Food for Thought

On rare occasion I take a look at the Maroon-News on the web to see what is happening at old alma mater. Overall, I have to say I’ve been very impressed. The content and quality are typically well above the News and Maroon of my day [I recall a few bird-cage liners I wrote back then myself]. On my most recent pass, Ali Sherbach’s November 18 commentary on her vegetarian experiment caught my eye in particular. Hopefully I can share some of the “wisdom of experience” with Ali and others considering vegetarianism.

About the time I turned 20 and returned for my junior year at Colgate, I decided to become vegetarian. That was actually easier for me than for Ms. Sherbach, as I lived in Ecology House which maintained a vegetarian meal plan at that time. My roommate was even a vegan (no animal-related products whatsoever). I respected him greatly and one day was inspired to become a vegan too. That commitment lasted less than 48 hours, when the yoghurt enticed me from the refrigerator. I acknowledged my failure and went on.

Which brings me to today. Fifteen years later, I continue to live a mainly vegetarian lifestyle. Much has changed in my mind over that time, particularly with regard to personal ethics and casting my own standards upon others. Much has changed in the world too, with the advent of more organic and free-range options that enhance nutrition and diminish cruelty. Ultimately I still live in a country where too much meat – often objectively bad meat – is consumed by decent people who simply give it little thought. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to accept that situation.

If I could say something to inspire Ms. Sherbach and others who have considered the vegetarian switch, it would be this: Your personal consumption habits cannot be a badge of honor for everyone else to mimic, nor do you have any obligation to choose as I have. What is required of an intelligent being – with the benefit of a liberal arts education – is that you simply stop to consider what you eat and where it comes from. Think of your dietary intake much as you would your intellectual dining. Do you accept everything fed you by professors and other authorities without question? Taking the step to a conscious decision is the crux of a healthy life, whether it be physical or mental. Your human obligation is to choose thoughtfully rather than allowing someone else to choose for you because you remained ignorant. I hope that helps.

Charlie Tiller ’92