Judith Haskins, younger daughter of Shirley and Morris Hyman, grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City. She attended Music and Art High School and earned her degree in comparative literature from City College of New York and masters degree from City University in writing. Judith lived in La Jolla, California as well as on the Riviera Maya, in the Yucatan in Mexico. She has taught at various alternate and regular high schools in Manhattan, teaching English Literature and has been a vegetarian for 40 years and in the last five and a half years, a vegan. She decided, along with her mother and sister, Sally Laura, to publish her late father Dr. Morris Hyman’s manuscript, “Congenital, Alterable, Transmissible, Asymmetry: The Spiritual Meaning of Disease and Science.”
Caryn Hartglass: Hello, everybody. I’m Caryn Hartglass, and you’re listening to It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me today.
I’m actually here in the Progressive Radio Network studio, and I haven’t been here since they did the big move. It looks fabulous. I’m really happy to be here, and I think it will sound a lot better. So I’m excited about that. Unfortunately, you probably won’t hear the Mister Softee truck passing through [chuckles] like it always does when I’m recording from home. We’ll have to make that up later.
I wanted to let you know –I mentioned this last week– we finished our Happy Halloween or Swingin’ Halloweegan food show. It’s a fondue party we were finishing up last week, and it’s ready for you to view at the responsibleeatingandliving.com website. Part 1 is up, and part 2 will likely be up by tomorrow. It’s really fun. I want you to watch it, okay? So visit responsibleeatingandliving.com, and then after you watch it, let me know what you think. You can find me at inforealmeals.org.
We had a lot of fun making it, and I hope you have fun watching it and trying out the recipes; we’ve gotten a lot of great response from our cashew cheese fondue. We made a lot of it, which is great because I’m getting to eat it a lot now. One of the things that’s great about this recipe is you can freeze it. We made a bunch of it, put it into different jars, and, whenever we need a little cheese, we take it out of the freezer. It’s really, really good.
I also wanted to mention we were out on a road trip this weekend, and it’s always fun to do a little traveling. One thing that really helps is to plan ahead and pack a cooler of fun little things to eat along the way. Whether or not you’re able to find restaurants or stores that have healthy food, it’s good to bring some along. If you visit my What Vegans Eat blog post, you can see some of the things that we enjoyed this weekend.
I want to bring on my first guest: Judith Haskins. She is the younger daughter of Shirley and Morris Hymen. She grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City and attended Music & Art High School and earned her degree in comparative literature from City College of New York and a master’s degree from City University in writing.
Judith lived in La Jolla, California as well as on the Riviera Maya in the Yucatán in Mexico. She has taught at various alternate and regular high schools in Manhattan teaching English literature, and has been a vegetarian for four years. And in the last five and a half years, a vegan. She decided along with her mother and sister, Sally Laura, to publish her late father Dr. Morris Hymen’s manuscript Congenital, Alterable, Transmissible, Asymmetry: The Spiritual Meaning of Disease and Science.
Welcome to It’s All About Food, Judith. How are you?
Judith Haskins: I’m great. Thank you so much, Caryn, for having me on. Although I’m sorry that I can’t be in your beautiful new studio because I’m with my 92– my 102-year-old vegan mother. She was 100 when the Shirley and Moe YouTube video was made of her. You heard about that?
Caryn Hartglass: I did. I just watched it earlier, and I posted it on my Facebook page. It was really something and very inspiring. I especially loved –I’m not going to get it right; maybe you can quote it– when your mom asked your father how she could possibly go on without him after he died.
Judith Haskins: Right, right. Would you like me in a few minutes to explain how this video came about?
Caryn Hartglass: I would. Sure!
Judith Haskins: Which is quite interesting, actually. Three years ago, when my mother was 99 on a very rainy February at Columbus Circle, a young man came up to my mother. She was under an umbrella, and she was heading to the swimming pool at my sister’s apartment building on 57th Street. This young man turned out to be Brandon Stanton who is the author of Humans of New York, the best-selling book that has been all about amazing New Yorkers and their candid comments.
