“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell,” wrote Edward Abby. The last couple of days, I’ve been reading the unbound pages of a new book by John Robbins, author of the mega bestseller, Diet for a New America. As many people in cyberspace know, Robbins was the heir apparent of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream fortune. But he walked away from all that wealth and certainty to be what I have been thinking of as a kind of ’60’s Amercian Socrates. I mean, he began to question very, very deeply the Baskin-Robbins slogan: “We make people happy.” He was driven to penetrate beneath the surface and connect with the source of happiness; and he and his wife settled down to a demanding but richly meaningful life living off land (they grew and at so much kale they almost named their son Kale instead of Ocean). To make the story very, very short, he and his wife and ultimately his son and grandchildren devoted themselves to living a consciously and carefully–not as consumers but as citizens of a planet. Even after Diet for New America sold millions of copies, Robbins continued to live simply. He took seriously the ancient advice about making decisions for the seventh generation…and a good and well-intentioned friend encouraged him to invest his money.
His new book , which is due out in May, is called The New Good Life (May, Random House). We are going to be excerpting it in our upcoming “Life After Death” issue because it is about living beyond your worst nightmare. John Robbins is one more good man who suffered great loss at the hands of Bernie Madoff. But he has also come out of this dark night of loss with a message about the liberation that can come when we die to a life that draws most of its meaning and well being from consuming, from dreams of endless expansion.
Now the Christian world is in Lent, which comes from the Old English word “lencten,” which means springtime. How interesting it is that a word that denotes the 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter, a period that means going without, comes from an ancient word for a new beginning. Lent is also related to the word “lend,” which also makes inner sense since we are asked to dethrone ourselves from the center of our own worlds. We are asked to give up, to become inwardly poor, empty, so that we may receive. I think it’s time, don’t you?