My father's writing was different. His books were filled with dire predictions … like if we don't ride bicycles instead of cars there will be no oil left in 20 years, and we will all be doomed. Given that I was reading his book 30 years after he wrote that, and cars were bigger and more prevalent than ever, I felt kind of embarrassed for him. But his passion for change led him to do many great things for the world -- including launching the first long-term studies into organic versus modern agriculture -- so I didn't hold it against him.
It was while reading one of my father's books that I realized that most of the organic and environmental movement was using a fear-based, doomsday method to motivate people to change. If we didn't do what they said, we would all starve and strangle ourselves in our own filth. That's if we didn't blow ourselves to smithereens first. There was even a prejudice against beauty. If it was beautiful, they must have used chemicals, or it must be evil, the thinking of the time went. Ugliness and frugality were the ultimate virtues, and "simplicity" was the code word.
But real positive change seemed to be happening in the organic movement in food. Gourmet food. Alice Waters and her restaurant Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, Calif., started it in the 1970s. She made organic food taste so good that the appreciative "foodies" made it cool. Next thing you knew, all the high-end chefs were going organic, and Whole Foods markets became one of the hottest growth stocks around.
The first time I walked into a Whole Foods I cried. Finally, someone had gotten it right. I tried to imagine what my grandfather would have thought -- back then if you wanted organic food you had to grow it yourself and endure the ridicule of your neighbors. Sixty years later you could enter a paradise of pleasure and buy almost anything organic you wanted.
That was the first time I tripped and stumbled onto the path of pleasure. But I still didn't recognize it fully, nor did I accept that it was my true path. But I was beginning to see one of the first truths about pleasure, which is that pleasure is a better motivator for change than fear.
Fast-forward five years. I've written a gardening book and a laundry book. I've had a healthy baby girl (and two more miscarriages). I've realized I am an alcoholic and given up drinking. I've returned to the family business and led a massive management change along with my mother, which resulted in most of the Guys leaving for good. (This change was just in time, too, since our business was in deep trouble and the banks were breathing down our necks.) I've launched a magazine called Organic Style, the aim of which is to seduce people into doing the right thing rather than scaring them. The only downside then was that it was costing more money than we had.
Was it pleasurable? Hell no! I actually had people walk up to me in the local supermarket and say they would never want to be me. Frankly, I didn't want to be me, either.