“He who dies with the most toys wins.” – Malcolm Forbes
“I have no desire to replace conspicuous consumption with conspicuous frugality.” – John Robbins
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“More than forty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described one of the foremost problems with the old good life. ‘We are prone,’ he said, ‘to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobile rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to mankind.’ “
So quotes the man I’ve called “a gift to humanity”: bestselling author, former heir to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream fortune, recipient of the Rachel Carson Award and the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, founder of EarthSave International…and the guy who, at least temporarily, pretty much converted me to vegetarianism after reading his Diet for a New America years ago. For those of you not familiar with him, John Robbins grew up in wealth and privilege but decided at a young age that he wanted to pursue a different path than the one he’d inherit from his father – head of the Baskin-Robbins empire and a continued life of wealth and privilege. Without giving too much away, he ended up with his wife, Deo, off the coast of British Columbia in a one-room log cabin they built themselves and lived in for the next ten years, during which time their son, Ocean, was born. As the years went by, Robbins became committed to animal welfare and vegetarianism, as well as other environmental concerns, and the Robbins family expanded to include Ocean’s wife Michelle and the couple’s twin boys, born three months prematurely and suffering repeated bouts of oxygen deprivation that led to their autism. The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less reveals enough of this background to give insight into Robbins’ character and values, but the real point for readers is something most of us already know: “We have now entered an entirely new phase in our nation’s and our world’s economic existence. We have come to the end of the financial world as we have known it.”
Robbins has known both wealth and what some would call poverty. In 2001, he and his family had what he believed were sufficient income and savings prior to the twins’ birth, but the boys’ special needs, expected to be lifelong, led him to invest his money in a fund controlled by an attorney friend whom they greatly trusted. For seven years the investment yielded respectable returns…until December 2008, when the friend called John with “excruciating news”: The money had been invested with Bernard Madoff.
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Robbins and his family made it through the most devastating crisis of their lives, thanks to hard choices, hard work, and the kindness of many friends who supported them. And only two years later, he published The New Good Life, in the same calm, reasoned, sane tone that I’ve admired for years. While the book is devoted in part to “Getting to Know Your Money Type” (disclosure: I’m a Saver and a Vigilant) and “Four Steps to Financial Freedom,” there’s much more to saving ourselves and our planet. Backed by the extensive research that underlies his other published works, Robbins tackles housing, vehicle purchases, public transportation, family size, green cleaning alternatives, and, of course, food, even including recipes for favorite family dishes such as split pea cabbage soup and tangy lentil-barley stew. Using real life examples from friends as well as family, he guides the reader through a myriad of ways to make gradual changes in every part of life, that can lead to a new vision of hope as well as economic and physical health.
This is a book to read, and read again – thoughtfully, carefully, and to share with friends. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy as soon as you can. Then “Go forth and be fruitful, go forth and be creative, passionate, and fully alive. Go forth and bring the wisdom of your soul to bear on every choice, every experience, every breath, and every moment.”
Sound like a tall order? It won’t by the time you get to the end. And I bet you’ll find yourself numbered among the many like me who are thankful men like John Robbins are alive in this world.
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For more information on John Robbins, his family, and his work, be sure to visit his website at http://johnrobbins.info/ and his Amazon.com page at http://www.amazon.com/John-Robbins/e/B000APQ3YC/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1398124297&sr=1-2-ent.