Saturday, December 24, 2005
"Take 2", as I typed out a massively long post about 12 hours ago, only to have it swallowed up by the ether of the interweb thingy. The bastards. This will be a sad and meandering, truncated version of said post. I'd imagine anyways.
So last eve a couple of Sandy's friends from Genkai High School treated us out to dinner and drinks - and as an aside, after the enkai on Wed, drinks with Kev and Ry on Friday, and last night with Hanada and Akashi sans, I am soooo full up on the alcohol for a bit. This is a drinking nation, that's for sure. Particularly impressive was Hanada san, who's maybe 3 foot tall and weighs 80lbs or so, who was still throwing back glasses of wine at the end of the evening when her compatriot had fallen asleep on the floor and I could only dream of going home and doing the same.
But I digress.
So they took us to this very nice little restaurant, family owned, where all the cooking is done right in front of you - no, not like in Benihana's, you heathens. Classy and sophisticated like.
But the caveat of the place is that meals are "sets". Every customer gets the same array of courses and dishes... including bacon wrapped scallops and mushrooms, stuffed chicken and steak wrapped tomatoes.
So I've been pesco/ovo/lacto vegetarian since we got to Japan... which is, I think, the correct term for eating seafood, eggs, dairy, fruits and veggies... but no poultry, beef or pork. And before getting the call up for Japan, I had been straight vegetarian for quite a while. But having eaten vegetarian in Japan before I knew it's actually a bit difficult. This is an island fishing nation after all. And it wasn't so bad last time I was here, in that I wasn't working so much and really didn't have any social obligations to speak of. But I knew coming back, with me being the primary wage earner and all, there'd be a vast array of enkais, invitations, and dinners to attend. And not eating at least seafood would make that difficult. And besides, I'll admit, coming back to Japan and not eating sushi and sashimi did seem a bit insane. But that's a rationalization to the great taste of wasabi and maguro if there ever was one.
So when I went vegetarian [and then stopped being vegetarian, and then started up with the vegetarianism again] it was mainly for "ethical" reasons, so to speak. Not that I don't appreciate the health and environmental reasons, but for me it was more an issue of compassion and cruelty.
Read several books and saw several vids on how animals are bred, raised, slaughtered... and it really is just some of the cruelest, most barbaric stuff you can think of. Factory farming is really just a disgusting practice.
Plus I never understood how some animals where okay for slaughter and some were okay for taking into your home and forming an emotional bond with. Cows, pigs and chickens have at least as much ability as dogs and cats to feel pain and emotion... and some studies show they're at least as "intelligent". Whatever "intelligence" actually means, that is.
And they angels of my better nature always aspired to the Buddhist admonition to refrain from causing suffering to other living creatures.
So I went veggie.
But after a while I kinda lost the thread of why I was doing it. Too much navel gazing, philosophizing and intellectualizing, I'd imagine. Too much thinking about the "big questions", the meaning of life, etc, etc. Trapped between the rationals of existentialism - if nothing means anything, who cares if I eat a burger? - and the perils of reincarnation and quantum physics - if all is energy, and ultimately everything is recycled, who cares if I eat a burger?
So I started back on the omnivorous path again.
Till once again I came around to the idea of not causing harm. There's little I'd consider a "truth" in this vast wide world, but not causing harm, not actively contributely to a system that perpetuates cruelty, well, those do seem like inherent goods. So, back to the veggies.
Till the time of the "great compromise" and eating fish back in Japan - also easier to do, if one is being intellectually rigorous, because it's far easier to anthropomorphize the pain of land animals with big, brown eyes. And I don't know if I'll ever be able to understand the pain of an oyster. More like a plant than an animal to me anyways.
But I digress yet again.
So last night, watching the steak wrapped tomatoes sizzle away on the grill, smelling the bacon... having it served up on my plate... all I could really think was "I'd really like to have a taste of that."
So I did.
And it tasted good. But then again, it always did. It's not like I'd stopped eating because I didn't like the taste.
But here it is... I don't necessarily regret eating it... it would have almost seemed rude - to the chef, to our hosts - not to, but I don't think I'm going back to eating meat. In hindsight, nothing I could have done would have alleviated the suffering of anything. The meal had been bought and paid for already, and my taking a "stand" would've not only been pointless, but goofy. And to be honest, something, be it temptation, instinct, whatever... I wanted it.
