It has been one year now since the passing of my father on December 28, 2014. I wrote these words below shortly afterwards when my memory was fresh but chose not to publish them until now. During this past year I have mainly lived in quiet retreat allowing myself time to reflect on his life and impact. Michio inspired many to live and work toward a more healthier, happier and peaceful world and I have no doubt that his life will continue to influence many for years to come. As we all move forward toward realizing my father’s dream of world peace and to honor his life on the anniversary of his passing I share these words in his remembrance.
“I quit smoking!” said Michio, the moment he saw my face when I opened the door and walked in. I was surprised and laughed. I was about to congratulate my father but then he went on to add, “I also quit coffee too! I am beating you!”
“Well, that’s absolutely wonderful! It’s a competition that I am more than happy to be losing at!”, I said and gave him a bow to concede my defeat. Everyone in the room burst out laughing.
“What a greeting from Michio!” I thought to myself. It was August, 2014, and we were in Becket, Massachusetts for the annual Kushi Institute Summer Conference. I hadn’t seen my father since the fall of 2010.
Michio, his wife, Midori, and Kushi Institute managers, Alex Jack and Ed Esko were sitting around the small conference table in Alex’s office. I had just arrived from Alaska where I had been living since 2010. I opened my bag and pulled out a cedar gift box of wild Alaskan smoked salmon and gave it to Michio. He thanked me but then passed it along to the others. He remarked that he also stopped eating animal food as well. That was another welcome surprise.
Unless my father was ill or experimenting with his food he never changed his habits, especially smoking and coffee. For as long as I can remember there were four things he never changed and these were:
- His dark three piece suit.
- His smoking
- His love of coffee, coffee shops and restaurants.
- Never taking any vacations
In my college years and while on a summer break a friend and I were visiting my parent’s home in Brookline. Not really expecting him to join us, I invited Michio out to the beach on a hot summer’s day. My mother thought it was a good idea and so he reluctantly relented and went up to his room to change. We waited in the foyer for him in our t-shirts, shorts and sandals then down the stairs he came, unchanged, in his three piece suit. “Where’s is your bathing suit?”, I asked. He told me not to worry. My friend and I looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders and so, without questioning him any further, we all got in the car and headed to the beach.
I will never forget the image of my father traipsing across the hot sand at Crane’s beach in Ipswich, in his dress socks and shoes and black three piece suit. His outfit was as out of place as much as he was. For Michio, taking any recreational time was completely out of the question. Going to beaches, mountains or anywhere to unwind and relax was a waste of time, in his mind. So, to see him in his suit on the beach was a rare treat.
We found a spot to lay down our towels and my friend and I jumped in the ocean. Meanwhile, Michio slowly surveyed the scene, smoked a cigarette and, at our beckoning, took off his suit and, lo and behold, he had on a pair of swimming trunks – in black, naturally. He made his way into the water and splashed himself as if taking a bath and then, feeling completely refreshed, said, “OK! Now, let’s eat some fish!” We all had a good laugh and later, a great fish dinner at a nearby restaurant. It was clear that he enjoyed himself despite his own principles.
Though the color of his three piece suits may have varied slightly, my father never wore anything else. He was dressed and prepared to meet anyone with dignity and respect regardless of who they were, be they a homeless person or a head of state. He was on an mission for world peace and believed that everyone he encountered deserved equal and proper respect no matter who they were. So ubiquitous was his outfit that one them now resides in the Smithsonian Institute as permanent artifact of the Kushi Family Collection.
Despite pleas for him to stop from family members, Michio smoked. It was clear to me that he used cigarettes and coffee, which he only drank black with no sweeteners, to help him concentrate and think. which he did constantly and therefore smoked constantly. When he was not lecturing or giving consultations Michio was always sitting down writing or reading or thinking about the problems of the world.
Once or twice daily, he enjoyed the anonymity of going to coffee shops and restaurants to relax, let his mind wander and to observe people. At times, he often ate what others did because he thought it was helpful to understand them. He mentioned in lectures that if you really wanted to understand and be like Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Mohammed (or anyone else for that matter) then you need to eat exactly like they did. He often joked with priests, monks and other devout Religious persons by pointing out to them that Jesus or Buddha never drank Coca-Cola or ate Ice Cream. There were times when he would fast or eat simple whole foods, but often he enjoyed going to local diners and eating normal fare without any concern. However, as his life became increasingly busier, meeting demands that took to him to Europe, Japan and other places, his smoking, coffee, restaurants and not taking any personal time became routine, like his three piece suit, which sustained him on his mission for world health and peace. It seemed that nothing could dissuade him from changing these habits.
After my mother’s passing in 2001 there was no one around to keep my father’s unhealthy habits in check and they finally caught up to him in the form of colon cancer in 2004. Thanks to the loving care of his second wife, Midori, he recovered and began to change his life-long habits and routines, including relaxing from his busy schedule. Where my mother had failed to convince Michio to wear something else besides white shirts and three piece suits, Midori had succeeded in dressing him in jeans, plaid shirts and cardigans, which is what he was wearing on that August day in Becket while gleefully declaring that he stopped smoking and coffee.
Midori’s positive influence on Michio’s life was obvious. Beyond his new clothes and giving up unhealthy habits she provided him with the much needed rest, privacy and quiet that he deserved. As far as I can recall, my father never took any vacations. He felt they were a waste of his time. He worked tirelessly for his dream, his mission and vision; constantly giving lectures, consultations and writing letters and books. He never declined any request and answered calls from clients, students and friends from all over the world at all hours of the day. It was an extremely busy and unhealthy lifestyle. However, thanks to Midori and her vigilance to guard his privacy, my father was finally able to relax and live quietly and with that, he began to change his life long habits. So, with his cheerful and energetic greeting to me in August and despite his rather thin and weak appearance, I was optimistic about his future and left the Summer Conference with thoughts of organizing a 90th birthday celebration for Michio but fate would have other plans.
On December 22, 2014 I received a phone call from my brother, Haruo. He informed me that our father, Michio Kushi, was in serious condition in a hospital in Boston. I had prepared myself to receive such a call but this came sooner than I expected. I saw Michio just five months before in August at the Annual Kushi Institute Summer Conference and though frail it seemed to me that he had enough energy and spirit in him to last at least few more years.
I was in Alaska when the call came. My brothers, Haruo and Hisao, flew to Boston as soon as they could. I caught a Red-Eye out of Anchorage on the 26th and arrived in Boston around noon on Saturday, the 27th. My oldest brother, Norio, arrived at Logan Airport 30 minutes before me and met me at my terminal. We got a taxi together and rode straight to the hospital. Soon we were in the lobby of the hospital meeting with Haruo who filled us in with the situation.
