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Steve Jobs et al., Mea Culpa

November 12, 2011

As promised, this post is a follow-up to my last post here regarding Steve Jobs and Macrobiotics.

I never met Steve Jobs and have very little information concerning his cancer and his use of macrobiotics other than what was reported in the news, specifically on 60 Minutes in this video here, and therefore do not have enough information to comment intelligently on his particular situation.  What I can do is share my overall thoughts on this topic as well as comment on the subsequent responses from other macrobiotic advocates, many of whom I personally know.

I am personally disappointed that more than one of my fellow macrobiotic colleagues have taken the negative publicity to distance and excuse themselves of any blame, responsibility and opportunity to reflect on the overall social impact of macrobiotics by suggesting that Steve Jobs did not understand or practice macrobiotics properly.  It is this type of arrogance that continues to plague the macrobiotic movement and have it stagnate and descend into a fanatical cult of blind followers who do nothing but criticize the world and claim that they alone have all the answers.

Is it only those who are successful in beating cancer and other diseases the ones who practice macrobiotics correctly?  If so, then by this logic renowned macrobiotic leaders and persons such as my mother, Aveline, who died of cervical cancer, my sister, Lily, Herman and Cornelia Aihara and so many others; and even macrobiotic pioneer, George Ohsawa, himself are among those failures of macrobiotics.  And if they did not understand macrobiotics correctly then who are these other people to judge who is successful with macrobiotics and who is not?  Who are they to judge whether someone understands it correctly and has been following the “supreme 7th level of intuitive judgement” or not?

On the other hand, let us assume that their allegations are correct – that Jobs misunderstood macrobiotics – then whose fault is it that he misunderstood macrobiotics?  Certainly not Jobs himself.  He is the victim.  It would fall upon those that accuse him for misunderstanding to be responsible ones for not conveying macrobiotics accurately to him and to the masses.  But nowhere is this admission and acceptance of responsibility publicly expressed by them.  Why is this so?  How did a movement with so much promise descend into such self-righteous and fanatical arrogance – censoring and blaming all that is negative about macrobiotics upon others because they do not “understand” and “practice” macrobiotics in the “right” way (like an intellectual version of a fascist dictator who dismisses and eliminates his opponents for speaking out against his rule)?

Ohsawa outlined and promoted several simple and useful mottos or principles to live by and essential to a healthy macrobiotic life including “non-credo” and “one grain, ten thousand grains.”  These have been reiterated countless times by macrobiotic promoters.  But often overlooked yet equally valuable is Ohsawa’s idea of “mea culpa” (Latin for “my fault” or “my responsibility”).  When it is mentioned by some then it is usually done only in the context of acknowledging and taking responsibility for one’s health and life choices and by doing so, empowering one’s self to change for the better. But I believe there is a much deeper and significant meaning to “mea culpa”, (distinct from its religious connotations) which can also provide insight into the decline of the macrobiotic movement.

I believe that “mea culpa” can also define a spirit of responsibility, obligation and acknowledgement that I am not alone in the universe; that I am one with the universe; and that all my actions, including my inaction, have influence upon everything.  Therefore, by my actions and my inaction, I influence and cause change in the universe and, hence, all that happens is my fault – mea culpa.  To live consciously and fully with this awareness and to do one’s best to create peace and harmony is to live and embody what I call a “spirit of mea culpa”.

I am certain that Ohsawa and my parents embraced the “spirit of mea culpa” (even “mea maxima culpa”).  They took it upon themselves to heal the world.  Indeed, when Michio left Japan for the US in 1949 and bid farewell to his macrobiotic mentor, George Ohsawa, he promised that he would take full responsibility for the destiny of all people in the world (see video clip here: ).

My parents subsequently devoted their entire lives to spread macrobiotics for the health and peace of the entire world.  Their efforts helped launch the natural and organic foods movements, the alternative health industry and caused a shift in dietary awareness around the world. They lived the “spirit of mea culpa”.

Although macrobiotics continues to spread, I believe my parent’s effort to change the world reached its peak in the mid 1970s.  It has since become one of many “alternative” approaches to health and diet, despite (or perhaps because of) the valiant efforts of subsequent promoters.  I believe this happened, even in the face of much success, for the same reason that all movements eventually fail: hubris or arrogance  – because the leaders forgot the “spirit of mea culpa”.

As the movement became more involved in healing persons with cancer, even my father began to dismiss and blame failed cases to the lack of macrobiotic understanding on the part of the clients.  While in many cases this technically may have been true, my father, in his hubris, failed to take on the deeper responsibility and self-reflective opportunities embodied by the spirit of  mea culpa.  Since then macrobiotic leaders, despite their wonderful and ongoing work to spread macrobiotics and while they may reflect upon and take responsibility for their own actions, they do not live or embody the spirit of mea culpa.  Not only do they not take responsibility for the regrets of Steve Jobs but they will not take responsibility for the actions of their own colleagues. They do not collectively embrace the spirit of mea culpa and instead continue to blame the victims and each other.

