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Sunday, 16 October 2011

Is The World a Better Place For Having You in It?

When I first watched Schindler's List about 6 months ago I was completely unprepared for the effect it would have on my life. If you haven't seen it, you must watch it. To summarise:

''Oskar Schindler is a vainglorious and greedy German businessman who becomes unlikely humanitarian amid the barbaric Nazi reign when he feels compelled to turn his factory into a refuge for Jews.'' (Source)

The true story of a self confessed ''profiteer of slave labour'' ended with him breaking down in front of everyone he had saved from the Nazis. Distraught, he has a realisation that he could have done more, saved more people, had he not wasted so much money. The part that really struck a chord with me was where he points out his car and says ''why did I keep this car? Ten people, right there'', and goes on to realise that each of his prized material possessions equalled human lives that he could have saved.

It forced me to see that when I choose to say, spend my money on an expensive pair of shoes, I am also choosing to not send that money to Africa to a starving child. I am choosing shoes over life. And it just highlights the emptiness of material things. They just don't matter, and I can continue to convince myself that they do, or I can wake up.

Saying that this affected me just doesn't do justice to the profound impact it had on my life. Everything material just suddenly seemed so unimportant and worthless. It made me question the direction my life had been heading and I literally couldn't get out of bed for a week, because I was so despairing.

All my life I have been driven by the idea of wealth and success. I opened a clothing shop and factory last year and all I cared about was expanding, and making as much money as I could. I dreamed of fancy houses, one in London, one in New York, a nice little holiday home in India, perhaps one in Vegas too. I imagined how fabulous it would feel to be the richest person any of my friends had ever known. Attaining these goals was the most important thing to me, and suddenly I realised the vulgarity of what I was wishing for. Everything I had ever wanted repulsed me. I felt so conflicted and didn't know how to deal with it.

I got over the inital shock and got back to work, but the thoughts kept creeping back in; my life had no real meaning and I didn't want to ignore it forever. I wondered if I needed a religion? I read books on spirituality and then Buddhism, hoping to find a place for me. They certainly helped, and I forget where now, but I read something that resonated and became my motto for life: 

I want the world to be a better place for having me in it, to give back more than I take out.

And that's it, that became my guiding light. It was the final push that led me to being vegan. How can I say that I have given more than I've taken while I exploit animals and take things from them that they have been forced to give? Well, I can't. 

My emphasis is on animals, it's what I'm passionate about. Now I feel like I'm heading in the right direction, all I can do is strive to be good and do better, and help their cause, and that idea leaves me full and hopeful, and the emptiness has disappeared. It's the only thing that drives me any more. I'm now more motivated than ever when I work, but it's because I know that the money I make is to help them. 

I spoke about my plans to open a farmed animal sanctuary which I can use to educate people about veganism in a recent post, and since then I've started to look at land I can buy to get the ball rolling. I am firmly focussed on that goal and it drives me more than anything. It's the reason to get out of bed and go to work. Making money for myself just isn't enough.

So now, when I choose to say, stay in bed and not do any work I know that I am choosing my own laziness over the lives of animals. I'm not saying I manage it all the time, I often slip into denial but it's soon replaced by a feeling of emptiness and I get off my ass and try to make my life count.

Every day there are times when I become aware that I'm not doing enough, and I am overwhelmed at the size of the task, but then I think about that final scene where Oskar Schindler realises that each decision he has made really matters and it reminds me that I can change things, that each person is powerful and can do things that matter, every single day. 


  1. Wonderful and inspiring post. The reason I'm vegan is for the animals, and it remains easier for me because of this reason. As you say, every decision you make does matter. You are making a difference in this world.

    By the way, I nominated you for a Liebster Award! For more info, go to my post. Cheers, mate!


  2. Wow. Intense post. Can't claim that the world is better for me in it. I ascribe to 'Charity begins in my own backyard'. So I've adopted many cats and dogs from local shelters, try to keep our property a wildlife haven, avoid all animal products etc. I could definitely do more.

  3. Your reference to the phenomenal movie "Schindlers List" is excellent and astute. The lamentation by Oscar Schindler that he should have done more is heart-wrenching and horrifying. For as long as one being on this planet, of any species, is exploited, imprisoned, tortured and murdered then each of us can and must do more. Each of us is responsible and culpable.

    You write: "How can I say that I have given more than I've taken while I exploit animals and take things from them that they have been forced to give? Well, I can't." Nor can I, nor can anyone. We must make this stop, we must, for if we don't...not only are the lives and happiness of animals lost...we are lost also.

    You might want to read Charles Patterson's book titled: "Eternal Treblinka, Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust". It is an excellent treatment of this subject.

    For the animals, we are all Nazis unless we are working minute by minute to end this madness and bloodshed. And...I don't want to be a Nazi anymore and I won't. And you sound as if you are through with it too. Thank you.

    Please continue providing information about your sanctuary establishment efforts.

  4. Wow. This is a really powerful post. You really did a 180 on your life, it seems. That must have been a hard realization to come to so suddenly. I have had similar realizations, but they all came to me over time, evolving and changing me much more slowly. I love you Animal Sanctuary idea. Like, LOVE it!

  5. I agree...powerful post...really makes a person think! I know I could probably do more too, but I feel like I'm doing all I can with what I have right now. You inspire me to try to do more though. :o)

  6. Yeah I know, a bit heavy eh folks!

    Michelle: Thank you so much :-)

    Shenandoah: Well I'm certain that the furry ones you adopt would disagree :-)

    Veganelder: Yep, I most certainly am through with it. Can't believe it took me so long. Will definitely try and get hold of that book, sounds right up my street - thank you!

    Chelsea: Well I am quite dramatic like that, ha! A nice gradual change would have been a bit less stressful!

    Michelle: Aww that's so sweet thank you :-) I feel like everyone here ARE trying to do their bit, and are not remotely like how I was before.


  7. I love this post! I think we've all been right there too... Believing that nothing we do for the victims is enough.

    When I first became aware I was so naive I thought all I'd have to do is tell the truth and people would instantly choose the right solutions - I was bitterly disappointed to realize that many (most) require much more than compassion to motivate themselves. And so I pick up the pieces and move on too - Wiser and more realistic.

    And the reality is that a kinder world isn't going to happen over night. It's going to take lots of patience, effort and time. But each step in that direction does matter. Each voice does make a difference! We may not see it in the short term but it's there... It's HERE!

    I certainly wish you well on your dream of a sanctuary! In the mean time if you haven't read this little starfish story - It may help lighten the load sometimes. It does for me. ;)

  8. Oh Bea I love that starfish story! Thank you!!! That's it, that's all we need to be reminded of to spur us on isn't it. Just that we are making a difference to even a few individuals :-)



Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, I look forward to reading them :-)

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