Anyway, he took a very close up photograph of her because he got under the umbrella with her, and he asked her if she had something inspiring to tell people. At which point my mother said that when my father was dying, she said, “Moe, what will I do without you?” And my father said, “Take the love you have for me and spread it around.”
Now, we had no idea that my mother had said this to anybody on the street. She didn’t come home and tell us anything about this. This happened in February. The following June, a friend of my mother’s –and she has many, many friends– said, “I was American Airlines and I opened the American Way magazine. There is a picture of your mother and the quote: ‘Take the love you have for me and spread it around.’” We thought, “What in the world is this all about?”
Several weeks later, some other people called. “Oh! This guy called Brandon Stanton is on TV, and he’s talking about this 80-year-old woman that he met.” He was on MSNBC; he was on the Ali Wentworth show; he was Person of the Week for Diane Sawyer. Finally, we thought, “Well, he’s going around town describing an 80-year-old woman.“ He didn’t know her name, and he really didn’t know anything about her.
But what had happened is, when he went home that day, he looked at his blog and he posted the photograph. 81,000 people responded. I believe what happened, we knew nothing about– I don’t know what a blog looks like basically. Way after my generation. Anyway, he was getting I think 200 or 500 hits a day when he would post these photographs. All of a sudden 81,000 people responded.
So when we emailed him and said, “Hello, Brandon. This woman that you’re describing as an 80-year-old is actually our 99-year-old vegan mother. Can we invite you over for some vegan cupcakes?” So he did come over, and that was the following January of 2014. We had a wonderful time, and he took some beautiful photographs of my mother. We gave him some stories, and he put them on his website.
Then he said, “I’d like to make a video of your mother.” So that video was made the following February. February 2014. It came out in April, and apparently it’s been very popular.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it has. I really enjoyed it. It has hundreds and thousands of views, which is wonderful.
Judith Haskins: Well, that exemplifies the spiritual part of my father. The “Take the love you have for me and spread it around.” Many people interpret that as a romantic comment. But, in a way, he was saying, “Transcend the romantic love that you have for your dying spouse, and once they’ve died, take that love and give it to all kinds of people that are not your spouse or your children or your mother. But go beyond that.”
And he always did that. He was full of love. He was a doctor who practiced on the Upper West Side at the Belnord, which I think is very close to where your former studio was. Maybe I’m wrong about that.
Caryn Hartglass: Upper West Side. We were between 83rd and 84th Street.
Judith Haskins: Well, we’re on 86th Street.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, there you go.
Judith Haskins: As I said, I would’ve loved to have come to your studio but… because it’s getting through traffic at this time of the day, and I have to be home to give my mother dinner. Her vegan soup, etc.
Caryn Hartglass: [laughs]
Judith Haskins: She’s eating very well; she has a wonderful appetite. Anyway, she’s two years older than she was in that video. She’s not exactly the same, but she has –my sister and I like to say– she has 98% of her marbles, and my sister and I got the other two marbles.
Caryn Hartglass: [laughs] Well, I want to talk about this book.
Judith Haskins: Right, right.
Caryn Hartglass: And I want to say– first let me repeat the title because it is a–
Judith Haskins: Should I explain the title?
Caryn Hartglass: Why not? Congenital, Alterable, Transmissible, Asymmetry: The Spiritual Meaning of Disease and Science.
Judith Haskins: Okay. First of all, the book was written in 1970 and my father never made any attempts to publish it. The first four words are his definition of true disease, or rather disease. Then the spiritual meaning of disease in science. My father was a deeply spiritual man but not religious. He didn’t ascribe to any religion or practice; any religion whatsoever. He makes that kind of clear in the first page of his only 144-page book, which, by the way, is very, very dense. But I think it’s a wonderful read. [chuckles]
Anyway, the first four words describe disease. Now, if you read the New York Times or if you watch television, the word disease is used interchangeably with virus. For example, someone will say Ebola virus and, in the next sentence, they’ll say, “this disease.” Well, which is it? Is it a virus or a disease?
My father makes the distinction, and it’s not a semantic one. A virus is something you catch from outside, marauding bacteria. He used to call them “the microscopic lions and tigers.” In other words, you’re being attacked from without.