The day we arrived Michio had already been in the hospital for ten days. He had been ill for quite some time in December and progressively became worse and his wife, Midori, unable to do more, brought him into the hospital. She had contacted no one except Michio’s brother and their close Japanese friend and business associate, who flew immediately from Japan to assist her. She also contacted my brother who then contacted all of us. No one else outside of this circle of family and friends knew that Michio was in the hospital.
Haruo led Norio and me upstairs to Michio’s room and there he lay, thin and weak and clearly near the end of his life. All of his surviving children, we four sons, were present in the room together with his wife, Midori and the friend from Japan. Michio was conscious and alert. He had not eaten for several days but was not hungry either. He was on an IV glucose drip which gave him the energy needed to stay alert and be clear headed. He had no pain, or at least denied that he did, and had refused any pain medications.
Norio stepped up to his bed side. Michio had difficulty hearing so Norio spoke louder than normal when greeting him. In a paternal tone that was characteristic of Michio’s relationship with Norio, he insisted that my brother listen to his wife Midori, and heed her words as if they were his own. He repeated this several times to us all and Norio reassured him with expressions of gratitude.
After Norio, I showed my face to Michio and gave him a big smile. He looked at me a remarked how nice my teeth looked. I had some dental work done recently and it showed. That was the first thing he said to me. I studied his face and looked into his eyes and what I saw shocked me. His eyes had turned blue! His eyes were no longer brown but had become blue, as if the brown part had fallen away revealing a pale blue hue underneath. I remarked, “Oh! Your eyes are blue!” I looked around to see if anyone else had noticed this and Midori nodded her head. She had noticed this too. Michio did not respond to my remark and instead he reiterated his plea to pay attention to and heed Midori’s words. Midori, told him not to worry about her. Michio then asked for his feet to be massaged and so we all took turns doing this.
Michio enjoyed our company and felt relief as we took turns massaging his feet. I pulled out my laptop computer where I keep a collection of old photographs from Michio’s youth from as far back as 1929. I loaded the photos into a slideshow and then showed them to Michio. He lay there on his bed as I held my laptop in front of him slowly advancing each photo. With his mouth slightly open his eyes gazed carefully at each photograph intently and he let out an occasional remark and sigh. I couldn’t help but be amused by the image of him literally watching “his life flash before his own eyes”. I looked at his face carefully and could see him going back in time as each photo flashed in front of him. It was a small moment of joy for me to know that I could provide him with memories of his youth at the end of his life. After all this then Michio soon fell asleep.
In time, the Doctor showed up and explained the seriousness of Michio’s condition and that the IV drip was actually not helping him. The only reason they kept the IV going was to help him to stay alert so that he could be present and alert to receive us all. It was a thoughtful gesture on the Doctor’s part. We decided then that it would be best to remove the IV. There was no telling how long Michio would last at this point. It could be a day or two or another week and it all depended on whether he would regain his appetite or not.
Haruo read through Michio’s extensive medical records and discovered that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in June of 2014. He hadn’t mention this to any one including his wife, Midori. She was shocked and in disbelief when she found out. Michio had always said to her that he was fine even during the Kushi Institute Summer Conference in August. She and Michio had even traveled to Japan in November. Had she known that he had cancer then she would have never had taken him to Japan. Instead, he kept it to himself and allowed her and they to live his last days as if nothing was wrong. He knew what he was doing and chose not to have Midori worry over him. His silence on the matter was just another way of showing his love for Midori. She broke down and cried on realizing what he had done.
It dawned on me that for all that Michio had done and accomplished in his life that, in the end, he was a simple romantic man who had found, in Midori, the love of his life. There were no last parting words of wisdom, no incredible revelations into the nature of the universe, no instructions on how to create One Peaceful World or to carry on his legacy. He gave countless lectures, wrote books and helped thousands of individuals over half a century. He said all he wanted to in that time and had nothing more to say. Whatever thoughts and work toward creating One Peaceful World was simply left up to us and to those who chose to carry on his legacy. His last and final remarks were to simply encourage family harmony and to acknowledge, embrace and remember the value of true love that he found with Midroi.
The last decade of Michio’s long and illustrious life was nothing less than a glorious love story between him and Midori, the woman who stayed by his side to the very end. I looked Michio straight in his blue eyes and told him, “Well, after all this time, it turns out that you are the greatest romantic person in the world!”. I further added, “Yours and Midori’s relationship is like a “Boston Love Story” ( a reference to ‘Tokyo Love Story”, a popular Japanese Romantic TV Drama). Midori laughed and so did the friend from Japan who understood the reference right away. They completely agreed with my insight.
At some point during the day we brothers grabbed a quick bite to eat in the hospital cafe. The four of us sat at a table together. There was an amusing moment when my younger brother, Hisao, picked up a packet of salt and opened it only to find out that it was mislabeled and contained pepper instead. We all looked at each other and remarked at how that could have happened and what the consequences of that error might lead to. Hisao, the lawyer, immediately began thinking of the liabilities and potential lawsuits, while Norio, the trucker, immediately thought that it must have been a shipping error, while Haruo, the nutritional researcher, thought about the health consequences of people mistakenly putting the wrong condiment on their food, and me, I just remarked and laughed at them all pointing out where each of them had gone with their thoughts. It was a brief amusing moment and, despite our differences, there was family harmony between us. It was as if Michio had brought us together to remind us of the love we have for each other.
Given his energy and clarity earlier in the day it seemed that Michio would still be around at least a few days more. It was getting late and thinking that Michio would still be around the next few days we brothers decided to go out and enjoy meal at a restaurant that Michio frequented. It felt great to spend time with each other as we actually hadn’t been all together since Michio’s 80th birthday. During our meal, Midori called Haruo saying that Michio was cold and was complaining about the air conditioning. Haruo decided to go back to the Hospital to help Midori and the rest of us split up to where we each had arranged to stay.
I arranged to stay with my own grandchildren which was a good 40 minute subway ride north of Boston. It was just before midnight by the time I arrived there. I put my bags away and had begun to settle in when I received that final call from Haruo. Michio passed away, quietly, peacefully and without complaint shortly after midnight on the very early morning of December 28th. Without hesitation I told my brother that I would come to the hospital right away. The Boston subways were still running though less often and mostly empty. The hospital and nurse’s station were quiet also with many of the lights out. It was peaceful. Midori was in mourning. Haruo decided to take off to get some much needed rest while I stayed the night in the hospital with Michio’s remains, Midori and the friend from Japan. It was the quiet and peaceful calm before the storm of activities that would soon follow.
Thank you, Michio
In reflecting back on that evening and the following months, I can say that there was never any sadness or grief on my part for the passing of my father. Every time I think of him and our relationship I am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and peace. Michio had lived his life the way he wanted even in his death. He accomplished many great things and will be remembered by those who knew him well for his charm, his wit, his manners, his scholarly intelligence and his uncanny insights into many aspects of our world and universe. He dedicated his life to his dream and tirelessly faced and overcame many challenges and difficulties. In his last years, he found inner peace in the comfort of the woman he loved and whom loved him. He lived a full and grand life. He lived a macrobiotic life. There were no regrets. His life was complete. All is peaceful and I have nothing but gratitude to him for the life he gave me.
