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If Not Now, When?

by Morgan Jones

05 May 2002

This week my favorite teacher at The Natural Epicurean (the healing-cuisine cooking school in Austin), Dawn Steinborn, was away in Dallas to be with her mother when Dawn’s stepfather, George, died of liver cancer. Mercifully, George did not linger or suffer for too long after his diagnosis. His cancer was extremely aggressive, and he courageously chose not to extend his struggle with radical treatments that might have added a month or two to his life but most certainly would have made those months agonizingly painful. George was a very brave, an honorable, and a good man whose loyalty and devotion were demonstrated daily.

On several occasions over the past few years Dawn had gone to Dallas to cook for her stepfather when his health had faltered before. In each case, when George’s strength returned, he would revert to his old habits of consuming his favorite
and not so healthyfood and drink. Dawn was, I suspect, disappointed, but her readiness to help never flagged.

Herman Aihara (revered and much loved macrobiotic teacher) once told me that unless we love the front of a person (the good qualities) and the back of that same person (the things we might consider faults or character flaws), we do not truly love them. For as Herman explained, the front and the back come as a single package. They are inseparable. I thought about what Herman said and realized that I could easily understand his premise on an intellectual level, but that practicing this kind of true love on a daily basis is tougher than it might seem to be.

I am always in awe of Dawn for her ability to truly love the people around her. I have never met anyone who can so completely love the front and the back of others. Dawn loved her stepfather in this way
in no small part because her stepfather loved Dawn’s mother. Reason enough. And Dawn accepted that the wisdom she could have shared with George that might well have lengthened and improved the quality of his life was not a gift that would be accepted. George made, as we all do, his own choices. No matter. Dawn never loved George any less. But neither did she love herself any less for her inability to succeed in this particular situation. She evens loves the front and the back of herself.

We are all defined by the choices we make
each and every moment of each and every day. And these choices make up the front and the back of us. Should I choose to live my life with wild abandon and let my children care for my degenerating body and mind when I start to give out? Should I eat in a way that creates more aggression and less peacefulness within me and let the rest of the world deal with the consequences? I have insurance, so it won’t cost me anything when I get sick. Do I have something to live for that will sustain my heart through 75 or 85 or even 95 years of life? Do I love myself in a way that makes it possible for others to truly love the real me? Maybe I will start taking better care of myself as soon as the kids are out of high school / I finish my big project at work / I get mom settled in the nursing home / I get the car loan paid off. Maybe instead of taking care of myself, I will settle for trying to convince several of my friends to take better care of themselves.

A lot of folks who stop by The Natural Epicurean think that they teach cooking classes. And, I guess they do. But what they are really about is sharing some simple wisdom that we students of macrobiotics have been privileged to receive from our teachers:


  1. Health is the natural state of human existence.

  2. Most people in our culture die from degenerative diseases resulting from diet and lifestyle choices.

  3. When we take better care of our physical health, our mental, emotional and spiritual health improves.

  4. Getting older doesn’t have to mean hip replacements, medication for life, disability, loss of flexibility, or pain.

  5. Doctors and naturopaths are valuable, but each of us is smart enough to discover what will truly make us healthier and more peaceful.

  6. Happiness is a choicenot a destination.

  7. We are each personally responsible for our own healthwe are free to make our own choices.


But what the heck? The food we macrobiotic teachers cook while we share these ideas is pretty darn delicious. And we have so much fun creating community and friendships among those who take part in our seminars, lectures, and cooking classes. So pick any rationale you like, but come and join us soon. Then you can start to expand your own front.

And while we would very much appreciate it if you would tell your friends about our humble seminars and lectures, we would like it much more if you just brought yourself to one.


Peace, love, and brown rice,


Last modified: 02/21/05