Whereas disease has, first of all, the inherited component. Disease is like lung disease, heart disease, and cancer. Although there’s one– one of those four words he felt did not apply to cancer, and that was the alterable. But that’s in the book; he explains each of those four very clearly. But disease has that inherited component. For example, you can be in a room with a thousand people that have cancer; you’re going to catch cancer. You’re not going to catch heart disease or lung disease.
Why is this distinction important? Well, we’ve made a lot of strides with the infectious conditions. With AIDS, with Ebola virus. They’re a lot of strides that have been made: vaccines and all that. Although the more vaccines that come about, the greater the problem arises. And the more microbes — he mentions that in the book too. By the way, I didn’t write the book, and I’m not a doctor. So if I sound a little bit less as sharp as I’d like to be, it’s because it’s not my book. Even though I’ve read it many times.
But with heart disease, lung disease, and cancer, we haven’t made those strides. At all. I mean, the war against cancer. Look where it’s going.
Although I think it’s very interesting that for us vegans just yesterday: big news that the World Health Organization is finally conceding that, yeah, there is a link between meat-eating and cancer.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, yeah. It’s such old news, but it’s new news, which is so crazy.
Judith Haskins: My father became a vegetarian in the 1950s, and he was convinced that there was a link between meat eating and cancer. He also was convinced that we evolved upon this planet as herbivores. And he wasn’t talking about the teeth or the intestinal tract, but something else. That’s in the fourth chapter of his book, Physiology of Man, which he talks about the things that we manufacture in our body, the things that we require that we don’t manufacture. Which creates evidence of what our diet has to be.
I’ll give you an example. We don’t manufacture vitamin C in our body, and yet it is a crucial vitamin. Absolutely crucial. Linus Pauling did groundbreaking research decades ago on vitamin C and said we need very large doses of that. My father was in agreement. Vitamin C, by the way, is not toxic because anything that your body does not utilize will pass out when you urinate. Vitamin B complex and C; my father was very big on those two.
So we don’t manufacture vitamin C in our body, and yet it is absolutely crucial. That means that we had to evolve in a place on Earth –and he believed the tropics– where we had access to fresh fruits and vegetables right off the tree, the branch, right out of the ground. The minute you pick a fruit or vegetable it diminishes in the vitamin content.
Now, what’s interesting– and would also explains why we’re not dairy-eaters. Why we should stay as far away from the milk from any animal as possible. What’s interesting is that mother’s milk (female human breast milk) has a lot of vitamin C in it. Did you know that?
Caryn Hartglass: Hmm, I did. Well, when I read the book, I found that out.
Judith Haskins: Oh! Okay.
Caryn Hartglass: [laughs]
Judith Haskins: All right. [14:09]. So you read a book. I’m so happy. Anyway, cow’s milk because cows manufacture vitamin C in their body, a calf has no need –when it is nursing on a cow– has no need for extra vitamin C. On the other hand, we manufacture cholesterol in our body. No carnivore manufactures cholesterol in its body. So you read the book. I hope you found it interesting.
Caryn Hartglass: [chuckles] What I wanted to say about it was number one: when I first got it, I thought, “Oh, it’s a thin little book. It won’t take me long to read it.”
Judith Haskins: Ah, right.
Caryn Hartglass: And I read all the books by authors or people who are representing the book that I speak about on my show. I started reading it maybe Thursday or Friday, and I went, “Oh my goodness. This is very difficult to read.” It’s very difficult, and some of the sentences are long. They may have double negatives in them. They have a lot of concepts and not all of them are the same in the same sentence. So you have to digest a little bit at a time before you continue it.
Judith Haskins: Right, right. You really have to pay attention.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Normally, I just zip through reading books.
Judith Haskins: It is not a zipping book.
Caryn Hartglass: No, it is not. But I found it very poetic.
Judith Haskins: Oh yes. I think it’s beautifully written.
Caryn Hartglass: Beautifully. Once I could digest something, I relaxed and end up thinking, “Oh. Of course. This is obvious.” Somehow, like my soul knew or my consciousness knew.
