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June/July 2003
It’s All Compost in the End
The Satya Interview with Robert Miller



A long-time raw foodist, Robert Miller speaks regularly on how to be healthy and live mindfully on raw foods. Several years ago he started offering guided raw foods retreats to Bali (see his account in “Asian Travel in the Raw” in Satya’s April, 2000 issue). Formerly based in Brooklyn, New York, Miller’s path took him and his wife Anna to the sticks of Oregon. There, they are realizing their dream to create a community living lightly on the earth, growing their own food, and leaving behind a destructive culture.

Miller bicycled to the nearest town to talk with Catherine Clyne over the phone, about his new home, his vision and how it feels to be a father-to-be.

Can you give us an overview of your philosophy?
It’s not so much a philosophy as a vision of life. Our cultural vision has been telling us we’re the most evolved species and all others are below us. If we understand that we humans are part of the Earth—that every insect, every leaf, and every tree has just as much right to be here, just as much purpose and intrinsic value—the actions that follow are really different. If we think we’re more important, then we can have dominion over them, use them as we see fit—they become resources rather than what they actually are.

Can you tell us more about your project of changing culture through eating?
Eating is one of the things that follows when we change our cultural vision. Eating raw foods is very naturalizing to the body—I don’t mean naturalizing in the co-opted corporate sense, I mean it in literally bringing us back to ourselves, not to our ego selves (who we think we are). When we eat this way—I’ve experienced this myself—the body, mind, emotions, spirit, everything begins to normalize; we see disease going away. And then the search kind of begins—people start to question many of the things that we believed and were told were right, like science and technology is going to fix everything and make the world better. Science and technology are not making healthier people or the world easier—computers aren’t saving people time. It’s gotten to be a joke, but we’re so deep in the joke we can’t see it’s a joke anymore.

The common thread here is the cultural vision, understanding that this human body is part of the earth, and has value in itself no greater and no lesser than everything else, and just like everything else, this body will also be composted eventually. There’s something very heartening when we realize it’s all going to grow into trees again, it all will regenerate into something; you know it is all okay and the Earth is unfolding as it should.

How does Daniel Quinn’s novel Ishmael express this vision?
Quinn uses the words “Takers” and “Leavers” to talk about the difference between those who understand themselves as part of the Earth, the Leavers, and those who believe themselves to be God’s finest creation, having dominion over all the plants and animals, the Takers. And he expresses in a clear and understandable way, that all the actions we take stem from our cultural vision.

In Ishmael, looking at the Bible, at the Judeo-Christian creation myth and the story of Adam and Eve, Quinn talked about the time when humans stopped eating from the hand of the gods, when humans left the proverbial Garden of Eden. When I read that, I stopped and thought Why can’t we just go back to eating from the hands of the gods? We can take the vegetables that come from the Earth, the fruit from the tree and literally put them directly in our mouth and have the radical transformation that happens when we eat raw foods. Under an apple tree, when you pick up and [bite into] one of those apples—you can taste the life flowing through your body. All of a sudden, it’s almost like an epiphany, you’re like, “Wow! This is something I don’t experience when I go to McDonald’s!” [laughs]

What do you mean by “indefinitely sustainable” Earth-centered living?
Words are very important because the word sustainable has been co-opted—like love, natural, and green. Indefinitely sustainable makes us ask, “Is the action I’m taking sustainable into the indefinite future?” Business is not, an unlimited growth market economy is not. It’s absolutely impossible that the human population can continue to grow indefinitely on a finite amount of earth—impossible.

You may have heard the terms anthropocentric and ecocentric—physicist Fritjof Capra uses those terms—which is Taker and Leaver culture. I thought people wouldn’t grasp “ecocentric,” so I prefer “Earth-centered”—am I doing something that is indefinitely sustainable to the seventh generation, to the 700th generation? Our footprint should be light, should be blown away as a footprint in the sand is blown away by the wind.

What was the path that brought you from Brooklyn to Oregon?
Anna and I were a little unsure about staying in New York any longer; we were in Prospect Park one day and she said to me, “why is it that we’re eating this amazing live food and breathing dead air?” and I had no answer. We realized that New York offered us the best of certain things, but there was no place we could go to breathe fresh air. The air in Oregon is pretty darn good. Where we live, the nearest neighbor is 10 miles away; the nearest town’s 20 miles away. We’re surrounded by our other brothers and sisters, the trees, by the sky and the earth. [There are definitely challenges to living here,] but when you breathe, you feel like you’re eating something better than food.

You’ve mentioned that you’re “off the grid.” Does that refer to electricity?
It does, specifically—off the power grid, off the phone line grid. There’s no mailbox because the postman doesn’t go out where we live. You could say we’re literally off the grid of Taker culture. Now we need to find out how we can live as Leavers.

Where do you get your food? Is everything from the farm there?
No, that’s what we’re working towards. We haven’t been on the land that long; just over six months. We’re getting ready to cut off almost all the vegetables—at least green leaves—that we get from town. And in another month we’ll start to get fruit. By the end of the summer I hope we’ll be eating almost everything from here. And we’re going to be growing a lot to save through the winter—a lot of cabbages and carrots.

Another wonderful thing you can do here is glean fruit. So many people have amazing organic fruit and nut trees growing in their yard, but they get in their car and go to the grocery store and buy something that was harvested in Chile. You can very easily take a couple boxes and bags out for a few hours and come back with 50 or 75 pounds of fruit or nuts.

Tell us about the idea behind your “eco-raw” retreats.
We’re looking for people who would like to come and live with us. We’ll work together in the gardens. I’ll do some classes and teach them yoga, and basically they can see day to day what we’re doing in our lives, and interact together.

