Say (No) Cheese

I thought “giving up” cheese would be difficult.

Although it would be exaggeration to say I used to put cheese on everything, I certainly increased it where I could, such as: extra cheese on pizza, large dollops atop sauce-covered spaghetti, and gobs of shredded brimming over taco shell edges.

When I worked at McDonald’s (yeah, I worked there, three different ones actually, but always back in the grill…) years ago, I would add extra cheese when I made my lunch break sandwiches.

Give me a plate of crackers and cheese at a party and I’d be happier than if the cutest boy there asked me to dance. Well, that is likewise hyperbole, but after dancing I’d return to the cheese for sure. If the cute boy asked me politely, though, I just might share.

The point is, “giving up” things is supposed to be hard. Right? We give up smoking for our lungs, give up foods we love to lower our cholesterol, and give up alcohol so maybe next year at the Christmas party we don’t tell our boss “And another thing…”

We mention “giving up” things like we are an ascetic getting ready for a vision quest and the listeners around us should be simultaneously awed and filled with sympathy.

Yet “giving up” is an anemic approach to anything. It’s a half-assed, half-hearted, bleat of resignation.

Up neuters the action verb give, rendering it static: giving up smoking is NOT smoking, giving up drinking is NOT drinking, and so on. There is no action implicit in “Not”. Instead, as used here, it is the negation of action.

Since we are agents in the world, actors acting in the world, we need more robust thinking; the kind of critical thinking that encourages us to go forth and actively do, rather than lie down and passively don’t.

My own thinking about such things was willfully ignorant for many years. Don’t know about bliss, but it certainly made things easier, such as grocery shopping.

But certain questions nagged at me:

  • How do they make it so cows keep giving milk?
  • How does being perpetually kept pregnant affect the cows?
  • What happens to the calves after they are born?
  • How are the mothers affected by having their calves taken from them shortly after birth?
  • What happens to a milk-producing cow after her years of faithful service, when she no longer gives milk?

The answers are important because my consumption directly contributes to such questions coming up at all. My consumption is important because the answers I’ve since learned conflict with my own personal Hippocratic oath.

Which means I must either forget what I have learned or take action to resolve the dissonance.

Take action is the key here. I did not “give up” cheese, which, as I said before, would be a non-action. Instead, I asked questions, found out the answers, and have adjusted my actions accordingly.

Not eating cheese is simply a byproduct of new, more ethically-conscious behaviors and habits I am cultivating.

I don’t miss cheese, the presumed hole its absence left is filled, and I am already several questions and answers beyond it.