One of the best parts of my job is the people I get to meet — driven, fun, inspiring and vegan. I want you to meet them, too. I really want us all to cook and eat dinner together, but you’re busy, I’m busy, they’re busy. So starting this month, I’m introducing the Vegan of the Month Club, interviews with fab vegans worth knowing — activists, chefs, farmers, artists, athletes, v-commerce geniuses and who knows, maybe you.
Yes, you. You’re pretty terrific. Tell me why you should be Vegan of the Month in 100 words or less. Each month, I’ll pick a winner and feature you in my blog for all the world to see. We kick off the series with John Robbins, who led the way
for so many of us, who went vegan long before it was cool.
Stay tuned. Next month, it could be you.
~ John Robbins ~
This is not a new story. In fact, it’s one of mankind’s great mythical archetypes. Joseph Campbell summed up the gist in his 1949 seminal work, The Hero With a Thousand Faces:
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
Cool. Buddha did it. So, many years later, did John Robbins. I’m not suggesting Robbins, who eschewed his family’s ice cream fortune (his father is the Robbins of Baskin and Robbins) to found EarthSave, become an advocate for meatlessness and write bestselling books including the classic “The Food Revolution” is any kind of Buddha. Well, maybe I am. We all are. We’ve all got the capacity for heroism.
“Each person can ask what’s one positive thing I can do this day, this minute that will make me feel more hopeful, more positive,” says Robbins.
Even ever-upbeat Robbins admits being positive is a challenge these days. “The impact our society has on the planet is egregious. There are so many human beings polluting at a level that’s utterly unprecedented, utterly unsustainable,” he says. “When something is unsustainable, it cannot continue. We’re heading for a cliff, full speed ahead.”
No one said a hero’s lot would be easy. Mythical heroes from Ulysses to Harry Potter suffer trials and setbacks along the road. I mean, come on, “Hero with a Thousand Faces” is your basic good versus evil story. But cheer up. You, too, can be a hero, and that’s no myth.
“There’s a growing awareness, more consciousness,” says Robbins. “Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Jonathan Safran Foer. There’s documentaries of GMOs and the devastation from factory farming, there are increasing numbers of people aware their food doesn’t come from the market or the restaurant, it’s sourced from the earth.”
The pivotal part of the hero’s experience, the payoff, is enlightenment. It took Buddha six years to get there. We can get there faster, especially with a diet that’s plant-rich, not processed. “Junk food screws with blood sugar, health, neurological well-being. There’s less consciousness, less inner peace, less joy, less capacity to respond intelligently and efficiently,” says Robbins, who with his son Ocean now heads The Food Revolution Network, a nonprofit with the mission of “healthy, sustainable, humane and conscious food for all.”
Pretty impressive. But if your own hero’s journey takes you no further than the dining room table, it can still be profound. Making healthier food choices “is a leverage point. The good from it is incalculable. It affects so many dimensions of our lives,” says Robbins. “Healthy eating, conscious eating, eating with respect for yourself and the environment and the other people is a very powerful act. It’s a singular act in its level of impact. It’s not about avoiding or reducing your risk of heart disease or cancer or looking and feeling better — that’s very nice, but it’s the tip of the iceberg in terms of the wonderful things that take place.”
We’re all capable of doing and eating better. We can be heroes, to quote David Bowie. Even if we don’t come from money or ice cream. And we can all live happily, meatlessly ever after.
Want more? Here’s my Culinate interview with Robbins.