by Vanessa Nowitzky
Why am I vegan, and what does it have to do with singdancing?
1) Because animals feel pain.
Sentient beings have the ability to feel both physical and emotional sensations. Plants do not suffer, as they lack a nervous system and have quite obviously evolved to be able to survive even while pieces of their bodies are cut off, and can even regenerate. Whatever plants might be experiencing, being pruned is not an emergency for them– they don’t run away. When I was a teenager, I realized that if creatures can move by themselves, and would run away and resist being caught, they must have their own desires, and therefore it would be wrong to kill them or hold them captive as that would interfere with their desires. The root of the word animated, which we say of moving pictures, originally meant like an animal, because animals move. As a dancer, I’m very sensitive to motion as an expression of liberty and justice. Anything that moves by itself, I want to let live on its own terms.
2) Because evolution gave me the compassion to notice when other beings are suffering and the self-awareness to take responsibility for my own actions.
Humanity evolved by cooperating. “The scale of human cooperation is an evolutionary puzzle” –yet it’s no mystery that the creature who mastered communication and created the most cooperative society was able to dominate the planet. When people reflect, i.e., LIKE, each other, it comes down to / is ultimately a function of the mirror neurons in our brains. Monkey see, monkey feel! Com-passion means with-feel. To translate the seen to the felt to the heard, “feeling-with” another being is a form of resonance. When people resonate with each other, they can live in harmony. Harmony is resonance.
Nietzsche eschewed God, but he said, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” Which begs the question: is music intentional, or an automatic component of life? I say both. A not-necessarily audible music does occur naturally as the coordination of the motion of bodies interlocking in space. Life is a rhythmic pulse, interweaving frequencies from the rotations of the galaxies down to the wavelengths of our quantum particles. Our heartbeats know that harmony is the easiest solution, and our minds know that harmony is also a conscious allowing of the will and the heart.
Moreover, we now know that to continue our overly consumptive way of life will lead to the destruction of all life. Choosing to live in harmony with nature and the animals requires us to listen more deeply, to hear and resonate with the cries of other beings besides our own. It’s an expansion of our awareness that motivates us to choose to limit our own self-satisfaction to what actions sustain harmony for all sentient beings. Yet we can do this without limiting our joy. Indeed, we increase our joy by resonating with the joy of others. Like I tell my friends, “I’m a hedonist– for all time and all beings!”
3) Because the American Dietetic Association and 12,000 doctors in the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine agree that a well-planned vegan diet is healthy for humans at all stages of development!
The lens of science does not show us “just” a philosophy, it presents us facts, like gravity, that happen whether we believe in them or not. The facts of the physical world are always my singdancing partners, as they determine what I am able to sing when doing what series of moves. I discovered the principles of singdancing via trial and error, i.e., research.
Enough research has now been done in the realm of diet to determine what nutritional needs humans have and how to get them from plants. The habitual excess of meat consumption has been shown to cause several diseases. It’s now mandatory in California to provide hospitals and prisons with plant-based meal options.
Biology tells us that humans are omnivores. That means, we can choose what to eat– we are not obligate carnivores who cannot survive without meat. If we can live without harming others, let alone ourselves, why not choose to do so? As an intelligent culture, we base our worldview on facts, and eliminate traditions that no longer serve us, when we discover they do not correspond to those facts. For example, it is no longer legal to practice slavery, as we know all human beings to be equally worthy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Once overall awareness expands to include the experience of other sentient beings, I predict that the future of our culture will be vegan. To subject animals to a torturous existence and premature death as we have been doing, originally ostensibly for our survival, but now merely for palate pleasure, becomes unthinkable.
In traditional dance, we dance to the music we hear. But in singdancing, our voices create the musical environment we respond to with our dancing actions, which in turn support our voices, in a self-generative loop. This brings up a metaphor for life: we’re not locked into the choices of previous generations. We’re the ones who continue to make these choices day to day. We can choose how to live and we can create harmonious environments that support us and all living beings.
4) Because getting vegan organic B12 only costs 12 cents a day.
Humans use tools to survive. Just as we don’t shun eyeglasses, wheelchairs, blenders, computers, et cetera, to help us thrive, why would we turn down a vitamin pill if it makes life more compassionate and convenient?