January 2015 – The Memorial Service
In his welcome speech to the several hundred attendants of Michio’s Memorial Service on January 31, 2015, my brother, Haruo, said, “We consider all of you to be a part of our extended family.” This welcome statement from my brother describes what is, perhaps, the greatest gift that my father gave to me (aside from giving me life) and to us all: a network of friends around the world who share the same ideas, values, food and dreams. This is something that I will forever be grateful to my parents, especially my father. Below is a video fo the full 2-hour Memorial Service held on January 31, 2015 at the Arlington Street Church in Boston, Massachusetts.
From the mid 1960s my parents opened our family home to anyone interested in learning from them. Some stayed for a brief period of a month or less while others stayed for several years. All in all, there was always a constant stream of 10 to 20 other persons living in our home throughout the years. Sometime in the 1980s my sister, Lily, put together a list of individuals that she could recall who lived in our home. The list took several months to create and in the end the total count of individuals who graced our home was over 10,000. The list did not include the larger number of students who attended any of the countless lectures, cooking classes and consultations my parents did nor did it include students of the Kushi Institute which has been in continuous operation since 1978. The 10,000 figure was only those whom lived in our home at one point or another and today, these individuals are spread around the globe. Regardless of where they are now and what they are doing all of them are family to us.
Adding to this amazing gift of friends around the world are my parents teachings, wisdom, and endless dream of one peaceful world which, through their students, continues to help many thousands more every year. To say that I feel blessed to be their son, is truly an understatement. By simply being born to them, I have been given a priceless fortune that I cannot ever hope to repay in this life time and in many more life times to come.
Michio lived a full life and by the time he passed away he had accomplished more than I could ever hope to achieve in several lifetimes. His legacy was to leave behind a network of friends around the world all of whom are making a conscious effort to create peace, health and harmony in their own lives and with others. With his passing there is nothing for me to be sad about. There is nothing for me to grieve about. His spirit continues to live on and I am reminded of him every time I hear another story of someone finding a new awareness about how their food effects their health and how we are all connected and can make a difference by simply choosing to eat and live in closer harmony with our natural environment. With the advent of email and Social Media I am able to hear and read these stories every day. So every day, I am reminded of my father and the work of my parents and I have nothing but gratitude. Thank you, Michio.
Now available and published by the Kushi Institute is this commemorative book, “Remembering Michio” with over 75 family, friends and students offering their fondest memories of Michio Kushi resulting in an unparalleled look and insight into the man who changed dietary history, our understanding of food, health and our relationship with our environment and the cosmos that only can be found through such a collection.
Towards the end of his life, I strongly suggested to my father that he write his own autobiography to avoid any future confusion about the details of his life and legacy but he refused to do so. His own modesty would not allow himself to indulge in such a blatant form of self-promotion. Instead he suggested to me to write my own version of his life from my own point of view and to let others also write theirs, if I or they so choose. With this book, his prophetic wisdom proved correct and I can not imagine any better way to understand his influence and legacy than through the diverse and combined voices of those lives he so profoundly touched in so many different ways. Any biography by a single author could never include the broad range of diverse narratives offered in this collection.
For those who knew Michio well, this is a warm and emotional book that reads like one is sitting around a cozy fire with old friends reminiscing together about the unique and influential person that he was. For those who never met Michio this book offers eye-witness accounts of an amazing and dedicated man whose knowledge, insight and abilities seem beyond belief and beyond the scope of any one man.
The book is available now for purchase through the Kushi Institute Store. Proceeds will benefit the Kushi Institute tasked with the mission to preserve the legacy and forward the dream and vision of my parents toward creating One Peaceful World through macrobiotics.
There are many great lessons and words of wisdom that my father, Michio Kushi, gave me and countless other individuals whose lives he touched through his many lectures, books and private consultations. These select life lessons are ten out of hundreds that impacted and influenced my life for the better one way or another. They affected important life decisions, guided me through challenging times, inspired me to strive to be a better person and to learn to always enjoy life under all circumstances. I share them with you here now in the hopes that they may inspire and be as useful to you as well.
1.) Never Sell Your Life – (Always pursue your dream)
This isn’t a criticism on prostituting one’s self nor that money is evil but instead is a caution against making a Faust-like bargain of giving your soul to the Devil in exchange for untold riches and earthly pleasures. It is a suggestion to never compromise your principles, passion and dreams for the sake of money or for a cause that you don’t believe in. This doesn’t mean never getting paid to work or turning down money but it does mean to never settle for less than doing something that you feel passionate about and would do regardless of the money.
It’s fine to earn money and do any kind of work as long as it is part of a much larger plan that serves you and your own personal development and dream. It’s also fine to work for a company (or a boss) whose principles you don’t agree with as long as it serves your own dream and purpose whatever that may be. In short, work for yourself and pursue your dreams at all times even when you work for others. If you do, you will always have a job that you can never be fired from. Never sell your life.
I first heard my father say these words in one of his lectures when I was a young teenager just beginning to think about getting my first summer job. That summer, I applied to work as a bagger for a local supermarket chain. (This was long before the days of natural and organic supermarkets.) On my first day, a neatly dressed floor manager in a white shirt, dress slacks and tie gave me a tour and showed me around. Afterward, we sat down and he explained to me about what made this supermarket different from it’s nearby competitor. He said, “The only difference between the two supermarkets is the service. Everything else is the same. You can buy all the same food there as you can here. So the only thing that can set us apart from our competition is our service including how we dress and take care of our customers.” I sat for a moment and thought about what he said and remembered my father’s words. I realized that it simply wasn’t enough for me to work for a company whose only goal was making a profit by trying to serve their customers better. I believed that quality service should be automatic for all businesses. This supermarket had nothing more to offer and was simply trying to compete with and put the other supermarket down the street out of business. It was a sad and destructive game with no thought on creating a win-win situation. I told the manager, “Thank you, but no thank you.” and with that I quit the very day they hired me.
My father’s words instilled in me a selfish attitude about the use of my time and whom should benefit from it. I would not allow this body of mine, this life of mine, to be used for things that I did not agree with. I wanted to work for a company that was making a substantial and fundamental positive difference in people’s lives. I wanted to work for a place where I could feel proud just by being a part of the company. I set high work standards early in life and have kept them ever since.
For my first job I ended up working for my parent’s company, Erewhon, the pioneering importer, manufacturer, distributor and retailer that launched the natural and organic foods movement. Unlike the supermarket, Erewhon offered unique food products that were natural, wholesome, informative and educational and were part of a larger vision, philosophy and goal toward building world peace. Erewhon had a mission that I was proud of and could work for.
