Occasionally during one of my talks, in order to highlight the fact that people can change, and to challenge us to be mindful of our assumptions, I bring up the fact that I married a vivisector (someone who conducts experiments on animals).
Recently, during a MOGO (most good) talk at the University of California at Berkeley, I spoke about the most good, least harm principle and how we can put this principle into practice in our lives, consciously and conscientiously. At some point (I can’t remember the context), I shared with the audience the fact that I married a vivisector, and someone asked me, “How could you?”
She did not emphasize the word “could” (as in, “How could you?”), which would have been a bit rude, but rather the word “how” because it so perplexed her that I could date (let alone marry) someone whose values were so opposed to her own, and presumably to mine, since I was a budding animal rights advocate when I met him.
I shared with the audience that when I met my husband 26 years ago, while I called myself a vegetarian, I actually still ate sea animals. Since he killed about a dozen amphibians a year in his research on vision, and I ate way more sea animals simply to please my tastebuds, I could hardly condemn his work.
Ironically, while I still enjoyed going to zoos, because I loved seeing the animals, he told me he didn’t want to go to a place where wild animals were so confined and miserable. Suddenly the seeming disparity between my husband and me because less clear cut.
Suddenly the black and white thinking to which so many of us gravitate (myself included at times) became awfully gray. I went on to become vegan, and my husband went on to become a veterinarian, giving up his grant and his work as a scientist. People can change.
When we wonder how someone could marry someone seemingly so different in some fundamental way, perhaps it’s time to challenge our assumptions and stretch our thinking. Love is a great tool for seeing the world from another’s perspective, but we can bring this tool to all our interactions and relationships.
In Aikido, a martial art which I practice, we are always attempting to blend with our aggressor and see the world from their perspective. It’s a great tool for life, too, enabling each of us to grow in understanding, awareness and the capacity to evolve in new ways.
Zoe Weil is the president of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE), which offers graduate programs in comprehensive humane education, linking human rights, environmental preservation and animal protection. IHE also offers online programs, workshops, and other resources for teachers, parents, and change agents. Zoe is the author of Nautilus silver medal winner Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life; Above All, Be Kind; The Power and Promise of Humane Education, and Moonbeam gold medal winner, Claude and Medea, about 7th graders who become clandestine activists in New York City. Zoe has given a TEDx talk on solutionary education and blogs at www.zoeweil.com. Friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @ZoeWeil.
Image courtesy of firemedic58 via Creative Commons.