Ben Taylor, the wildly talented son of musicians James Taylor and Carly Simon, has made a name for himself in genres similar to those that made his parents famous. He has just released a new album, and he still made the time to talk to us at Organic Authority. Why? Because aside from being a musician, Ben Taylor has also gained acclaim in organic circles… with some very interesting views on what “organic” truly means.
What is “Organic”?
“Organic was a strange choice of words,” he says. “What does it mean? The dictionary definition for organic matter is this: anything containing carbon, related to, or derived from living matter.
“I get the link to biology, i.e. living things, but it's a confusing thing to call a lifestyle or philosophy which encompasses so much more. Are not genetically modified organisms ‘living things’ too? Even if they're grown from lifeless soil?”
Many consumers and farmers struggle with the strictness of the word “organic.” Some, like Taylor, have trouble assigning the word to the movement. Others feel that this movement for what is, essentially, better, more natural, more local food has been too sternly defined by the category of organic.
“Holistic would've been a better choice of words,” says Taylor. “A little closer to the French 'biologique' (another fairly classy choice. Using Organic as the name for the cause against unimpeccable practice (agricultural or otherwise) is limited. And frankly it has left too many loopholes for people who want to profit off of the ever more salable Organic brandings and certifications they collect (regardless of their actual affect on their system as a whole).”
Taylor is also a fan of the term “biodynamic.” He attended the Rudolf Steiner School in New York for two years, but his philosophies didn’t really ring true until Taylor spent a summer working on a biodynamic farm in New Mexico.
“Biodynamic is a wonderful way of trying to sum up the complexities of it's meaning in its name. This system is considerate to a very broad spectrum of it's own causes, effects and connections. Working in this capacity has made me into a more sensitive entity. With greater sensitivity, I have grown more intelligent.”
A Philosophy for Life
For Taylor, the first step in pursuing an “organic” lifestyle was to decide what the lifestyle meant to him. “It is too easy to get on the bandwagons where we work and fight for something we don't really understand,” he says. “When the cause is unclear, the best we can do are token gestures and disconnected preaching's to the very most agreeable of choirs.
“If I am going to do my part to help effect the change I want to be made, I need to understand what it is that I really want.” For Taylor, this decision was not only related to food, but to life in general. His resulting philosophy boiled down to two key ideas.
The first was making sure he owned his feelings, and he didn’t blame other people for feelings that belonged to him. Saying “you hurt my feelings” gave the feeling to someone else, “but my hurt is not your feeling. It's mine,” Taylor explains. “When we give our feelings to someone else we lose power to make ourselves feel better. It's a vicious cycle... When we own our own feelings, we don't have to pull the people we love down into our funks, or work them up into our emotional lathers with us. We can leave it to them to be helpful in ways which are most in accordance with their own well being.
“Try it it's easy. The next time you’re in a passive aggressive state and your loved one asks you if you're mad at them, tell them you’re upset, but that the feelings are yours, not theirs, regardless of what might have caused them to stir in you. Furthermore, let them know that you hope your feelings will not effect any behavior from you which will ultimately be out of harmony with their own wellbeing.”
The second step of his philosophy walked hand-in-hand with this first: taking responsibility for your own actions and choices.
“Don't tell anybody that you would let them do something (whatever it is), if only the choice was yours to make,” Taylor says. “The choice is always yours to make. Regardless of any system of authority which might be in place (governmental, religious, familial...), influencing your actions. Just don't tell them you ‘can't.’ Tell them about the potential consequences of the choice they are asking you to make, and explain why you choose not to.
“By owning my own choices and taking responsibility for my own feelings, I have cleared myself quite a lot of space and gained quite a lot of personal power. These are the kind of things that make room for real change,” Taylor explains.
“The potential is all ours. It is simply a matter of empowering ourselves to fulfill it.”
A Whole-istic Philosophy
When these two tenants of Ben Taylor’s personal philosophy are examined, it’s no wonder his interest in an organic movement. “For the sake of balance, I usually prefer to be as considerate of as big a picture as I possibly can,” he says.
“For example, pharmacology is in trouble with antibiotic resistant germs. Perhaps doctors can also concern themselves with nurturing good bacteria instead of annihilating everything in the eco system. We have the capacity to understand a very big picture. We should strive to comprehend the whole. Whole-istic!”
What Does It Mean, Food-Wise?
Taylor’s philosophy is all-encompassing, which brings us back to the question of organic. As his whole-istic philosophy suggests, he is a big fan of whole, real foods. When cooking at home, he loves mixing up a combination of papaya, avocado, red onion, olive oil and lime.
Taylor is also a huge fan of kale. “I adore kale because it reminds me of dinosaurs, and it sweeps through the colon like some sort of magical intestinal broom, leaving me feeling like a trillion and one dollah!” Taylor says. “Also, I usually feel like I'm in a race to get fresh veg. into my system before all of the light fades out of it. Food eaten while it's still attached to the living plant tastes completely different than it will even an hour hence. Kale seems to hold its life longer than many of it's cousins. It's like a thermos for light.”
Ben Taylor’s attitude towards food – and life – is inspiring… and contagious. With such an adoration for the world around him as a whole and a keen desire to be a productive and respectful member of it, it’s easy to emulate him. In spite of his fame, he remains humble. All of the tenants of his philosophy point to one idea: effecting positive change, no matter how small.
That’s one bandwagon we can all jump on.