Essential Reads

Nature and the Human Soul
Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World

Bill Plotkin
New World Library, 2008, $17.95

Psychologist Bill Plotkin estimates that half the people in the US are stuck in egocentric forms of adolescence—and that contemporary culture encourages such pathology. Writes Plotkin; “The egocentric standard for a healthy, full-functioning `adult’ in Western society is a socially popular Conformist … who earns a lot and buys a lot, is religious (but not spiritual), is uncritically loyal to her country…” Such people are easy to control, and they contribute unsparingly to the GNP. Unfortunately, the soul and its seekings are cut adrift, branded “immature” or inconvenient—a midlife crisis or an adolescent rebellion. Life is lived apart from nature and its currents, allowing us to destroy the planet that sustains us.

Plotkin is convincing in his critique of Western society, and he is priceless in his discussions about how to combat its deadening influences. Parents owe it to their kids to read this eye-opener, but anyone can benefit, no matter how old your soul or body. Don’t fear a diatribe: Plotkin is a good example of how to merge critical analysis with respect for people’s individual experiences and stages.

It’s become common to hear that our culture is adolescent and self-numbing. This book provides a road map to a fulfilling adulthood and to a citizenry committed to living in concert with nature. It can’t happen fast enough.—Linnea Due

Sunfood Living
Resource Guide for Global Health

John McCabe
North Atlantic Books, 2007, $29.95

Following up on the popularity of raw food authority David Wolfe’s Sunfood Diet Success System, author John McCabe brings us Sunfood Living: Resource Guide for Global Health. This informative book educates readers about how to make environmentally sound choices for body and earth, with the entire second half an encyclopedic resource guide organized by topic from activist directories to yoga.

Sunfood Living presents a paradigm shift away from a processed, cooked, meat-based diet, advocating instead for raw foods veganism. McCabe argues that we derive the most molecularly useful nutrition by eating raw plant matter grown in natural sunlight. When we consume a raw diet, he says, we transfer solar energy into our system, recharging our electromagnetic field, which results in better cellular function. Heating food destroys enzymes, and cooked foods lack electrons needed for vibrant health and regeneration of body tissue. Especially harmful are meats that directly contribute to degenerative disease, not to mention the attendant costs of environmental devastation due to factory farming.

While I read this book with great interest——it contains a wealth of information about health, food, and sustainability, as well as a few interesting theories (McCabe suggests that due to cellular memory, ingesting diseased and murdered animals leads to an unhealthy and violent population)——I couldn’t help but think McCabe is preaching to the choir. A slightly sanctimonious tone might be intimidating or off-putting to a carnivore looking for ways to lighten his or her dietary carbon footprint. Also, the book’s flow is interrupted by the frequent and occasionally long quotes and passages intended to provide facts or references.

Still, most of McCabe’s ideas are on point. Following a plant-based diet provides the body with the raw materials needed for vibrant health, but there are also healthy ways to eat meat, such purchasing organic, pasture-raised meat from small, independent, family-owned farms. Shifting consciousness is best achieved by providing sustainable options for everyone. —Mary Vance

World as Lover, World as Self
Courage for Global Justice and Ecological Renewal

Joanna Macy
Parallax Press, 2007, $18.95

For anyone who missed Joanna Macy’s groundbreaking 1991 World as Lover, World as Self, here’s a fresh opportunity to connect with her clear-eyed courage. Macy streamlined and updated extensively for this edition, and added two new chapters based on her work of the past sixteen years, so it’s worth revisiting for those who caught the first round, too.

The book is organized into three sections—past, present, and future. The past section begins with a heavy dose of Buddhist philosophy, based on Macy’s early academic work, especially her Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory. It’s a worthwhile slog, lightened by personal anecdotes and later by the practical spiritual strategies of the present.

The future section elaborates on the Great Turning, the term Macy coined for the global transition from the industrial growth economy towards a life-sustaining society in which the interdependence of all life is recognized and honored. Macy has the rare gift of inspiring grand hope and courage to work for change while simultaneously keeping the terrible and precarious nature of our situation in full awareness. It’s the essential combination.—Gina Covina

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