Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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It Hurts; I Had To Laugh

One of the seeming paradoxes of my existence is that I am equally at home with soaring idealism and sardonic humor. Certainly I've left more than one person wondering how it is that sarcasm and sensitivity can inhabit the same brain.

But really it is no wonder. The cynic and the idealist are simply flip sides of the same coin. Our wryest observations about life are born precisely from the pain of bruised hopes and dreams.

In Robert Heinlein's classic science fiction novel *Stranger in a Strange Land*, Michael is a human man who was born and raised on Mars by Martians and has lately come down to Earth. His mentor and lover, Jill, has been guiding his transition into the human community. One of the greatest puzzles to Michael's mind has been humor: Try as he might, he simply cannot "grok" it, comprehend it, take it into himself at the deepest level of connection.

Then, one day, Michael and Jill are visiting a zoo. Michael is in a pensive, sober mood, standing by silently while Jill tosses peanuts to monkeys in a cage. One monkey to whom she tosses a peanut loses it to a larger monkey, who caps the theft with a beating before making off with the gain. The wronged monkey broods, pounds the floor, vocalizes angry protests, then suddenly darts across the cage and picks on an even smaller monkey, to whom he gives a more vigorous thrashing. The small monkey creeps away to take refuge in the arms of a female with a baby on her back. All the while, the other monkeys have ignored the whole thing.

Michael, much to Jill's consternation, suddenly bursts into raucous, uncontrollable laughter.

After hastening him back to their flat, she and Michael get into a long argument about what makes people laugh. "I had thought--I had been told--that a 'funny' thing is a thing of goodness. It isn't," insists Michael, and he goes on to explain, "The goodness is in the laughing itself. I grok it is a bravery . . . and a sharing . . . against pain and sorrow and defeat."

To which Jill protests, "But-- Mike, it is not a goodness to laugh *at* people."

"No," agrees Michael. "But I was not laughing at the little monkey. I was laughing at *us*. People. And I suddenly knew that I was people and could not stop laughing."

Humor illuminates the cracks in our lives. We laugh out of recognition and relief; we have identified a source of our pain. Someone else sees it, too, and has brought it to the surface to be seen, named, acknowledged. We are not alone.

Whether this realization has the power to transform the circumstances that cause our pain is, in some measure, up to the ones experiencing the moment of epiphany via laughter; in even greater measure it depends upon whether the ones who have the power to effect the change have experienced the moment of epiphany. The humorist, at her best, is a catalyst for insight. For herself, and for all whom she has reached, remains the task of acting upon those insights gained, to begin the work of patching the cracks illuminated by a moment of laughter.

Karyn M.

- n e x t   e s s a y -


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