There are so many resolutions I have attempted and failed at over the years. I wasn’t going to gossip. I wasn’t going to swear. I wasn’t going to interrupt Greg. I wasn’t going to judge my neighbor. I was going to run 5 days a week. The list of my good intentions and failures is long, and while I try to do all these things (except the running 5 days a week bit), it is not something I commit to every day.
Now, more than two years as a vegan, I have a resolution that is with me constantly. I am reminded of it countless times a day, witnessing things that hurt my heart. It is my mantra. It is the thing I most want to succeed at, and yet it is impossible. Do no harm. Say that to a nonvegan and you will often get the argument that doing no harm is impossible.
They are right.
Just the business of living does harm. Our use of fossil fuel harms the environment, our homes displace vegetation. We mow the grass or even walk across the grass and we are killing bugs and worms. I’m sure I have inadvertently driven over bugs and caterpillars crossing the road. I’m not going to lie. I won’t share my kitchen with ants or flies. Prune a tree and you displace a bird or two or at least disrupt their world.
So how do we reconcile our commitment as vegans to do no harm with the realities of day to day living? We have compassion for ourselves. We remember that being vegan is about intentions and not about perfection.
Recently I had some soy cheese that I thought was vegan. After I ate it, Greg looked at the package and saw that it had casein in it. Yes, I felt sick, not because I was physically sick, but because I felt like I had failed. He reminded me that my intention was good and to let it go. I admit it took a while. I wanted to be better at being a vegan than that.
What I know for sure is that my being a vegan is the single greatest thing I can do for my planet and for the animals. It is as simple as it is powerful. If my intention is to do no harm as much as is humanly possible, then I can change my world.