la grande bouffe

thoughts on the practice of ahimsa

Thinking about ahimsa. I just got back from Ko Panhang, the radiant island.

Most of the time there I spend on “my” beach, the beach I love. The beach that feels like home (only better, because it’s a beach). The beach that allows me to unbend, hang loose and simmer down. Lots of green on this beach, not too posh and perfect, but old school and classical.

My husband and I slept at our favorite little hideout, a simple and small resort that looks and feels natural, as if we were sleeping in the jungle, only a jungle free of alarming bugs.

The owner of this place, Mr. O., invited us and a bunch of other regular guests and friends for dinner one night. We were very content with his invitation.

Mr. O. is a special man. Very centered, intelligent, and friendly. Hands on, but at the same time laid back. Yes, this is possible!

On the morning prior to our dinner, he asked my husband: “Your wife, she is a vegetarian, right?” My husband confirmed. Mr. O. promised to cook a special veggie dish, just for me, the vegetarian girl.

Evening came. Staff prepared a table for us special guests, right at the beach. We had Israel, Germany, the US, Canada, Thailand, and us, The Netherlands, united around the table. All nice people. Travelers for sure, and people who had been around. As soon as we sat down, conversation started. I always love to talk with people from different grass roots, with different cultures, and different habits. It’s broadening my view on things, my perception of things.

An amazing dinner was served. Fresh food just kept on coming. We were enveloped by an aroma of fresh herbs, vegetables, curries, and sweet chilies, as if it were a scene of the film Le Grande Bouffe by Marco Ferreri, without the disgustingness. Dishes kept filling our table until there was no room left.

And Mr. O. was so happy and grateful that he could serve his special guests all this amazing food. On his face was a constant smile. He shimmered.

Then my special veggie dish arrived, looking great, smelling great. The lobster of vegetables: palm heart. What Mr. O. did, earlier that day, specially for me, the vegetarian, the green feminist, the three hugger, the save-the-planet-girl, was that he cut down one of his palm trees, removed the leaf sheaths until only the center was left, the crunchy-creamy, cylindrical heart of the palm.

The reason why this beautiful tree was cut down was because I’m a vegetarian. I could not refuse his gesture and effort. So I had this delicious food, Mr. O. shining, and my taste buds delighted.

But again I’m wondering about the concept of ahimsa, literally meaning “non-violence”. It has many faces. Making a choice based upon the concept of ahimsa, like choosing a vegetarian diet, does not always create ahimsa. I could of course have refused to eat this dish, but, what kind of harm would I then do to Mr. O.? Would it really be useful? Would it make things better if I did?

Trying to make things better does not always imply that they actually do get better. So I keep on questioning myself, and what it means to practice ahimsa.

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