Rebuilding Lasting Value

Rounding a sharp turn on an icy road at dusk last winter I suddenly came upon a large bull elk, standing motionless in the middle of the road. The very large animal straddled the entire highway. There was not enough room to drive around it. I had a split second to decide what to do.

As soon as I discovered I would not be able to stop in time due to lack of traction on the icy road, without thought or hesitation—both luxuries the moment would not allow—I pressed hard and continuously on the horn.

Something told me this magnificent animal could and would react in time to this warning blast, and that it would not freeze in terror as deer are apt to do. Mentally, I projected the thought, “Oh great one, your life and mine are in grave danger. Remove yourself IMMEDIATELY to avoid harm to us both.” I felt my spirit connect with this animal’s spirit. I sensed he saw me and understood my warning.

Immediately, I felt the immense power of this huge animal explode into life. Summoning all his strength, he made what must have been 1 ton of body mass overcome inertia and, with one dramatic bound, leap to safety on the hillside beyond the road, a distance of around 20 feet. Looking back as if to thank me for warning him, he disappeared into the forest as my car hurtled past, both of us safe and unscathed.

I had experienced a mystical moment of unity with another intelligent creature that was completely capable of self-preservation. I felt a deep respect for that life, and a desire to avoid harming that being. Was this non-accident itself an “accident” or was an accident avoided because of my diet and lifestyle? I feel the ability to avoid accidents can and does depend on how integrated we are spiritually with the universe of which we are part. And that can depend on how well we are eating and drinking, and how well our lifestyles mesh with the order of the universe.

Modern thinking would have us believe that accidents are purely mechanical affairs that follow predictable laws involving inertia and momentum. Striking an animal that attempts to cross the road while we are driving down the road is considered an unfortunate and unavoidable accident.

Yet achieving the ability to avoid harm by being one with the universe is a goal of all Oriental martial arts. The greatest masters are those who become part of the flow of life, and move in harmony with this flow. 

Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, used to demonstrate how he could avoid getting shot by people who were told to try to shoot him. Sensei Ueshiba, anticipating the shooters’ intentions, would avoid the bullets fired at him, approach the shooter, and disarm him without injury.

One winter day some years ago a friend offered me a ride the next morning to an appointment 30 miles from my home. I accepted the offer gratefully.

That evening, as I tried to get some rest, a nagging ominous feeling of danger hung in the air. Whenever I tried to lay down to rest I had the distinct feeling that if I went to sleep I would be laying down in my grave.

The feeling was so overwhelming that I finally left the house and got out on the road to hitchhike to my destination at around 10 PM, something I would not attempt normally at that time of night, especially in the middle of the winter.

As soon as I had left the house the feeling of dread left me. As I stood and started thumbing a ride the feeling of doom subsided even further. By the time I had reached a friend’s house in the neighboring town, I felt totally safe and had a deep feeling I had done the right thing.

The next day when I returned home I ran into the friend who had offered to give me a ride. She recounted how lucky I was to not have been in the car with her. When I asked why, she pointed to a wrecked car nearby that I then recognized was the car I would have been riding in. When I looked at the passenger’s seat area where I would have been riding, I noticed the frame had completely collapsed into the area where I would have been riding.

My friend recounted how she had been driving in a snowstorm with very limited visibility. All of the sudden she was able to see a van in the middle of the road, waiting to make a left-hand turn off the highway. My friend attempted to avoid the van by sharply swerving to the left. However, all the maneuver accomplished was to change the point of impact from the front to the passenger’s side.

Michio Kushi told me about a macrobiotic young man who was traveling on a train in Japan. He sensed that he would be in grave danger if he did not get off the train before the next stop. He immediately jumped off the train and rolled safely down the hillside bordering the train tracks. Later he learned that the train had crashed and a number of people were killed or injured. The accident occurred right after he had jumped from the train.

In today’s world very few people can understand the importance of achieving unity with the order of the universe or entertain the notion that such a condition even exists or can be achieved. With macrobiotics, as with martial arts, this is a goal. True health, true happiness, and true peace are based on achieving this state of being.

Learning to “live within our limitations” was a favorite phrase of Herman Aihara. Wisdom to a fool appears to be foolishness. Foolishness to a wise man appears to be folly. Who is correct, the wise man or the fool? The fool is convinced the only way to achieve wisdom is through trial and error. Hopefully, we can become wise before doing serious injury to ourselves and/or others.

The way of the wise man is cautious and respects the order of the universe. To the fool, there is no order of the universe. To the fool, one should simply strive to enjoy oneself as often and as much as possible, doing whatever strikes one’s fancy. Curiously, to the fool this way resembles the way of a free man as Ohsawa describes it: to do whatever he (or she) wants from morning to night.

To me one reason we study macrobiotics is because we have realized after a number of tragedies, misfortunes, and illnesses that our judgment is so flawed that we are in grave danger of harming ourselves irreparably, or even of causing our own demise. In other words, we have decided that we need help. We start seeking answers, hoping that even with our limited and flawed judgment we can discern what will help us and what will not.

Why for some people is life a series of “accidents,” while for others it is a relatively accident-free experience? Judgment! Judgment—the intangible mental, emotional, spiritual process by which we decide what is right and what is not; the ability to discern what will lead to tragedy and what will lead to happiness; the instinctive ability to avoid undue hardship and remove oneself from uncontrollably risky situations.

A wise person listens and learns from his teachers and the wisdom of the ages. A foolish person thinks he or she knows what is best in each situation. Yes, we must learn to think for and by ourselves, but at the same time listen and learn from those who have gone before us. Such a respect for teachers and traditional values is the cornerstone of a peaceful and well-functioning society. A society directed by the sensorial and sentimental directives dictated by the foolish is doomed to collapse in its own folly, and to commit unspeakable horrors along the way.

It is up to each of us to be willing to listen to the wisdom of our teachers with respect and consideration, and to honor and learn from them. It is the responsibility of teachers to be good role models—examples of moderation, wisdom, balance, patience, modesty, respectfulness, thoughtfulness, diligence, courage, determination, kindness, consideration, and most importantly, all-embracing love.

We cannot know a world of decency until we incorporate these values into our everyday world. It all boils down to this: to do unto others what we would have them do unto us, and to love and appreciate others as we would like to be loved and appreciated.

Striving to live by these core values will change the world. When we restore within ourselves an appreciation for human dignity and the value of life, we can then begin to help others restore it within their lives. That is the way we rebuild a world of shattered dreams and broken promises into a world of lasting value.

--Fred Pulver