Since then, every job I did, every position I accepted, and every company I worked for and managed aligned with my own set of values and principles. These values and principles included never causing anyone any harm, suffering or unhappiness by:
- Never selling products that might be dangerous and harmful to others
- Never do any work that involved weapons, war or caused any suffering in the world
- Never working for a company that exploited others
- Never working for a company that did not put people before profits and encourage a win-win situation for everyone.
While my values and principles may have changed over the years – in fact, they are more stringent now than before – I never compromised them. As a result, I have no regrets for any work I have done in the past and that fact has given me a profound sense of peace and satisfaction in my life for which I attribute to my father’s words “never sell my life.”
2.) Never Complain About Anything – (Take responsibility for your life)
Many years ago my father said, “Never complain about anything unless you, yourself, can come up with a better solution that you, yourself, are willing to implement. Otherwise, you have no right to complain.” He never complained about anything and whenever he had an objection to anything he always had a solution. His advice made a lot of sense to me and I have done my best to follow it ever since.
It should be noted that there are times when complaining has its uses and advantages. For example, it can be useful to complain to persons in a position to make a difference to change unwanted situations for the better. Also, Freedom of Speech is an important right in the United States and voicing one’s opinion is necessary for social change and responsible political action. Complaining to the right person can make a big difference and is an essential tool in politics today.
However, if we become overly dependent on others to make changes for us then we risk losing our own strength and power. People who complain aimlessly and constantly to those who can’t make a difference become victims of their own doing. Without finding their own solutions and acting upon them they give up their own power to change their own lives. They also lose the respect of those around them.
This lesson, to never complain unless I had my own solution, inspired me to be much more self-reliant by becoming better and faster at solving problems that came my way. It gave me greater responsibility, self-confidence, patience and creativity. I became better at strategic and long term planning and was able to manage people and run businesses early on in life. I am very grateful to my father for this simple yet powerful and valuable lesson.
3.) Never Criticize Anyone – (Be respectful to everyone always)
Similar to “Never Complain about anything” is to never criticize anyone at all. If you have a concern or issue with another person then deal with them directly about it. Otherwise, never criticize them or anyone at all, publicly or privately behind a person’s back. Although I don’t recall my father expressly saying to never criticize others he very clearly demonstrated this by his own refusal to criticize anyone.
My father was a very gracious well-mannered gentleman who treated everyone with respect. He always wore three piece suits as a symbol of his respect for everyone he met. When he was out and about walking in town he would always greet everyone he met with a cheerful smile and a “Good Morning!” He was always charming and would try to lift the spirits of everyone he met. When others challenged him, treated him disrespectfully and tried to publicly discredit and stop him he never complained about or criticized them at all.
I am not as charming or gracious as my father was yet his example continues to inspire me to never criticize anyone and to always treat everyone with respect regardless of how they treat you.
4.) Never Be Angry – (Be calm, tolerant and compassionate with yourself and everyone else always)
I can count on one hand the number of times I can recall my father getting angry. One of them was in the early 1980s when AIDS had been discovered in the gay population in New York City. The News media were filled with stories of people blaming homosexuality and of homophobic healthcare workers unwilling to treat the afflicted. My father was outraged and took it upon himself to travel to New York City every month from Boston to give free lectures and cooking classes to AIDS patients. He shook their hands and hugged them. Many of the men in attendance broke down and cried because everyone else was afraid to touch them. The result of his efforts can be found in his book, “AIDS, Macrobiotics and Natural Immunity.” That was one of the rare occasions when my father became angry.
Unlike his macrobiotic mentor, George Ohsawa, who regularly scolded and berated his own students and many others, Michio gained a reputation early on of always being patient and never losing his temper so much so that Ohsawa intentionally tried to provoke and test him with a very nasty accusatory letter. Michio finally lost his temper and wrote back expressing his anger at Ohsawa. Ohsawa replied in jest by congratulating him on being human, because he, Ohsawa, sincerely had his doubts.
Being angry often can be viewed as a sign of being unhealthy. In Oriental Medicine, anger is related to a weak liver. Excessive fat, alcohol, and sweets among other specific foods which tax the liver then makes one more easily prone to anger while healing the liver by avoiding such foods can make one more tolerant and patient.
However, when we do feel or have anger within us, then it can definitely be helpful to express it fully in responsible ways that do not cause anything or anyone harm or damage, physically, emotionally and psychologically. If you need to yell and scream then, by all means, do so by going out into the woods alone and yelling your head off to your liver’s content. Just as crying can be healing then releasing one’s anger can help move stagnated energies within the body, but just do so responsibly.
Unfortunately, I have been angry more times than I care for and later regretted every time it happened. In my younger years the anger and frustrations I experienced were often uncontrollable. Expressing and releasing pent-up emotions was healing and invaluable to me and I sought ways to do so constructively. Over the years, I became much more patient, tolerant and compassionate. Older now and, hopefully, wiser I find no reason to be angry at all. It took me a long time to finally achieve the tolerant, patient and calm state that my father maintained and displayed throughout his life.
So, if you have anger and if expressing it will make you feel better then don’t try to suppress it all. Let it all come out naturally but also try to find out the causes and triggers to your anger and learn to deal with them in other ways and if you keep at it and though it may take a long time, you may find greater calm and peace in your life and be more like Michio. His example continues to be a source of inspiration for me today.
5.) Be Grateful For Your Difficulties – (They make life worth living)
First, to clarify, “be grateful for your difficulties” isn’t a suggestion to be masochistic. Second, I am also aware that “difficulties make us stronger” is an over-used cliché and telling someone to be grateful in times of crisis is probably the worst thing to say to them and is definitely the last thing they want to hear. Anyone facing an unexpected and unwanted urgent crisis should be focused on nothing else than practically resolving the crisis itself. In that moment gratitude is not a useful sentiment to turn to at all. Furthermore, even when we aren’t faced with any major challenges or difficulties it is natural to avoid them whenever we can and as best as possible. However and as we all know, difficulties and challenges come upon us whether we like it or not and our view and attitude towards them can make a huge difference in our lives.
“Be grateful for your difficulties” is a simple and straightforward reminder to appreciate the unavoidable challenges that we all face in our lives. Through our hardships, difficulties and failures we learn to value and appreciate the simplest things in life. In life threatening situations we become grateful for life itself. Our difficulties also serve as reminders to examine ourselves and our lives and to question our long-held beliefs, values and direction. They serve as opportunities to reflect on our past limitations and explore greater possibilities and new directions that we would have never considered or imagined otherwise.
