If Not Now, When?
by Morgan Jones
05 May 2002
This week my favorite teacher at
Natural Epicurean (the healing-cuisine cooking school in Austin),
Dawn Steinborn, was away in Dallas to be with her mother when Dawn’s stepfather,
George, died of liver cancer. Mercifully, George did not linger or suffer for
too long after his diagnosis. His cancer was extremely aggressive, and he
courageously chose not to extend his struggle with radical treatments that might
have added a month or two to his life but most certainly would have made those
months agonizingly painful. George was a very brave, an honorable, and a good
man whose loyalty and devotion were demonstrated daily.
On several occasions over the past few years Dawn had gone to Dallas to cook for
her stepfather when his health had faltered before. In each case, when George’s
strength returned, he would revert to his old habits of consuming his
favorite—and not so healthy—food and drink. Dawn was, I suspect, disappointed,
but her readiness to help never flagged.
Herman Aihara (revered and much loved macrobiotic teacher) once told me that
unless we love the front of a person (the good qualities) and the back of
that same person (the things we might consider faults or character flaws), we do
not truly love them. For as Herman explained, the front and the back come as a
single package. They are inseparable. I thought about what Herman said and
realized that I could easily understand his premise on an intellectual level,
but that practicing this kind of true love on a daily basis is tougher than it
might seem to be.
I am always in awe of Dawn for her ability to truly love the people around her.
I have never met anyone who can so completely love the front and the back of
others. Dawn loved her stepfather in this way—in no small part because her
stepfather loved Dawn’s mother. Reason enough. And Dawn accepted that the wisdom
she could have shared with George that might well have lengthened and improved
the quality of his life was not a gift that would be accepted. George made, as
we all do, his own choices. No matter. Dawn never loved George any less. But
neither did she love herself any less for her inability to succeed in this
particular situation. She evens loves the front and the back of herself.
We are all defined by the choices we make—each and every moment of each and
every day. And these choices make up the front and the back of us. Should I
choose to live my life with wild abandon and let my children care for my
degenerating body and mind when I start to give out? Should I eat in a way that
creates more aggression and less peacefulness within me and let the rest of the
world deal with the consequences? I have insurance, so it won’t cost me anything
when I get sick. Do I have something to live for that will sustain my heart
through 75 or 85 or even 95 years of life? Do I love myself in a way that makes
it possible for others to truly love the real me? Maybe I will start taking
better care of myself as soon as the kids are out of high school / I finish my
big project at work / I get mom settled in the nursing home / I get the car loan
paid off. Maybe instead of taking care of myself, I will settle for trying to
convince several of my friends to take better care of themselves.
A lot of folks who stop by The Natural Epicurean think that they teach
cooking classes. And, I guess they do. But what they are really about is sharing
some simple wisdom that we students of macrobiotics have been privileged to receive from our teachers:
Health is the natural state of human existence.
Most people in our culture die from degenerative
diseases resulting from diet and lifestyle choices.
When we take better care of our physical health, our
mental, emotional and spiritual health improves.
Getting older doesn’t have to mean hip replacements,
medication for life, disability, loss of flexibility, or pain.
Doctors and naturopaths are valuable, but each of us
is smart enough to discover what will truly make us healthier and more
Happiness is a choice—not a destination.
We are each personally responsible for our own
health—we are free to make our own choices.
But what the heck? The food we macrobiotic teachers
cook while we share these ideas is pretty darn delicious. And we have so much
fun creating community and friendships among those who take part in our
seminars, lectures, and cooking classes. So pick any rationale you like, but
come and join us soon. Then you can start to expand your own front.
And while we would very much appreciate it if you would tell your friends about
our humble seminars and lectures, we would like it much more if you just brought
yourself to one.
Peace, love, and brown rice,