far anyway, the avoidance of the health problems that plagued my family of origin – notably, hypertension and early-onset coronary disease.
The great surprise, though, was that something else came along with the change of diet and lifestyle and attitude: that wonder I’d been seeking for such a long time. It came as an inner awakening I’d looked for in books and philosophies and never expected to find in prosaic fruits and vegetables. The change was physical – I felt better – and metaphysical: life elevated.
It is exciting to be part of a force for good that was tiny when I came onboard but that has in the past two decades grown to become a global movement. It is thrilling to see attitudes change. The response to someone’s wearing fur, for example, is similar to that of someone’s smoking a cigarette: “Seriously? People still do that?”
And the physiological happiness that results from eating a colorful, natural, all-plant diet has to be experienced to be understood. When you’ve been consuming berries and greens and beans and nuts and salads and smoothies and soups and juices and curries and your favorite dark chocolate for awhile, your cells get so happy, your attitude can’t help but catch up.
And something hums along inside you that is downright irrepressible. I am convinced that this is what it feels like when your soul is awakening and your spirit expressing itself. And I believe, Mr. Ferlinghetti, that this is nothing less than the renaissance of wonder.
Victoria Moran (www.mainstreetvegan.net) loves words and animals and vegetables, dreaming impossible dreams and living a charmed life. Her books include Creating a Charmed Life, The Love-Powered Diet, and Main Street Vegan. Her grown-up daughter, Adair, is a vegan stunt performer and aerialist. Click here to read Lawrence Forlinghetti’s poem, “I Am Waiting,”