When I came down with a cold or fever my father would often congratulate me for my good fortune. He was not being mean to me. He never looked at sickness as a misfortune but instead as a friendly and fortunate reminder that something needed to be addressed and changed in one’s life. I found out later that this attitude toward sickness was very much in line with the work of Christoph Wilhem Hufeland, the 18th century physician who wrote the first book on macrobiotics, “Macrobiotics: The Art of Longevity“. In the preface of his book Hufeland writes:
“The medical art must consider every disease as an evil which can not be too soon expelled; the macrobiotic, on the other hand, shows that many diseases may be the means of prolonging life.”
By congratulating me for my illness my father was simply expressing the macrobiotic understanding of viewing illness as a means to help me live longer. It was good fortune and I only needed to see it as an opportunity for change for the better. Without my illness I would never have known that change was needed. It was a difficulty to be grateful for.
My father did not limit the scope of difficulties to be grateful for to only health issues. Every type of difficulty was to be appreciated from accidents, tragedies and economic hardships to relationship troubles, social problems and even war. All challenges and difficulties we encountered was an opportunity for growth physically, mentally and spiritually.
Challenges and difficulties are not just beneficial for humans but for all living things as well. There is a story about my father that illustrates this point with regard to the difficulties and hardships of plants. Many years ago I accompanied my father to a meeting of advisors for John Denver’s Windstar Foundation. In looking to build a utopian community in the Rocky Mountains there was a proposal on the table to create an experimental thriving Garden of Eden inside a protected Geodesic Dome. The prestigious group of advisers that John had assembled all thought it was a wonderful idea except my father. When it came time for Michio to give his input then, with unassuming grace, he gently pointed out that occasionally exposing the vegetation in the dome to rain and other elements naturally occurring in the Rockies might be beneficial for the plants. He suggested that the dome should at least have a window that could open and close to let these external influences in from time to time. Soon it became glaringly apparent to all in the room that exposing plants to the harsh Rocky Mountain climate all the time, from thunderstorms and even snowfall, was the best and most natural thing for the plants in order to thrive in that environment. The Geodesic Dome was not only unnecessary but was in the way of the difficulties and challenges that naturally helped the plants to grow and become strong and healthy. By suggesting a simple window in the dome, my father, in the gentlest way possible, exposed the folly of the whole idea.
In the pursuit of our happiness it doesn’t serve us to make enemies of our difficulties and challenges. Like rain storms and bad weather they come and go often and we must deal with them whether we like it or not. Indeed, they are an essential part of life just as much as are the sunny days and joyous times. By embracing our difficulties we can find happiness in both the worst and the best times of our lives. Be grateful for your difficulties because in overcoming them they not only bring us joy but make life worth living.
6.) When An Angel Turns Its Back It Becomes A Devil – (Everything has or becomes its own complementary opposite)
I have heard my father say this in many lectures. He has also said this in other ways such as “Every front has a back and the bigger the front, the bigger the back”, “everything turns into its opposite and back again” and “there are two sides to every coin”. Although not as profound, we can also understand this concept as the process of weighing pros versus cons when making a decision. However, this statement about angels and devils adds a profound moral dimension that many do not consider and have a hard time grasping.
We live in a world defined by the simplistic morality of “good” versus “evil”. It’s in our movies, stories and myths. It’s in our religion and politics. It underlies all our laws and our society. Many cannot imagine a world without enemies, be it a group of people to fight against, a disease or any type of unwanted behavior or phenomenon. If we aren’t fighting tyrants and terrorists then it’s drugs, poverty or cancer. We make enemies out of anything and look to heroes to vanquish our enemies. We become fearful and build arsenals of defenses so large that, if or when unleashed, destroys ourselves in the process of eliminating our enemies. We can’t imagine a world without this duality and therefore the statement “When an angel turns its back it becomes a devil” confounds us.
Yet, there are many examples of how angels become devils. For example, today many individuals rely on medicines, pills, supplements and diets to cure themselves and stay healthy. But these things also make us dependent and enslave us just as much as they provide us relief. A pill or medicine is both angel and devil at the same time. It may bring us relief but it does not cure us. An automobile is another example that is both a convenience and burden at the same time. We can go anywhere but then we are also burdened with gas and parking fees, maintenance and repairs costs, insurance and depreciation. In the beginning of a relationship we think the best of our new partner and want to be with them all the time but when the relationship goes sour we want nothing to do with them. The loving beautiful angel they once were becomes a devil, yet it is the same person. Similarly, a mother’s love for her child, on the one hand, is nurturing and selfless while, on the other hand, can spoil, be overbearing and hamper the child’s development. A physician whose oath is to do no harm and who can save many lives can also become a most dangerous person, intentionally or not. A policeman whose job is to protect the community and enforce the law can overstep the very laws he has sworn to uphold. A company whose goal is to produce vast quantities of food is also the greatest purveyor of harmful food products. A country, whose foreign policy is to promote freedom around the world has, through its same policies, caused the greatest amount of war, exploitation and suffering. Angels are devils and devils are angels.
We often cite Hitler as the epitome of evil and Jesus as epitome of good. While it is undeniable that Hitler’s Nazi Germany committed various atrocities the ensuing response to his actions and to World War II has been to create a legacy of heroes and a united and global stand for peace and vigilance against tyranny. With regard to Jesus, whose life was devoted to compassion for all of humanity, then in his aftermath, how many have been killed in the name Christianity? How many cultures and peoples have been destroyed by the spread of Christianity? How much hatred, bigotry and violence continues to be created toward women, gays and minorities in the name of Christ and other Prophets of Peace? The work of devils turns into the work of angels and the work of angels become the work of devils.
Many years ago someone once asked Michio what would he be doing if the world were “macrobiotic” already; if we had achieved One Peaceful World. His surprising answer was that he would probably be selling junk food and promoting chemical agriculture. His response exposed the relative nature of our morality. The world today was heading toward global degeneration and destruction and the biggest game on the entire planet is to work toward creating a world based on natural order, health and peace. But if the opposite were true – that we lived in a harmonious world of health and peace – then the biggest game on earth would be to move it back toward degeneration and destruction.
There is a larger dynamic at work here that transcends our simplistic morality. We can no longer say who is good and who is evil. We all are complicit in creating our opposite. If we understand that angels turn into devils and devils into angels then, at any given point in time, we may know what to expect in the future and, perhaps, even influence this process toward a direction that we prefer.
When we begin to see that our world is much more dynamic and fluid than we imagined, then we can learn how to manage our own actions and achieve our goals. If I push in one direction then I may create an opposite reaction and result and the harder I push the greater will be the reaction to me. Similarly, if I drop a pebble in a pond then it makes gentle ripples but if I drop a big boulder then larges waves are created.
Aggressive and violent actions always produce a violent and opposite reaction and if stability is our goal then we will never achieve it through violence. Subtle and gentle movements allow us to better manage the unintentional reactions that we create and can therefore help us to achieve our goals much faster and easier. Understanding the dynamics of angels turning into devils is a never-ending study and discipline and makes life a fascinating journey and adventure.
