Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The power of a word....

I have never really understood why more people don't see the shape of words. I don't mean just the shapes of the letters that comprise the words, but the emotional shapes and essences of words. Take, for instance, the word 'terror'...I have always thought that - at least in its lower case format - the right-slanted rs give it a decidedly menacing aspect. Likewise 'horror', to me, is a word that looks like an expression of that which it is describing - a face with eyes wide open, frozen in a mime of pure fright.

Am I alone in reading such images into words?

Perhaps not. There are, as even a brief gander around the blogosphere will show you, plenty of folks who attach images and emotions to the word 'vegan'. This otherwise unassuming little five-letter term seems to be inextricably bound up in negative connotations in the minds of non-vegans of all flavours and is often accused of ugliness or crudeness or is associated with '-isms', such as militantism, dogma, extremism and radicalism. All of this is, to my mind, bound up in the fact that veganism turns the spotlight on the social acceptance of animal abuse and exploitation. And this makes non-vegans naturally uncomfortable.

To me, however, the word vegan is a perfect expression of compassion in action, of simple and elegant truth, of the philosophy of intentional and active non-harm. It encapsulates the values I choose to live by, that form who I am and who I strive to become. It is an everyday manifestation of my principles and the ethical baseline for every action I take, every thought I think and every interaction I have with others. Distinct and separate from 'vegetarian', it is so much more than just a diet: it is a whole way of being in the world and of looking both inward and outward. Spiritually, it is peace; physically, it is beauty; emotionally, it is empathy, kindness and love.

So.....that is why I am joining the ranks of those who love and celebrate this word, who embrace and wear it proudly.

I am getting my first tattoo: vegan.



Sara said...

I know exactly what you mean - for me, I love words like supple or they just roll off the tongue, and could be understood the meaning by anyone if they don't know the definition. I see that too, how vegan is a scary word to most people..and even to vegans sometimes. They are afraid of coming out of the pantry, and only declare their veganess to a small few. I was at first, because I didn't want to be associated with such negative I never corrected people when they called me a vegetarian. Now, I feel compelled to correct people when they call me just a 'vegetarian' - even when that's not even the topic at hand; even to people that I should be respecting, not correcting. I feel offended to be called a 'vegetarian' because you're right, vegan is an entirely different thing. It's a lifestyle and political statement that gets minimized by the term vegetarian. And not because the term vegetarian is bad, but because society has twisted the perceived definition to be someone who simply doesn't eat red meat, chicken, or pork. Somehow fish has become a vegetable, don't ask me - I didn't get the memo. So I want to encapsulate all the connotations to vegan. I'm proud to even claim the negative, because even though I don't take part in such negative does get conversation started, and that breeds awareness.

Amanda said...

Hi Sara! Thanks for the well thought out comment! I get so frustrated with the lack of understanding by folks 'out there' - I mean, how many times is it necessary to define 'animal product'???? Yes, a fish IS an animal!!!!!!! But I guess you are right in that it is an opportunity for a conversation which - in turn - breeds awareness. Creative vegan education is the only way to make meaningful progress - IMHO.