It's funny though. After eating it, Sandy asked me how it tastes, and I told her "It tastes like sin. And sin is delicious." Funny, but true. But it shows, to me anyways, how much of my headspace is wrapped up in the whole Catholic ideology I was raised with. Not as far as Christianity per se. The last thing I could be accused of is being a Christian. I am as anti-organized religion as anybody. But my whole world view is trapped up in the ideas of sin and virtue. Not just better choices versus worse choices, not healthier decisions versus unhealthy decisions, or even more practical considerations versus less practical... but sin versus virtue.
And it's not untrue that I would at times feel more virtuous because of my dietary choices, that somehow I was more noble or compassionate than the next man who never thought of such things [how retarded is that?] and that when I first ate of the flesh [nice biblical allusion, that] I felt sinful. As if eating steak had somehow put this dark spot on my soul. It's insane at all this stuff that's processed internally without any thought. Years and years of conditioning and going to church and CCD and confession and guilt and guilt upon shame and shame...
There's this part of me that thought last night "Well, I've eaten meat again, there's no point in denying myself anymore. I'm damned! Damned I tell you!" Well, okay, ot that "damned" bit, but the idea that once you've started down the path of the "lesser choice" that it's pretty much a done deal. That "all or nothing", black or white, amazingly false aristotelian dualism that I've decried, intellectually at least, these past few years.
It's something I "know", but not something I know. Ya know?
But what it comes down to is this. Do your best. Try your best. Now, last night, could I have done better? Yeah. And all the reasons I have for not eating meat, right now, I still think they're valid. And it's an ideal I aspire to. But here's the thing. Wheh you fail to do your best, that doesn't mean it's over. It doesn't mean not to try anymore. It doesn't mean that once you've "sinned" it's all over. There's no need to be hard on yourself. Just try again. Do your best.
[Yes, yes... years of Catholic indoctrination fuc*ked me up. I know. I'm working on it.]
The Complex Christ: Find the Imperfection: Exist there:
"...The root question: how do things change? What are the actual processes that people, institutions, societies go through that effects change within them? And how can we effect change? My argument was that there it is not a simple choice between step-change - where things just crunch into a new realization - and evolving change - where everything goes gently along.
... the advice of Certeau and Foucault, who counseled that we need to seek out the fissures, the cracks in culture and work there.
This is the work of Trickster, the dirt-monger. Trickster finds the imperfections, and works a newness, a change from within it. Not working against the imperfection, but through it.
For those existing within 'solid' practices, places, churches: perhaps find that crack, that fissure, and rather than attack it to rupture the solid, use it as a site for localized boiling, for initializing a small pocket of phase change. Not against it, but through it. "
Ry wailing on a much more respectable than expected [given the limitations of alcohol] version of Sweet Home Chicago.
Any night where conversation runs the gamut of: Foucault, Nietzsche, Buddhism, Alcohol, Cigars, Pretension, Death, Road House, Whoring, Robert Johnson, Buggery in the British school system and in Four Weddings and a Funeral, Elvis and the importance of caliber in Firearms... well... that night I deem a success.
By the Jr High school and Elementary School kids... Some "traditional" Christmas songs and then there was a somewhat surreal parable/opera about the death of elephants in wartime, the age of children, and world peace.
I can't make this stuff up.
I'm creatively challenged.
Sandy keeps putting these two puzzles together. Over and over and over and over again. In between hours of computer solitaire, that is.
I'm not saying she has a problem. I just want something on record in case I ever "accidentally" stab myself to death in my sleep.
Went to the mochitsuki pounding at Katsuura Elementary last weekend. Very cool and kinda fun.
Mochi - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
"Mochitsuki is the traditional mochi-pounding ceremony in Japan.
1. Polished glutinous rice is soaked overnight and cooked.
2. It is pounded with wooden mallets (kine) in a traditional mortar (usu). Two people will alternate the work, one pounding and the other turning and wetting the mochi. The mochi must be kept wet to keep it from sticking to the mallet.
3. The sticky mass is then formed into various shapes (usually a sphere or cube)."