Through much of his life, Philip was misunderstood. He was an exceptional human being, seldom recognized or accepted, holding views that were unconventional, baffling, somehow threatening to others. One of the many things neither family nor friends could understand was his consistent search for healing through unorthodox means. His health became increasingly precarious as far back as his mid-30s. Conventional doctors found no name for odd and debilitating symptoms. Alternative healers diagnosed candida, toxins, and liver problems but offered no effective cure. Discouraged and disheartened, Philip began his own research and eventually found his way to a simple and holistic philosophy of well-being called Natural Hygiene dating back to the 1830’s, renewed by Dr. Herbert Shelton in the middle of the 20th century, and currently embraced by The Natural Health Association.
Having been vegetarians for twenty+ years, it was easy for us to carry on with Natural Hygiene’s plant-based diet. It was this movement’s belief in the natural healing powers of the body that especially appealed to Philip. The philosophy is based on the belief that health depends on providing the body with an optimal healing opportunity via fasting, rest, clean water and air, organic raw fruits and vegetables, meditation, and gentle movement. Medicine and medical procedures, on the other hand, are considered unnecessary if not damaging, a violation of both the natural and spiritual integrity of the human being. This attracted Philip philosophically, and once he was in … there was no turning back.
It is a lonely uphill effort to trust in that which is largely distrusted. To refuse medical attention, to seek simplicity of diet and lifestyle while being confronted with the fear, disparagement, and incredulity of others takes a courage that many see only as folly. In his final months of life, almost everyone advised tests, doctors, and hospitals; and still, Philip held to the conviction that either he would heal with integrity or die with it. Believing that the state of his soul was what most influenced and affected the state of his body, he explained that there could be no cure for him in approaches he could not believe in. Much as I was frightened for his life … and the prospect of life without him, I respected his chosen path.
When confronted with the doubts of others – “If this way of eating and living is so healthy, why are you still so debilitated?” – he would shrug and counter with his own questions.
“Too much abuse in the form of a terrible diet in early years?” he pondered. “A weakened system due to the medications taken by my mother during pregnancy? Karma?”
Despairing as he was throughout his final health crisis, he never stopped referring to all who had succeeded via Natural Hygiene and never stopped believing that the conventional path would certainly kill him – both physically and spiritually. Right or wrong, brave or foolish, principled or stubborn – he held true to his beliefs to the very end.
“So many people doubt this natural path,” I once said. “Can they all be wrong?”
“Can everyone be wrong?” he said. “Yes, everyone can be wrong. You must do what you believe in; follow what seems right even when you’re the only one.”
14 thoughts on “Can Everyone Be Wrong?”
Great piece…tough subject. Memoir writers are lucky people…they get to relive this stuff over and over! We’re all crazy.
Yes. As Paul Simon so wisely said so long ago, “Still crazy after all these years.” The need to write it out is a gift for those of us who express (vs. repress) with words. Thanks for responding, Mary.
Joan – I must admit, I thought Phillip was eccentric, a little crazy, and definitely stubborn. He did truly believe he was right and the rest of the world was wrong and he stood by his convictions. Although we never saw eye to eye, I know he loved and cared for you, and that is most comforting. L/D
Thanks for responding, David. It means a great deal to me to find you both reading and replying to my writing … and to me.
Great piece, Joan.
I love that Phillip lived life the way he wanted to without “selling out” and the care/love that Joan and he had together was (and continues to be) a thing of beauty. All too often I find myself having to conform to my surroundings either in a work or general life setting so as not to upset others. To have a soulmate at your side whom you do not need to explain your life choices to is a breath of fresh air. I found mine in Amanda in 1989.
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Thanks for your response Mark. Your honesty and clarity are also … a breath of fresh air. And, mind you, honesty and clarity are rarely easy for others to take. It is with great ‘joy’ that I read your final sentences. Love you.
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Although I never met Phillip it is clear that he was a man of strong convictions and an honorable man. Somethings we have no answers for but one thing is clear, you two shared a love that endures and is the envy of many. While I did not know him, I am glad that I know you and that we are friends. Ernestine
Ernestine, thank you so much for your kind response to my words … and to me. I, too, am grateful for our friendship.
Thanks for sharing another great piece of writing, Joan! That last line, “follow what seems right even when you’re the only one,” really sums up one of Phillip’s greatest strengths … to be 100% true to himself. I envy his conviction!
Yes, so do I. It’s a challenge to me … each day … to live true. Thanks, Becky.
Being so distant from you, and never having met Philip, you give me some insight into the man he was, and the relationship between the two of you. Not many people live their convictions so wholeheartedly; I am honored to know Philip through your words. Love you! C
Thanks so much, Cathy. Having lived with someone who was so generally misunderstood … or worse, writing about him feels like my opportunity to let him be known through the lens of my love. My love and gratitude go out to you. (And I still hope to get to Bluffton someday! 🙂 )
He is missed not only by you but by those of us who were inspired to learn who we were when with him. Reading this reminds me of his impishness, compulsion for play yet deep seriousness, creative brilliance, large unending capacity to love, and the sorrow I felt when I saw him the last time at Vitamin Cottage. Your writing touches me. Thank you.🙏🏼
Reading your sense of Philip when he was young, healthy, and whole brings a sense of peace to my soul, Pamela. The words you use and memories that still live in your heart are words I can use to describe him throughout our blessed 37 years. Weak and weary as he was in the end, in every day there were glimmers of impishness, playfulness, seriousness, creative brilliance, and an infinite capacity to love. Thank you for reminding me!