“Mama, I feel bad that we killed this chicken.” My son glances down at the teriyaki wings on his Spongebob Squarepants plate.
“Well.” I answer hoping to avoid the discussion, “We didn’t kill it sweetie, a farmer did. We just bought it…and cooked it…” My son serves me a blank stare.
Suddenly, I am aware of a second set of eyes. Spongebob fixes his steely gaze. I add, “Sometimes I feel bad too. Maybe if we thank the chicken, it will make us feel better.” The toothy, yellow cartoon mumbles “hypocrite;” and I reposition a pile of mashed potatoes over his face.
But in my heart, I know Spongebob is right. I teach my son that we can learn from every creature, not to kill spiders or step on ants, and that our dog has feelings, too. Our birdfeeders overflow during the winter months, I fantasize about stalking local hunters while clutching my husband’s crossbow, still, we lunch at Fuddruckers.
I was a vegetarian for a while, but never learned to prepare meals. I ate bagels with peanut butter and gained ten pounds. I feel guilty about eating animals. I deny my part in the horrible life they endure and the ways it destroys the planet. (According to some studies; eating one pound of meat emits the same amount of greenhouse gasses as driving an SUV 40 miles.)
Ahimsa (non-violence) is one of the Eight Limbs of Patanjali. Do no harm to any creature in thought, word or deed. Many yogis believe that ahimsa is the highest virtue so a vegetarian or even vegan lifestyle is imperative.
A friend found a way to balance the karmic scale. She is fond of saying, “Vegetables are what my food eats.” She believed that she would reincarnate up to ten times as veal. “It’s perfect” she says, “You have a short life, people feed you milk and massage you. You never exercise and then, BAM; somebody hits you over the head and the score is even!”
My boy finished his wings and stands on his chair at the sink along side me. We watch a crimson cardinal feasting at the birdfeeder while we wash dishes; I hear the nasal voice of Spongbob, “It is written in the Dharma Sutras that the slaughter of animals obstructs the way to heaven.”
I shove the plastic plate into the dishwasher, start the cycle, and mumble back-- Spongebob, smarty pants.