Being vegetarian, can I now exempt myself from this national(ist) orgy, please?
I stare down at my haloumi salad ringed by a matte black bowl. All the shiny white ones seem to have gone missing – frequent use has made them liable to breakage in momentary lapses of dishwashing dexterity, or left behind at some friend’s house after a tame-sounding potluck turns into a late night fuelled by wine, long Spotify playlists, and speculation about the future of this country.
The truth of interbeing, according to Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, is to see that what we commonly think of as the “self” is made up of “not-self” elements – other people’s lives and labour, nonhuman animals, plants, soil, the air, sun, rain, microbes, minerals, machines, etc. – in a dynamic web of interdependence. He counsels us to “look deeply” in each moment to become aware of the texture of our manifold relations.
So with my fork caressing a cluster of kale, I look again at my unimpressive dinner, creating a temporal bracket between it and my stubbornly expectant, salivating mouth.
Breathing in, I consider the people that have made this meal possible.
Images of supermarket staff come to mind – stacking shelves, loading/unloading, driving forklifts, cleaning floors – and the truck drivers, workers on farms and packaging plants. I wonder if they’re also at dinner, whether the work exacts heavy tolls on their bodies and minds, and on those who love and sustain them/are sustained by them.
I contemplate the economic system that makes this food available: the way it mediates my relationships to others, not least by plugging me into a machine built on the attempted (and ongoing attempts at) eradication of the nations, peoples, and social relations that have existed here since forever.
Breathing in, I consider the non-human others that have made this meal possible.
This slice of haloumi. I imagine the bodily fluids extracted from livestock herded into feedlots and powered by incessant grazing on lands cleared of native vegetation and by the attempted “elimination of the native”; the kale, rocket, and spinach grown in severely straight rows seed drilled over expanses of parched earth.
I stab the haloumi with some leaves and shove it into my mouth, feeding on this historical conjuncture as it eats at me.
What/who is rendered imperceptible by it? How? And why?
Breathing out, may I seek the liberation of all beings.