So much is at stake in our times. Whether we like it or not, and whether we accept it or not, the choices we make, individually and collectively, in the coming years will make an incredible amount of difference, perhaps more so than at any other time in the history of life on this planet. It is not just the quality of our personal lives and health that depends, now, on the choices we make. The destiny of life on Earth is up for grabs. And we are each part of how it will turn out.
I am thinking, now, about some of the truly wonderful people I have had the privilege and pleasure of working closely with, who have died during the past few years. I’m remembering Cesar Chavez [co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association], John Denver, Raul Julia, Linda McCartney, Helen Nearing, David Brower, Donella Meadows, Danaan Parry, Cleveland Amory, and River Phoenix — people who stood for, worked for, and dedicated their lives to the creation of a thriving, sustainable, and compassionate world.
Though each has passed on, their love and commitment are still very much with me. I miss them and I’m sad they are gone, and yet they give me strength. To me, they are heroes.
Living a Life of Meaning & Magnificence
These people have taught me that there are two things you need to know if you want to live a life of great meaning and magnificence. The first thing you must not forget is that heroic people don’t always conform to what is popular at a given time. You must be willing to be out of step with public opinion. This was true of the founders of the United States — most colonists were content with dependence on England. It was true of Abraham Lincoln — most Northerners didn’t want blacks to be free or equal. It was true of Susan B. Anthony — even most women at the time weren’t in favor of women voting. And it is true today. If you are going to be a voice for the future, you can’t be a creature of the current fads.
The other thing that you must never forget, if you want to be a bringer of the dawn, is that it’s no use trying to be perfect. The people I have known who have moved the world were all flawed human beings, like you and me. But they didn’t let that stop them. They knew that it is part of our glory as human beings that, even with our imperfections and wounds, we can still help heal and cherish each other and our beautiful planet.
Making Choices & Serving the Greater Healing
In the years to come, other dedicated people will also leave us. Some, like the people I’ve mentioned, will be well known and recognized as influential. Most, though, will have lived relatively anonymous lives, making choices and working without public recognition, serving the greater healing for which we all pray as well as they could, given the circumstances of their lives. There is no calculating the debt humanity owes those who labor without receiving much validation or affirmation for their efforts, who bring faith even where there seems to be only doubt, and who bring love even where there seems to be only indifference or hate.
When each of us comes to the end of our lives, what will matter is not what our social standing was, or whether the world thought we were important or influential. What will matter, what in fact always matters, are the values we uphold and the principles and possibilities we stand for. What will matter then, and what matters now, are the quality of the love we share with the world and the statements we make with our choices and our lives.
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Your Actions Matters! Your Life Matters!
Far too often, our culture today tells us a tremendous lie. It tells us that we don’t, as individuals, make a difference unless we happen to be one of the “rich and famous.” But nothing could be further from the truth.
Your life does matter. It always matters whether you reach out in friendship or lash out in anger. It always matters whether you live with compassion and awareness or whether you succumb to distractions and trivia. It always matters how you treat other people, how you treat animals, and how you treat yourself. It always matters what you do. It always matters what you say. And it always matters what you eat.
Making Your Life an Instrument for a Better Future
When you choose to affirm the dignity inherent in life and to uphold the beauty, the magic, and the mystery of the living Earth, something happens. It happens whether or not anyone else recognizes your efforts, and it happens regardless of how wounded and flawed you are. What happens is you join the long lineage of human beings who have stood for and helped to bring about a future worthy of all the tears and prayers our species has known. Your life becomes a statement of human possibility. Your life becomes an instrument through which a healthier, more compassionate, and more sustainable future will come to be.
Cesar Chavez, John Denver, Raul Julia, Linda McCartney, Helen Nearing, David Brower, Donella Meadows, Danaan Parry, Cleveland Amory, River Phoenix, and many others like them have left us. But every day, new heroes are being born. They are born at every age and at every stage of life. They are the people who hear the call of the future and seek, with their lives, to answer it. Perhaps you know someone like this. Perhaps you are one of them.
Thank you for doing what you can to bring hope where there has been despair and light where there has been darkness. Thank you for listening to life. Thank you for acting on its behalf.
May all be fed. May all be healed. May all be loved.
Reprinted with permission of Conari Press,
an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser LLC. ©2001,2011.
The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and the World
by John Robbins. (10th anniversary edition)
About the Author
John Robbins is the author of Diet for a New America, The Food Revolution, and the widely acclaimed Reclaiming Our Health. His life and work have been featured on the PBS special, Diet for a New America. Groomed to follow in the footsteps of his father, founder of the Baskin-Robbins empire, he chose a different, more authentic path for himself. John is considered to be one of the most eloquent and powerful spokespersons in the world for a sane, ethical and sustainable future. Visit his website http://www.foodrevolution.org/