Judith Haskins: That’s very nice of you.
Caryn Hartglass: And it made sense. So I ploughed through.
Judith Haskins: Well, I think that people might get nervous that it’s not a typical book. Today, typical books are books of one idea. Like that guy Gladstone who wrote Blink and a few of them. He had one idea or the tipping point. I brought those books, and I read them. You can zip right through them, and they’re fun to read. He would have one idea and then he would take a million anecdotes –some interesting, some not so interesting– and squeeze everything to make it fit to make it like, “Ooh.” But when you finish the book, it’s like, “What was I really reading? Was it really of any consequence?”
I have to say, I believe in my father’s book there’s so many ideas that people might never have read before, and yet –as you say– their soul might say, “You know, this is absolutely true. This is real.”
For example, the part about smoking. How he explained the effects of smoking on your body. Just recently, doctors have said, “Well, smoking doesn’t just cause emphysema and lung cancer; it affects other cells.” Well, my father explained that when you put a cigarette in your mouth, every cell in your body is defending against this poisonous intruder. Now, you said in a much more poetic way than I did. You remember that, right?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Judith Haskins: And I thought it was beautifully written. The thing is I think people need to relax when they read the book. “Okay, so I didn’t quite get that. Let me move along.” First of all, it’s a book where you have to turn off all other devices; you can’t be multitasking. You can’t be watching TV, talking on the cell phone, looking at YouTube videos. Would you agree with that?
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. Now, this requires 150% of your concentration. [chuckles]
Judith Haskins: Let me ask you a question: will you read it again? Do you find it-
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I would like to. The thing is I’ve always got these different books thrown at me for this program.
Judith Haskins: Oh, okay.
Caryn Hartglass: But I’ve [17:56] many pages.
Judith Haskins: Okay. Can I ask you what your favorite insight was in the book?
Caryn Hartglass: There were a number of things. One of the things– he kept referring to the cell and how important it is to nourish all cells. They all need to get the right nutrition.
Judith Haskins: Right.
Caryn Hartglass: What I felt was fascinating at one point was talking about… when one part of the body is… has a problem –and I can’t use all of his correct terminology, but let’s say you have a heart failure or you have a problem and you’re treated. He described how the whole body kind of goes down to that minimum functioning level.
Judith Haskins: Right, right, right.
Caryn Hartglass: And so your body– when you have an issue somewhere, your whole body is going to drop. You’re not able to work at maximum efficiency, and some of our drugs actually encourage that operating at minimum.
Judith Haskins: I think his point was that the drugs don’t bring up the weakened cells: they weakened the other cells to recreate a symmetry. Because disease is asymmetry. It’s off-balance where not everything is functioning equally. So the drugs– you take an aspirin and people think, “Oh, it’s curing my headache. It got rid of the pain.” No, it didn’t get rid of the pain. What it did is dull some of the sensations in your brain. It weakens the cells in your brain that would perceive the pain. That’s really not such a great thing, is it?
Caryn Hartglass: [chuckles] No.
Judith Haskins: The pain is there. Pain is there to let us know that something is wrong. So good.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. There were a few other things that I wanted to bring up. Looking to see if I could find it. He was very diplomatic I think in expressing his discontent with current science and current medical practice. [chuckles]
Judith Haskins: Not always. I think he referred to it as dismal sometimes.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. So at one point he was talking about how physicians… Oh! Here it is. Can I read it?
Judith Haskins: Please.
Caryn Hartglass: Page 93: “There is a similarity between physician and psychiatrist, which would be astonishing if we did not recognize that each originates from a comparable spiritual immaturity. For notice how identical is their confusion of shadows with reality, as well as therapeutic delusion, which seeks, on the one hand, to halt disease without restoring nourishment of the breadth cell; and, on the other, to disperse the anxieties of the mind without inspiring the contiguous soul to that creation of beauty, by which it descends once more into its spiritual heavens.”
That’s a big mouthful, but what I got from that is that there are many mental illnesses and mental issues where people are in therapy forever or they’re given drugs, whatever. But perhaps if they were encouraged to be of service to others, they would find ways to heal themselves.