This journey continues to unfold for me and as it does I reflect on the influence and effects of my own past actions. Failures in business projects and relationships can all be attributed to the aggressive and bold actions I initiated in the past that ended up producing the opposite result of what I wanted. It took me awhile to figure out that remaining passive and simply accepting what comes my way produced results I wanted much faster and easier. My life has become much more satisfying and continues to be a fascinating journey and it’s all thanks to my father’s lesson that angels turn into devils.
7.) Think Big, Dream Big
At our father’s Memorial Service my younger brother, Hisao, recalled our father telling him to, “Make sure your life’s dream is something that you can’t achieve during your lifetime.” Our father’s dream was nothing less than creating “One Peaceful World”.
My father’s dreams and optimism had a tremendous positive influence on the lives of so many. He counseled thousands with terminal and life threatening illnesses and always found a way to inspire and uplift them. Many recovered and lived well beyond their original prognosis. Beyond this, his grand vision of world peace through a peaceful biological food revolution inspired many to pursue new careers in alternative healing, organic foods and macrobiotic education.
His large vision effected my life. When I was young thinking about what to do with my life in the future I asked my father for advice. I told him I was thinking about becoming a writer and he said, “Great! You can be better than Shakespeare! If you want to be a writer then be the best!” I thought he was nuts. I could never be better than Shakespeare. Another time I thought about being an inventor and he said, “Great! You can be the first one to invent a UFO or a machine that provides free unlimited energy” and he would go on and on suggesting many seemingly impossible inventions that would completely change life on Earth as we know it. I asked him once if I could be President of the United States and he replied that I would be a great President, far better than the current one. “Why and how is that possible?” I asked. He said it was because I was much healthier and had much better intuition than the President. The irony was that Nixon was President at the time and later I came to find out that my father had actually personally met Nixon in the 50s when he, Nixon, was a Senator. Whatever thought or idea I had about my future he always took it far beyond my imagination. He did so to expand my narrow limited mind and have me think and dream bigger. Though patronizing, he was sincere and, more importantly, I believed him. By his own example, he showed me that I could dream and achieve anything I wanted to.
Halfway through High School I became discontent with the direction my life was heading. I was no longer interested in pursuing a normal education and career path. I felt that following the conventional dictates of society was not going to change anything. I was interested in pursuing something much bigger and larger but I was not clear about what it was. So I joined an experimental educational program that was being offered in my High School where students could participate in how their classes were being taught. It was new and different and the vision was bigger than the normal school offerings. I also enrolled in an experimental college. Every major life decision I made involved looking at the larger picture of life. I had big ideas and big dreams and they gave me the creative inspiration and courage to overcome whatever challenges and difficulties came my way.
I still have big visions and dreams. However they are tiny compared to my father’s dream. I asked my father once about his dream of One Peaceful World. I asked him how long he thought it would take for it to be realized. He sat there and thought about it for a long while. It seemed that he was making complex calculations in his head. Finally, he said, “I estimate about 2,000 years.” 2,000 years??!! Whoa! His answer took me by surprise. It wasn’t so much the number of years that surprised me but it was the fact that he devoted his whole life to working on something that he expected wouldn’t be realized for another 2,000 years. I was amazed at his optimism, dedication and commitment to pursing a dream that would remain unfinished long after he was gone. His immense vision and dream was and continues to be an inspiration for me and I remain joyful and optimistic that we will create one peaceful world one day and no matter how long it will take. Thank you, Michio!
8.) We Are Insignificant – (The first lesson in understanding the Universe)
The first chapter of my father’s book, “The Book Of Macrobiotics” begins with the heading, “Life Is Vanity”. It is an introduction to the ephemerality of life; that life is but a fleeting moment and everything we do will eventually pass away. All of our ambitions, our achievements, our struggles and concerns come and go in the larger view of things. Whatever we do will eventually perish and disappear. Everything we do is in vain. That is the first section of the first chapter in the “Book of Macrobiotics”. That is the first lesson in beginning to understand our universe and its order.
Michio also always talked about the universe as “One Infinity” and how we are living in it, how we came from it, and how we are returning back to it. An infinite universe is immense and our place in it and relative to it is pretty small. In terms of scale, Neil deGrasse Tyson (rephrasing Carl Sagan) in the TV Show, “Cosmos”, pointed out that if the entire history of the universe were mapped out onto one calendar year starting with the Big Bang at midnight on January 1 then all of human history would occur in the last few minutes of December 31.
Such immense ideas are very abstract and difficult to relate to and therefore are easily dismissed, I prefer to be much more to the point by simply saying this: We are insignificant. We are nothing in comparison to the size and scope of the universe. We are nothing and we should be humbled by this fact. We should be in awe of the immensity of everything else.
To bring this to a more understandable scale let’s compare the number of insects there are to humans. It is estimated that the ratio of insects to humans is 200 million to one. For every one person there are 200 million insects on earth. That’s a lot of insects.
But let’s not stop there because insects aren’t the most abundant life form on earth. The latest estimate on how many bacteria there are on earth, (according to this article ) is five million trillion trillion. Bacteria and viruses far outnumber all life forms on earth. At only 7 billion we humans are truly insignificant and compared to bacteria it could be said that we live for them. They are the dominant life form, not us and when taking this into consideration then the idea of antibiotics seems like a foolish quixotic attempt to try and control something that we could never ever possibly do at all.
Once we accept that we are insignificant and that everything we do is in vain then what are to do about this? We could become depressed and apathetic and no longer care about anything including our own existence. This option leads nowhere but to our own arrogant self-pity.
There is another option and that is to stop being arrogant and stop taking our human life so seriously. We are arrogant about our beliefs, our morals, politics, our religion and our identities. We take them so seriously that we will even kill and die for them. Yet they are as insignificant as we are and once we fully accept and appreciate our own insignificance; that we are nothing but an insignificant end product of an immense and dynamic ever-changing universe, then it becomes impossible for us to be so arrogant. The universe is there for us to discover, explore and understand and the first lesson to learn is the humility of our insignificance.
Remembering the insignificance of my life has helped me in times of difficulty. It helps me remember that there is nothing worth getting upset or depressed about, let alone killing or dying for. It helps me to remember that there are always others in the world facing much bigger problems than me and even their problems are insignificant. It helps me to remember that I know nothing and that there is so much to discover. It helps me to remember to appreciate this immense universe that created my insignificant life. It helps me to remember to enjoy life and be forever grateful for all that this universe provides.