B12 originates from bacteria in the soil, but farmed animals don’t eat out of the dirt anymore and the soil is usually depleted nowadays, so livestock farmers actually put B12 supplement into the feed of their animals. “90% of B12 supplements produced in the world are fed to livestock.”
It may be argued that washing machines, dishwashers, crock pots and so on were instrumental in the liberation of “women”– that half of the human race who were (and in many places still are) traditionally servants to the other half. Very few people have given up driving, even though we know it causes great pollution; the automobile helps us so much in our daily lives to be able to move long distances quickly. Instead, we are busy developing solar cars and finding new sustainable energies to use for our transportation, because we don’t want to lose those newfound freedoms. Likewise, in a hundred years we went from writing letters through hand-delivered mail to communicating across the globe daily using cell phones and wifi. The pinnacle of our technology becomes the foundation of our culture.
I use a blender as my artificial cow stomach so I can break down the cell walls of greens without enslaving a sentient being. I take an iron supplement because as a female athlete my body has higher needs for iron. I use a computer software program to help me notate the music I compose, because it enables me to hear several harmony lines at once and make sure they go together. I always felt this intelligence was inside me, yet it took the computer program to unlock my capacity. Even Mozart used instruments~ from the pianoforte to the orchestra~ to manifest the harmonies inside him. Once my singdancers and I practice, we create this music on our own.
Singdancing, an art form without tools, celebrates the toolmaker.
5) Because I want extreme wellness.
I was born with a genetic liver disorder, so my personal wellness is impeded by a 30% slower processing of toxins. This is why it’s been so amazing for me to stick to a RAW vegan diet free of toxicities, even the acrylamides found in baked goods. When I gave up dairy products, I found my entire respiratory system clearing and cleansing such that I no longer ever had excess mucus in my lungs or nasal tracts. It was as if I was given a cure for the common cold. Even if I did catch a bug, it lasted no more than 24 hours and did not clog my breathing, only gave me a slight fever. My breathing has stayed clear for the past 16 years.
Singdancing is an art form of extreme wellness. Clear breathing is obviously essential to the practice of singdancing. Singing and dancing at the same time requires highly functioning respiratory and circulatory systems, which a well-planned vegan diet provides. I drink green smoothies daily for the energizing nutrition of raw fresh fruits and vegetables.
Here’s a recipe for a green smoothie:
3/4 personal watermelon
2-3 cups spinach
1/2 inch ginger root
Scoop the watermelon into the blender (seeds and all).
Add 2 cups spinach, and ginger.
Use the tamper to make sure it all blends (don’t add water).
Adjust the taste to your liking by adding more watermelon to make it sweeter or more spinach to make it darker. 2 cups of spinach = 10% of your daily iron.
Drink at once, or, keep up to 3 days in a jar in the fridge; be sure to shake before drinking. It’s a very effective pre- or post-workout drink!
The vegan diet is energizing and delicious, and the vegan lifestyle — knowing I’m doing my part daily to minimize the suffering of animals — is a load off my mind. Educating myself on this topic keeps me motivated. Here is a thorough, compassionate website where you can go to understand all the issues behind animal agriculture. And here’s a comprehensive and entertaining site, searchable on any topic, for nutrition facts.
And the SIXTH REASON…
6. The circle of life is a flat tire.
Billions of humans punctured that illusion decades ago. Watch the clock here! Our planet cannot sustain this exponential growth, and we can no longer pretend to be wild animals participating in some fantasy of a circle of life. In truth, we stepped outside of that circle thousands of years ago when we started breeding animals as livestock for our own food. This astonishing image shows that we have raised a monstrous amount of cows to go along with our own population growth, and decimated wilderness in the process.
The awareness human beings use to plan our livelihood by cultivating crops and livestock instead of just hunting and gathering is the same awareness that enables me to choreograph and compose a singdance rather than just improvise. When you’re aware of the circle of life, you are responsible for your actions upon it.
What’s necessary to humanity’s survival now is a massive shift to a plant-based diet, as it produces the most food for the least resources, causes the least pollution and suffering, and gives the most benefit for its cost. We didn’t understand the consequences of our actions before, but now that we do, non-vegans who have not greatly reduced their animal product consumption show not only a lack of compassion for animals but for their own species. Once animal product consumption is reduced to meet civil needs, it will be an easier step to extend compassion to other species and go vegan! 🙂