Cassandra’s Tears

Tears of joy, tears of pain, we are reflected in the salt-water pools we create. So let us build a fleet of paper boats and sail them on our ocean of indecision, laughing at the wind-whipped white-crested waves that would wash over us, drowning us in our own despair, yet somehow never vanquishing us in the end.

My Photo
Location: Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada

Sunday, July 25, 2004

This is not about my diet!

I got into an argument today with a stranger in a chatroom who asked me why I lied to people when I told them I was a vegetarian and that I eat fish. As far as I am concerned, I am not lying. I am a vegetarian and I also eat fish on occasion. It is not a major part of my diet, and it is a good compromise when I am eating out and there is nothing else on the menu that appeals to me or falls within the confines of what I consider to be vegetarian. She said that I was not a vegetarian if I ate fish, hence I was lying.

I have learned that many different styles of eating may be called vegetarianism. My own particular brand is pescevegetarian, a vegetarian who supplements her diet with fish. That does not make me any less of a vegetarian than one who supplements her diet with eggs and dairy products. Yet this chatroom stranger only considered me a liar because I ate fish, which is technically speaking an animal, and not because I ate animal products, which are technically not vegetables. Even when I explained that the original meaning of the word “vegetarian” is derived from the Latin vegetus and means “whole foods” and said that my own diet was more on those lines, she still would not let up on the fact that I was “lying”.

The question then pertains to the meaning of the word “lying”, not “vegetarianism”. Looking up the word “lie” on, I get these two definitions:

1. To present false information with the intention of deceiving.
2. To convey a false image or impression.

When I tell people I am a vegetarian, I am not intending deceit. I even tell them that I eat fish. This is so much easier than saying, “Hi, I eat fish, but I don’t eat any other animal foods, except for milk and eggs.” If I say, “I am a vegetarian,” they already know that I don’t eat meat. When I add that I eat fish, they breathe a sigh of relief because most non-vegetarians cannot conceive of preparing a meal which doesn’t contain some sort of animal protein. As a matter of fact, I recently lunched for the first time at a new acquaintance’s house and was fed spinach quiche, loaded with cheese and eggs. In my normal day-to-day meal preparation, I avoid cheese and eggs because they are so high in saturated fat. On the other hand, fish is good for you. So my definition of myself as a vegetarian is linked more closely to the original meaning from the Latin than from being an eater of solely vegetable matter. We have a word for that kind of person, “vegan”.

So, am I a liar? This is what I most want to know. Am I purposely trying to deceive by calling myself a vegetarian even though I eat fish? Am I trying to present a false image or impression of myself?

Most of us lie on a daily basis. When asked how we are, we reply, “Fine, thank you,” even if we are not technically-speaking in the best of health. When asked, “Does this dress make me look fat?” we know damned well to lie through our teeth. A friend returns from a trip to the hairdresser with a new coif that you consider frightful but which your friend is all excited about, and you lie, saying it is very becoming. We lie specifically so that we do not hurt people’s feelings, so that we do not reveal information about ourselves which we feel is confidential (such as our state of health) and because it is sometimes just faster and more convenient to let an untruth go by that does not in the end hurt anyone or change the space-time continuum in any appreciable way. To say that we are honest 100% of the time would in itself be a lie.

Therefore, I did not lie about being a vegetarian. I just didn’t tell the whole truth.


Blogger Mekashef said...

There's a yiddish proverb that says: "A half truth is a whole lie." Immanuel Kant was himself very much opposed to lying, his perspective on the subject being that definite categorical moral imperatives prevailed over the random concerns of our temporal existence.

Obviously, neither Kant nor the Yiddish patriarchs were ever faced with any of life's hardest questions, such as those requesting personal opinion on hairstyle, contemporary music, or children's drawings.

7/31/2004 9:48 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home