“We are insignificant” is the first lesson in understanding our universe and our relationship to it. It is the first lesson in understanding the size, scope and proportion of things. Beyond this there are many other lessons toward understanding the “Order of the Universe” and how it moves and changes (including how angels become devils). We can study, for example, how we are the product of our environment in its entirety including the foods we eat. We can explore how we are affected by different foods and changes in our environment. We can look at how the earth moves and how it affects us. We can ask ourselves why we have two eyes, one mouth and five fingers. We can ask why Jupiter is so large compared to the other planets and why did ancient people build pyramids. There are so many amazing things to explore and accepting our insignificance and letting go of our arrogance is the very first step and rabbit hole to pass through in order to reach this magic wonderland.
9.) Discover for yourself – (Non credo)
In his lectures my father answered many questions from students. He would give elaborate and detailed answers that might take the class on a fascinating and inspiring journey to the far reaches of the galaxy or back to ancient times and conclude with practical and simple actions like chewing your food 100 times. However, there were also times when, in his typical broken English and a thick Japanese accent, he would respond to a question by simply saying, “Please discover for yourself.” Whenever he did this the room would fall into silent reverence of him, with everyone thinking of him as being a very wise sage who withheld answers and challenged his students to actively use their brains and think on their own. Little did they know that his response really just masked his own ignorance on the subject matter asked of him by the student. It was a clever little ploy that he used to encourage others to think instead of simply admitting his own ignorance and saying, “I don’t know.” Fortunately, his ploy worked. The students were inspired to discover for themselves. I was inspired to do so as well. Michio was wise after all.
More than just encouraging me to find answers to my own questions, “Please discover for yourself” had a much deeper meaning for me. It was also a suggestion to never blindly believe anything that anyone said or taught including my father. It meant for me to have a healthy skepticism about everything. It meant to never blindly believe anything 100% and to retain at least 1% of disbelief. Conversely it also meant to never reject anything 100% and retain at least a 1% possibility that something could be true. It meant to have an open mind about everything and always maintain that nothing is certain. It meant that if I wanted to discover the certainty in anything then it was up to me to find it and no one else. It meant that I would have to learn how to learn. It meant for me to learn how to use my brain and all other resources available to me. It meant learning how to ask the right questions. It also meant exposing and confronting my own ignorance and to never be arrogant about knowing anything. It meant becoming a self-reliant and free thinker. It meant learning to trust my own instincts and intuition. It meant to “discover myself” and, last but not least, it meant to always retain a humble sense of wonder and awe for everything.
Everything is moving and changing constantly in the universe and what we know is also always changing. Never believe 100% in anything. Always allow for a minimum of at least a 1% possibility that you or anyone could be wrong. Let that percent of disbelief, of “non credo”, no matter how small, be your inspiration to “discover yourself”. That percent of disbelief, doubt and self-discovery is your freedom, so never let it go. May you always “discover yourself”.
10.) Life Is Play
One of Michio’s favorite talks was to ask students what they thought was the purpose of life. They would stumble along with a variety of answers and usually settle on “making a difference” but then would finally be corrected by him. He would simply say, “Life is play” and explain that everyone came to earth to play. (Unfortunately, with his broken english accent some people were confused and thought he said “Life is Pray”. But they would be quickly corrected by their neighbors who understood him), “Life is play” – and that was it and there was nothing more.
In other words, there is no purpose in life other than to enjoy life itself. We can be so serious about life. We fight wars and kill each other. According to my father, why we do this is simply because we forgot that we came here to play. We became so absorbed and lost in playing our roles that we forgot who we are, where we came from and why we are here. We forgot that we are only actors on a world stage. We forgot that there is no purpose in life other than to play and enjoy it and when we do remember this then we no longer take things so seriously. We can rewrite the script and choose to play roles that makes us happy instead of ones that cause suffering. There is nothing to be gained or lost but our own enjoyment. Life is play and that is all.
JOHN LENNON SONG “IMAGINE” AND CLOSING WITH HARUO KUSHI
As Hisao said, our father, all of our father, or grandfather, was a dreamer. My brother, Phiya on the piano. And let’s all sing a happy song together, as we did with Dennis.
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today, ah haaa
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You hoo oo, you may say I’m a dreamer
but I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed of hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You hoo ooo
You may say, I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Thank you once again, everyone, for joining us this afternoon. You’re truly a part of our family. Represented on the stage here are all of Michio’s sons, children and grandchildren and we truly welcome you as part of our family and celebrate this time and this remembrance. Thank you so much everyone who shared here this afternoon. We invite everybody to a reception which is at the Marriot Copley Place as you know. It’s on the back of your program. It’s probably still cold out there but hopefully you’ll enjoy the brisk walk. There will be an opportunity at that time for other people to share their memories and their thoughts including my other brothers who you just heard from Phiya’s wonderful piano playing but you’ll be able to hear from them as well as everyone else who wants to take the time and opportunity to do so. And so, thank you very much. A handful of us will be available to say, “Thank you” – my uncle, Michio’s brother, Midori and the immediate sons will join us, join you towards the back of the sanctuary and, obviously, take your time to head over to the Marriot Copley Place. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done over the decades to really celebrate and carry the spirit of what my father’s life was about. We are all dreamers and we can change the world. Thank you.
This post is part of a series presenting full transcripts of speeches given at the Michio Kushi Memorial Service in Boston on January 31, 2015.
I am Hisao Kushi. I am the youngest of the boys and it’s quite a sight – all of you here. I am, I guess here to talk about what it was like to be Michio Kushi’s son which as you can imagine was quite and adventure. As you can tell from all of these speaker and I am sure all of you have each had your challenges sort of trying to describe what Michio Kushi was like ‘cause he sort broke a lot of boundaries in terms of categorization.
So one of the challenges that I had and I know that my brother’s had is, as a kid, when you’re in school every year, every couple of years you have to take these standardized tests and, you know, you fill in last name, “Kushi”, first name, “Hisao” and one of the questions right there is: Father’s Occupation. And that is a stumper right there, before you get to the test, that’s a problem.
So depending on the year I would pick a different occupation. So, one year I picked “teacher” because that’s what he did. Lots of people came to our house, they learned stuff, went out into the world. He would travel around the world, he would give lectures he would…so, I’m like, “teacher”! And of course, that becomes a thing, you know, “So! What does your Dad do?”- “He’s a teacher!” – “Oh, where does he teach?” – “Um, you know, Europe.” – “Is he a professor?” – “Mmm, not really!”
So, another year, because it became difficult to talk about him as a teacher, I wrote, and I remember this specifically, I wrote “author” and remember because I wasn’t quite sure how to spell it. But I wrote, “author” but I figured well that would be pretty simple because he writes books. So again, it’s one of those things where people would say, “Oh what does your father do?” – “Hey, he’s an author! He write books.” – “Oh, great! What kind of books?” – “Well, non-fiction? You know.” – “What are some of the books he’s written” – “Your Face Never Lies”.
As I got older, the answer to the question, “What does your father do” – I started to say, “He’s a philosopher”. And the thing is if you say, “philosopher” people are like – they don’t know what to do with that. “What does your father do?” – “He’s a philosopher.” – “Okay.” You know.
