Ode to Joy

written by Sun, Co-Founder of Gentle World


When I was five years old, I unhappily discovered that I was the only girl in my kindergarten class who didn’t have a middle name.  Feeling deprived of what I perceived to be an important clue to my identity, I asked my mother why.  She wisely explained that the reason she didn’t give me one at birth is that she wanted me to choose my own when I was old enough, which was now.

I loved the idea!  I remember running all the names I could think of through my head at least once, and then my favorites, over and over, until quite suddenly, a name came to my mind from a place somewhere inside me that I hadn’t even known was there, and before I could even think about it, I heard myself shouting for “Joy”!  Thus began my lifelong quest for the true meaning of that word.

In the years that followed, I searched high and low, always in places where I thought I would most likely find it, like in playing games with my friends or vacations with my family and of course, in my pleasures. But, whenever I observed and explored the feelings these experiences evoked in me, I knew in my heart that they fell far short of what I imagined the thrill of joy to be.

Then, when I was nine years old, I fell in love with a boy in my fourth grade class, and for the first time in my young life, I felt the joy I had been seeking.  Right then and there, I decided that here was a feeling worth living for, and from that day forward, I dedicated my life to being in love.

And then, at the age of twenty-eight, I made a decision that changed me in ways I could not have imagined. My desire to experience the joy of a higher love led me to look inside myself for how I could become more loving.  That’s when I stopped using all animal products, and nothing has been the same ever since. I felt like I had been lifted to a mountaintop, after living in the plains all my life.  And from that higher viewing, where the air was fresher, the world smaller and simpler and my choices vaster, my entire perspective evolved, along with every single thing about me, including and especially, my understanding of joy… and the love that inspires it.

I became a vegan, because I could no longer deny the inherent misery in everything non-vegan.  When given the choice between continuing to contribute to that misery, or living the ideals I had always believed in, such as kindness, justice and non-violence, I knew, with absolute certainty, which was the right choice to make.

What I didn’t know were the seemingly never-ending joys that would follow… from the joy of no longer being a part of the horror and terror that exist in the exploitation of anybody’s body, which would have been joy enough… to the relief in not having to make excuses to my conscience for why I “can’t”, when we both know that what I mean is “I won’t”… to my elevated self-esteem in being a significant force in the evolution of Humankind… to a lighter body and a clearer mind… and neither last nor least, the indescribable joy of looking into any animal’s eyes, knowing I have freed them all from slavery to my pleasures.

Living the vegan ideal has also heightened my understanding of what it means to be spiritual, while serving as a template by which I measure the sincerity of humanity’s multitude of “one and only” gods. With my decision to stop doing unto others that which I would certainly not, under any circumstances, want done unto me, came the knowledge that any proposed supreme being whose teachings fell short of that golden rule would never again be god enough for me.

And what was the outcome of such blasphemy?  High and behold!  I not only avoided the punishment of deteriorating health that I had been warned would follow, but I have enjoyed the opposite ever since. Rather than being ostracized from society, as many prophesied, my elevated perspective and deepening compassion made me more sensitive to the needs of people in all societies. Even my fear of having to give up my culinary pleasures turned out to be unfounded, as I was introduced to a whole new world of delicious foods I had never known existed.

By acting upon what I knew to be right in my most reasonable mind and most compassionate heart, I was not punished, but rewarded.  For me, this proves the existence of justice and empowers me to create my own joy…  not only by being in love, which requires the willingness of another person, but by becoming love, which needs no other catalyst than my own will.

Now, when I think of that little girl struggling to grow toward the light in the darker ages of the mid-twentieth century, I feel a rush of gratitude for her courage to reach deep down inside herself for her longed-for identity, and shout it out for all the world to hear.

I might never have known the true nature of joy if she hadn’t.


Related Stories:

A Newer Age

Just This One…

Rewarded for Being Vegan



Annie M.
Annie M.3 years ago

I long to feel such joy, as the awareness of all those who still don't have a clue (and continue complicity in the unspeakable suffering of others) eats at me on a daily basis. Not only do they refuse to give up their palatable "pleasures" (read: tortured animal flesh), they refuse to look at where it comes from. This is the hardest thing to stuff: to not be able to scream at them, "how can you be so ignorant and cruel?" To smile politely and not to be able to say a thing, because they are incapable of hearing, even when told. Even those who claim to love animals seem to feel they are entitled to their burgers, etc., all tortured.

So, even though I take some pleasure in being guilt-free, the ongoing torment of knowing how many suffer overwhelms any feeling of joy. I, personally, have not learned to let that go.

Joe R.
Joe R.4 years ago


Sarah M.
Sarah M.4 years ago

Lovely article. I decided to become vegan a couple months ago. I don't understand why society makes it out to be something bad--I do see that they are driven by fear though. All things good in this world are driven by love, and that's what I view veganism as--pure love for all creatures and for yourself. Thank you.

Judita F.
Judita F.4 years ago

How beautiful! Thanks!

Karen Paties
Karen F.4 years ago

It is rot to say meat is an essential part of our diets. The many many healthy and vibrant vegans out there show the selfish lie of this!

Jane Barton
Jane Barton4 years ago

How did meat eating get into a topic of "joy"? There's nothing "joyful" about murdering another being and eating it's dead flesh. Let's keep the guilt trips on the vegan threads where meat eating can be lauded as the best thing to come along since fairy "god" and "santa claus". Omnivores have plenty of room to spread their excuses for their "unguilty" holy behavior. There is absolutely no JOY in killing (unless you're a sicko pervert NRA hunter who hunts for "fun") anything that just wants to "live" and be left alone to have their own "joy". The highest JOY any human can ever experience is FALLING IN LOVE. A cocktail of brain chemicals floods our bloodstreams with hormones that give us that warm fuzzy feeling in our chest, the excitement, the touch that causes sparks, the walking on air, puts a spring in our step. Someday I hope they will find a way to trigger our brains to release these chemicals without having to have a real person do it. If that ever happens there
will never be another war and everybody will be deliriously happy.

Carmen S.
Carmen S.4 years ago

thanks so much for sharing this

Dale Overall

Lively and joyful, it is not everyone that gets the pleasure of choosing their own middle name!

I will always be a meat eater and make no apologies for this-one can always learn to balance the diet having meat as the smaller portion and veggies as the main fare on the plate, one can go meatless days and munch on quinoa, but meat has been part of the human diet for eons-some purists say it is not because we must cook it (unless Mr. Bean goes hiding that steak tartar he ordered because he could not understand French)...yet we must cook sweet potato and sadly if we eat broccoli raw it interferes with thyroid function--yet I still delight in raw broccoli anyway.

Technically we all feed on death, even of plants and veggies.

Glad that you found Joy in your life and yes the sunflower also attracted me-such vibrant and zesty flowers that draw you into their circle.

Teresa Cowley
Teresa Cowley4 years ago

Thank you for a beautiful, Joy-full article!

Richelle Rausch
Richelle Rausch4 years ago

How cool!