I mourn the loss of Steve Jobs, a great man and innovative thinker, and am deeply saddened that he tried to address his health problems with macrobiotic methods alone and then later regret not having had a surgery which might have prolonged his life.  It has given me pause to reflect deeply not just on his untimely and unnecessary death, but upon the premature and unnecessary deaths of everyone everywhere – past, present and future.  Having committed my life to promoting macrobiotics all I can do is feel a deep responsibility and ask myself, what more could I do for them?  What can I do that will help others make better choices and, hopefully, avoid premature death?  I also ask myself:  Why don’t macrobiotic leaders come together in the spirit of mea culpa and create a collective and ongoing effort to declare and take on the full responsibility of the destiny of humanity? Why do they not embrace negativity in the spirit of mea culpa and rejoice in the opportunity that brings for self-reflection? I do not know, but I will take full responsibility for this.

Thank you Steve Jobs, for in your death you re-awoke in me the spirit of mea culpa – mea maxima culpa.


I look upon the world and all its problems.

I see many who die prematurely and unnecessarily.

It is my fault.  I am to blame and take full responsibility for this, mea culpa!

Because of this I choose to guard my own health; to eat a simpler diet and live closer to and in harmony with nature.  I choose a macrobiotic path.

I look upon the world and all its problems.

I see the destruction of earth and the greed of man.

It is my fault.  I am to blame and take full responsibility for this, mea culpa!

Because of this I choose a simple and cooperative life and take only what I need and give the rest away.

I look upon the world and all its problems.

I see wars and conflicts caused by intolerance, fear and perverted beliefs.

It is my fault.  I am to blame and take full responsibility for this, mea culpa!

Because of this I choose to believe in nothing yet have faith in everyone.

I look upon the world and all its problems.

I see violence, loneliness and misery everywhere.

It is my fault.  I am to blame and take full responsibility for this, mea culpa!

Because of this I choose to love my fellow humans with all my heart at all times even when they do not love me.

Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa!

Let us each take on the full weight of the world

and together, with 7 billion of us, we only need carry one 7 billionth of the weight.

It will not be enough if we take on only one 7 billionth of the worlds’ problems.

We must, each on our own, commit to taking on 100% of the weight of whole world including each others’ burdens.

Because I live and breath and share this planet with you then I am responsible for you and everyone else.

Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Grace permalink
    November 12, 2011 8:49 pm

    This post is moving. Thank you so very much. How often do we look upon our neighbour or friend, family member and coworker and judge them for this thing or that thing without ever holding the mirror up to ourselves? My gosh, we don’t even realize we are behaving in this way. And why? Because we are asleep, like machines that automatically do but never pause to reflect on their actions. We are not machines! We must do and be better and act consciously in our lives and relationships with others. It’s imperative. It is our responsibility. We forget that the seed which is planted today to grow a tree, although we may not live to see it mature in all its glory, is not solely for our benefit in this NOW but more so for the lives of future generations. As a result of our labours today, the future benefits. This is selflessness. This is what Macrobiotics means to me. To be able to see life from a place of essence and not personality which concerns itself with little things. Essence on the other hand does not boast or judge, nor does it claim to know what is best. It simply is. Macrobiotics has no time for our pettiness and ego driven tendencies. It is a living breathing entity that demands more from us than a “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude. That kind of behaviour is for the small minded which embodies a micro view of the world as opposed to a macro view which encompasses all things. I must strive to always hold the mirror up to myself in order to be the change I want to see in the world.

  2. Marcia Berry permalink
    November 12, 2011 9:27 pm

    Dear Phiya,
    Your reflections moved me to tears. You are right to remind us to accept this responsibility. (I felt the same after 9/11.) Thank you for this reminder of the true spirit of macrobiotics.

  3. Tristana Nunez permalink
    November 13, 2011 6:13 am

    Thank you Phiya!

  4. November 15, 2011 7:34 am

    Hi Phyia,

    Your post touched me. After many years of various teaching macrobiotics (including cajoling, imposing, proselytizing, begging, threatening, scaring others and feeling guilty for not doing enough) I wondering now if “getting it“ is a form of grace. And the best teaching method is a good practice.

    Keep up your great work.

    Btw, The Macrobiotic Centre of Toronto has a location and is underway. I will forward website info as soon as it`s built!


  5. November 15, 2011 7:35 am

    Okay, I should brush up on my grammar!.

  6. claire fitzgerald pound daring permalink
    November 15, 2011 12:55 pm

    Dear Phyia thankyou.

  7. December 21, 2013 1:50 pm

    Dear Phiya Kushi,

    Today i have read this in our Dutch macrobiotic paper in The Netherlands. I am bachelor in food and management from Wageningen the Netherlands. After i have study macrobiotics in Belgium and on Kushi Instituut Amsterdam all levels. I have cure myself from chronic liversickness with macrobiotics. Happy and i have a webstie my debut book in this week present. I am agree about your vision about some macrobiotic teachers. When you have time for it it looks me good to speak about it by e mail.


    Vincent Gerdsen.

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