…he would say, “Make sure that your life’s goal, your life’s dream, is something that you can’t achieve during your lifetime.”
But I think that of the answers was sort of the most accurate because he was a big thinker. He was thinking about the big questions of the day. You know he would think about, “Why do we have five fingers? What is the nature of human violence? How do we raise people’s consciousness so that we end human sickness and tragedy?”
One of the things that I remember him telling me as a kid, and he’s probably mentioned this to all of you too, he would say, “Make sure that your life’s goal, your life’s dream, is something that you can’t achieve during your lifetime.” Right? You know, dream big! Try and get to sort of the fundamental questions and solve those.
And so, and his dream, as we’ve heard today and as we all knew, was a dream of One Peaceful World and that was a dream he shared with all of you and with us and allowed us to discover that it was a dream that we shared with him. And not only did he touch your lives, but his life was touched by all of you and so was all of us in the family. That made all of our lives including his much richer. It allowed him to do things the things that he wanted to do and that the world he felt called on him to do.
So, if I were answering that question today on the standardized test, and thank God I don’t have to, the real answer, and I think you’ve heard this throughout the speeches today is that he was a dreamer in a really simple and profound way. That was what he was at heart and for us, as his kids, the gift that he gave to us was the permission to dream big and to think about our place in the world and in the universe. That is I think something that is unique in our upbringing and that was at the foundation of who we are and how we think about our place in the world.
And so, as a big dreamer and, he was also a man of action, so he could dream big but was constantly full of energy, it is, I can’t lie – it’s sad as – to lose that. And so, I think it’s up to all of us to tap into those big dreams and to carry those forward in our lives. I love you Papa.
This post is part of a series presenting full transcripts of speeches given at the Michio Kushi Memorial Service in Boston on January 31, 2015.
Good afternoon. To Midori and the Kushi Family, to the members of the Kushi Institute and all of the Kushi organizations who are represented here worldwide – this gathering is really a testament to Michio Kushi’s impact on the world
I’m Dennis Kucinich and I first met Michio Kushi thirty years ago when he and Aveline made an extraordinary presentation about diet and nutrition at a church in the Cleveland area. Their insight about the relationship between physiognomy and health and dietary habits regaled that audience with the consequences of literally becoming what you eat, if you ate a lot of chicken, pork and other animal products.
As Michio and Aveline made their presentation and dramatically would extend their stomachs, as if to say, you eat a lot of cow products you’re going to have a big stomach. If you eat a lot of chicken you may end up with certain tendencies. Well as they made this presentation you saw the audience squirming in the nakedness of the anthropomorphic implications of appetites, speculating about the diet of the stranger sitting next to them, imagining human beings presenting subtly as barnyard animals. It was a moment of high humor worthy of James Thurber’s “A Thurber Carnival”, where animals acquired human traits. Michio and Aveline had made their point: You are what you eat, so take care.
Michio Kushi, perhaps better than anyone in the last century, understood the transformational and redemptive power of food, its relationship to personal health, environmental integrity and world peace. His East-West apostolate was a commitment to the transcendent power immanent in every moment, the communion of spirit and matter, yin and yang, which made the partaking of food a holy sacrament of divine nourishment of the temple of self.
Michio Kushi understood the condition of inner harmony of mind, body and spirit arrived at through the macrobiotic diet came from a quickening of vibration and light as the substance of food united with the person consuming it. Knowing that what is innermost becomes outermost, Michio Kushi took the theory of the unity of matter to a higher spiritual expression, that of human unity, that we are all one, interdependent, interconnected across an infinity of time and space.
The potential for human unity came from each individual taking responsibility for his or her own health, pursuing the diet of a compassionate, non-violent harvest, respecting, preserving all which inhabit the natural world from harm and so achieving the reconciliation with the natural world which the philosopher Thomas Berry said is the great work of our lives.
The great work of Michio Kushi’s life was to raise the consciousness of the world about the power of food, the essentiality of dietary choices, the path toward health which strengthens the body and liberates the spirit.
At this moment in human history where the biosphere is threatened by short-sighted agricultural policies which selfishly waste precious water resources, poison the land, befoul the air, pollute gene pools, it is the gentle spirit of Michio Kushi, which can lead us back towards a Garden Eden filled with fruits, vegetables and grains from the cornucopia of life, where all are fed and all live in harmony, and thus we can turn the myth of the Fall of Man into an At-One-Ment, a celebration of return to Grace, the achievement of Enlightenment – – One Peaceful World.
This was the vision of Michio Kushi, now it is his legacy, to be resurrected by us to help save the planet from destruction. To save it with regenerative agriculture, agro-ecological principles, plant-based diets and the rejection of war as an instrument of policy.
We who were privileged to share a day or blessed to share a lifetime with Michio knew his genius rested upon simplicity of thinking, of personal habit, of living, of eating. His gift for clarity enabled breakthrough thinking which accelerated evolutionary thought in human health, ushering in new insights into medicine and healing.
Michio Kushi’s philosophy and writings helped to make what was once called Alternative Medicine, mainstream. His partnership with Alex Jack produced world-acclaimed texts on disease prevention and the achievement of total health, principles which are now a bedrock of integrative medicine.
Michio’s message was not simply about the wholeness of food, it was about the wholeness of life: You do not have to suffer, you can live, enjoy a long life, and be happy. For some this may seem cliché, but for Michio Kushi, the attainment of health, happiness and inner peace was in fact a goal of life, as was love, the love of his family, especially his beloved partner and wife, Aveline.
And when Aveline passed, Michio faced a great crisis because his love was no longer with him on his journey. Those who knew him know that his health began to suffer. His vital energy waned. Then he met Midori and he was revitalized, summoned back to life. Through Midori he reclaimed his own spark of light and love, which he carried forth to his final days.
In 1999, I had the honor of welcoming Michio and Aveline Kushi to Washington, DC, at the celebration of the acquisition of their collection by the Smithsonian. A few days later, I introduced Michio Kushi to a major committee of the House of Representatives where he testified how a macrobiotic diet could be a powerful therapy for women suffering from certain types of cancer. As he concluded his testimony he added, joyfully, disease prevention or recovery could be enhanced by singing a happy song, every day. And he gave the Congressional Committee and example like “You are My Sunshine.”
So, let us take his wisdom, and at this moment call forth that expressive power of his joy. Please join me, if you wish, oh yes, in singing just a few lines from Michio’s happy song, “You are My Sunshine” and let’s sing a few lines to Michio:
“You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine,
You make me happy,
When skies are grey.
You’ll never know dear,
How much I love you,
Please don’t take
My sunshine away.”
Our lives will forever be warmed by the mere thought of you, dear Michio.
We abide in your light and your light abides in us. Thank you.