Have you been bearing witness to the logging industry’s effects out there?
Clear-cutting is something I didn’t know about at all, I was just barely aware of the woods in New York. It doesn’t mean anything on the East Coast because the wood mostly comes from out here. Many people think Oregon is all green forests—it’s not, it’s a big industrial tree farm. There are a few areas of old growth, but it’s probably fair to say that almost the [whole] state has been logged and regrown and logged—much of it two, three, maybe even four times over the past 150 to 200 years. There are literally checkerboard-blocks of land that have been clear-cut. They don’t just take the trees they want, they kill everything.

We still use paper but we’re very conscious about how much we use; we’re painfully aware of where it came from. We don’t use toilet paper—a big waste of paper! It’s much more hygienic to wash your bottom with water, like most of the rest of the world does; and it’s not hard to do.

You’ve mentioned that you sleep outside. What’s your living situation like?
Our house has a covered wood deck. This was one of the big reasons we left New York. We slept outside at the Portland raw foods festival—the rooms were too small. Anna and I started sleeping outside a lot after that. When we got back to New York and slept inside again, both of us woke up with heavy heads, I had a very mild headache and felt my eyes didn’t open as quickly, and I was like, “Whoa!” Live air. I’ve slept outside on my roof in NY one of those really hot summer nights where I couldn’t sleep, it was just too hot inside. I woke up covered in soot. Here we can sleep outside year-round.

How does it feel to be a father-to-be?
We have our first baby coming this summer. We’re really looking forward to that. Just being around the miracle of life, seeing the baby moving in my wife’s belly, gets us out of our cultural miasma right away. To be subservient to the power of life and go, “I don’t understand it”—but I don’t have to understand it; I can just be, and accept that it is. That’s totally powerful.

People have been saying for decades there is a change coming. [But] the time is here, there’s a radical transformation going on in the world. It’s one of the reasons you see the fear factor heightening. Bush and his coterie of illuminati or whatever, big business people, are the pinnacle of Taker culture, and they want to keep that. They want to keep taking as much as possible from the Earth without thought of what’s coming tomorrow. That’s what the oil industry is about. But there are certain humans who realize we can’t do this anymore. We can’t go out, chant for peace, then get in our car and expect that our chanting will make a difference. It doesn’t make any difference if the way we’re living is exactly the same thing Bush, and that clique of people, represent. Things much deeper than that have to change; it’s not this action or that action. It’s not just “save the animals,” or “save the trees,” or recycle, or ride a bicycle, or be more spiritually aware.

Being a soon-to-be father is really exciting. I can see that a livable world for my progeny is a possibility, based on what we do. I think this is one of the most powerful and important times to be alive, actually. People will look back in the centuries to come and go, “The end of the 20th, beginning of the 21st century, was a time when humans realized that they were living a way of life designed to fail and some of them changed.” I hope that many of us change.

You don’t fear we’re going to screw it up?
As I said before, no matter what we do, it all will go on. It’s not a matter of whether the universe is going to continue, it’s only a matter of whether we humans will be here to see it.

The actions we take every day are very important and they have ripple effects through the whole universe. I think there is a kind of habit that I find even in activists and environmentalists and social activist circles, people go, “Well it’ll be alright in the end,” meaning “I can do whatever I do and it’s okay. It’s okay that I continue to drive my car and it’s okay that I buy food that was grown in Central America and shipped here.” Understanding that the Earth will all be composted doesn’t give us the right not to pay attention to our cultural vision and follow through with that.

I think for a lot of people who really care, it’s not apathy. Maybe it’s sort of fatalistic, like, “We’re going to do the best that we can to change the world and live the way we really should be living.” But the reality is that ‘Taker culture’ is so predominant and so increasingly destructive, and the voices for change so small. You can’t help feeling resigned to doing the best you can with the understanding that it’s possible not everything will change. With the sheer prevalence of destruction and cruelty in the world, I think it’s truly hard for people—especially for those living in urban areas and especially with this government right now—to really feel their actions are making a difference.

That’s something I avoid—for me, understanding that everything is composted gives me tremendous hope. I also think that the President and the administration in power now is the best we could possibly have, and if Bush gets four more years, it may be even better because it will really make people realize this whole system is designed to fail. It’s not going to work or get better if the Democrats get in; it wouldn’t matter if they were communist or socialist. It may be easier and it may lighten the pain for a period of time, but it is not indefinitely sustainable.

The most dangerous thing to Taker culture, and the most powerful action a person could take, is to simply walk away from it and find [another] way of living. It exists. And it can go on forever, your children can reproduce it, their children can reproduce it. I can teach my children to eat an apple from a tree; to teach them cryogenics or to be a geneticist is not sustainable. And it’s really useless information, in a way—who cares how many genes there are? So what?

The body can be healed by the way we eat, the way we think. I’ve seen people healed of every so-called incurable. I’ve met people who were given death sentences—told that they would die in six months of cancer—and they were alive 10 years later and healthier than ever. I’ve met people with polio that were supposed to not be able to walk, yet they were walking and doing much better than they’d ever done before. That information did not come from the bright shining light of science and technology; it came from humans getting back to themselves, eating in a way every living species on Earth eats. No living species chooses to cook its food—not one, except for humans, and the ones we force feed. That’s my scientific observation [laughs] and that’s my community—not just a community of humans, it’s a community of every species on Earth and all of them are raw foodists. [laughs]

From August 27 to 31 Robert Miller will host a five-day “Ecoraw Tribal Gathering” of Earth-centered humans. Miller also offers raw foods apprenticeships. For information, leave a message at (718) 707-1405 or write P.O. Box 25424, Eugene, OR 97402.


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