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Michio Kushi Memorial Service Speeches – Alex Jack

May 17, 2015

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.



Thank you Evan and Eric. I am not sure I am up to equaling their wonderful memories and presentation.  I’ve prepared some remarks including putting Michio in context, but I do have one amusing story that I would like to share with you.

Michio Kushi touched the lives of tens of thousands of individuals and families—often one by one—with his personal advice and guidance, as well as his lectures, seminars, and conferences. He transformed the lives of millions with Erewhon, his pioneer natural and organic foods company, and with his books, videos, and cassettes. He influenced billions with the breakthrough scientific and medical studies he inspired at Harvard Medical School, the Framingham Heart Study, and other medical centers that led to new national and international dietary guidelines and the transition toward a predominantly plant-based diet. He changed the way America and the modern world eats and heals.

And, parenthetically, I might add that just this afternoon as we checked in at the Marriot Copley Hotel, being a good macrobiotic, I looked at the – the first thing I did – even before looking at the television, was looking at the Room Service menu and I was delighted to find that among all the food that were offered was short grain brown rice, for Room Service!  Amazing!

Of course Michio changed – he set the direction for realizing humanity’s eternal dream of one healthy, peaceful world. As a catalyst for calm, steady, orderly change, Michio’s impact on our era is boundless. He and his devoted wife Aveline trained a generation of whole foods teachers, chefs, and food producers. They taught a generation of healers, physicians, and other health care practitioners how to diagnose, prevent, and relieve chronic and acute disease naturally without, for the most part, harmful drugs, surgery, and scans. They inspired the first prison projects to rehabilitate offenders with diet. Their students brought together warring Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Middle East. They introduced nondenominational spiritual training practices that led to union with the universal spirit, with God, or what Michio called One Infinity.

Like Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other great teachers of life, Michio was not always understood or appreciated in his lifetime. Like them, he had flaws and deficiencies. But in the unfolding chronicle of history, Michio will be remembered as one of humanity’s greatest prophets, healers, and spiritual teachers.

There are many teaching stories and memories of Michio, as we have heard this afternoon. In the years to come, they will be collected, circulated, and cherished. I would like to share with you just one treasured memory that illustrates his kindly spirit, merry sense of humor, and light, amusing teaching style.

 Michio, as many of you know, was renowned for his sharp intuition of food quality. From a single taste, he could discern every ingredient in a food or dish, as well as each step of its cultivation, harvesting, food processing, and cooking.

Kushi Institute Main House in Becket, MA

Kushi Institute Main House in Becket, MA

The first time I managed the Kushi Institute in Becket in the late 1980s, we had a staff dinner on Friday evenings in the then small staff dining room behind the kitchen in the Main House. We had just completed our weeklong Residential Program and that evening Michio was still counseling and joined us late after we had finished eating. It was the main dinner of the week, usually featuring fish or a special tofu or tempeh dish for those who preferred a vegan option. That night, as I recall, we had prepared cod, red snapper, or some other white-meat fish and were all relaxing after a rewarding, but long, intense week.

When Michio’s consultation was over and he joined us, we immediately made him a plate of brown rice, veggies, and sea veggies, as well as a generous portion of the fish. We had a congenial conversation while he ate, but soon we noticed that he was eating the rice and veggies, but hadn’t touched the fish. “Aren’t you going to taste the delicious fish?” someone asked. “It’s really fresh and tender.” Michio smiled and said very simply, “It’s not good.” “What!!??”, we all thought! It was nicely cooked, balanced with ginger, lemon, or daikon, and very delicious. Again, we remonstrated with him that we all enjoyed the fish, and he should have some to replenish his energy.

Without saying a word, Michio stood up with a bemused expression and went to the radiator where Marbles, the nearly blind calico cat was sleeping by the windowsill. Marbles was the last survivor from the former Franciscan monastery that occupied the Becket property for many years and had one barely functioning eye. Michio carefully awakened Marbles, picked him up and set him on the floor, and took a piece of fish from his own plate and put it on a saucer in front of this elderly cat. Marbles bent down and with his one eye, looked at the morsel. After smelling the fish, Marbles turned up its nose, fluttered its tail, and turned around and proceeded to resume its nap by the radiator.

We were all left speechless. Even old Marbles, the blind antique cat wouldn’t touch the fish and had better intuition than all of us senior teachers and expert cooks combined! He hadn’t lost his marbles after all. We had!

Without another word, Michio resumed his place and finished his meal. No one said a word. No one had to. Michio—a Tiger in the Far Eastern Zodiac—had gently proved his point. He was a genial big cat at heart, a tiger sleeping in the bamboo forest, as he liked to say, but one that slept lightly and kept an eye open to protect the other creatures of the jungle. Our ignorance was boundless! With that one wordless gesture, he showed us how infinitely more there was to learn. Truly, Michio was an amazing teacher of life.

Scientific and medical studies are increasingly documenting the benefits of macrobiotic and allied holistic approaches. Just before Michio died, researchers at Tufts University and Johns Hopkins Medical School approached us at Kushi Institute to cooperate in the first controlled, randomized clinical trial of a macrobiotic approach to breast cancer. In our last meeting with Michio in December, a few weeks before he died, Edward Esko and I went in to Brookline and reported on this development. Michio was thrilled. If successful, it would realize his and Aveline’s dream of nearly fifty years. It would contribute to a new treatment paradigm and help millions of women and their families. It is simply a matter of time, as Michio predicted, before macrobiotic principles and practices, though often under various names and forms, will govern society.

Like Moses, Jesus, Lincoln, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Michio did not overcome his final challenge. He suffered a sudden health crisis brought on by too much speaking, counseling, and traveling during the last year of his life, as he went the extra mile to spread his message of enduring health and peace.

In a talk to the Levels students last spring, Michio shared a poem that he had composed about Jesus sacrificing his life for humanity. The poem went like this:

For One or for Them

I become Food

Nourishing Their Life and Dream…..

And I Die

In retrospect, Michio’s last poem was prophetic about his own destiny. Though he failed to cross the river Jordan himself, he led the modern era through the Wilderness to the Promised Land. He passed the torch on to us and the next generation to lead modern society safely through, what he called, “the Spiral of History” , into the New Era of Humanity. He was truly a man of the age and a man for the ages.

Farewell, dear Michio. May your spirit ascend peacefully into the world of light on the wings of our prayers and thoughts. May you become one with the universal spirit on your eternal spiritual journey through the stars. May we be in loving harmony forever. Thank you.

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