Judith Haskins: My father used to take out his prescription pad. He made sure that he had a half hour for every single patient. He used to take out his prescription pad and write down, “Take care of the sick animal. Do some volunteer work in a hospital.” For him, spiritual was being concerned with the needs of others. Being not a material person, but a person of concern for others who didn’t put themselves first or wasn’t part of the “me” generation, or the greedy generation.
In fact, my father– he couldn’t certainly if he were alive today, would never be able to do it. But because my mother was a teacher, it was a two-income family. He charged $5 a visit throughout his thirty-year practice. He never raised his fees, and, if you never paid him, he continued to see you. He said, “I don’t want to get rich on the backs of other people’s suffering.”
You can hear about doctors like this in small towns in the Midwest and everything. But when you’re on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where all the doctors were driving Cadillacs and their wives were in minks, my father was making house calls with his VW Bug. Now that I look back on it, in the 60s and 70s, he was putting his life at risk because New York City was more violent prone place; it was also more interesting in those days. People used to regularly break into his car when he was making house calls at 3 A.M. in the morning to get the syringes. Full of drug addicts in the neighborhood and the prescription pads. He probably was the only doctor in New York City that had the MD license plate removed; he didn’t want MD on his car anymore after they broke it. That’s a pretty good story.
He also would be horrified at the amount of drugs that Americans are taking today. Absolutely horrified. My sister and I grew up probably the most drug-free Upper West Side middle-class people in New York that there are. I took no doctor prescribed medications whatsoever. Maybe an occasional antibiotic but very rarely. Today, people are taking drugs.
Look at the side effects. Look at the side effects. Look at the side effects of the drugs people take for mental illness. One of them is suicide. And we don’t ask the questions, “What drugs?” Look at Robin Williams. It’s very distressing to me. They said he was on some psychiatrist prescribed drug, but they don’t make the link. How many people have put things around their neck and killed themselves? There was a Kennedy girl… The number of people who’ve done this-
Caryn Hartglass: It’s too many.
Judith Haskins: What’s that?
Caryn Hartglass: It’s too many. Way too many.
Judith Haskins: But it’s– you’re depressed and now you might have thoughts of suicide. Where does it go if you’re depressed, and you start thinking about suicide? [chuckles] It doesn’t go well, does it?
Caryn Hartglass: Not at all.
Judith Haskins: Since I’ve been a vegan –and you’ve been a vegan much longer than me– I’ve become convinced that aggression, depression, and anxiety can all be stilled by a vegan diet. It’s very interesting. I have my veterinarian for my dog –the dog in the video, Chuck-Chuck, who’s now fifteen– he just became a vegan recently.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, congratulations.
Judith Haskins: He was a vegetarian, and I had some talks with him about it. I’m not the one who influenced him, of course. I see him once a year or something like that. When I say him, he said, yeah, now he is a vegan and he seemed very cheerful. I said, “Do you feel any physical differences?” ‘Cause I did transitioning only from vegetarian to vegan. He said, “No, I always felt physically great. But I do feel emotionally better.” There’s an emotional component to it.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely.
Judith Haskins: And now they’re talking about the gut, the bacteria of the gut which comes from the various things that people eat and how that affects mood and all this. They told the people who were mentally ill, “Oh, let’s keep guns out of their hands.” How about feeding them a better diet? How ‘bout every prison having a garden? How ‘bout every school having its own garden?
Caryn Hartglass: Amen to that.
Judith Haskins: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: So I just have one more question ‘cause we’re almost out of time, believe it or not. I know. So I’m thinking that most current doctors will not want to read this book.
Judith Haskins: No. They’ll be very angry about it.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. And I’m thinking that most of the public won’t even be able to understand it unfortunately. Or at least have the patience to take the time to digest it. I want to have everybody to read this.
Judith Haskins: You want everybody to read it?
Caryn Hartglass: I do. Of course, I do.
Judith Haskins: You don’t think it’s a bad idea that we published it, do you?
Caryn Hartglass: No! I think doctor should read this.
Judith Haskins: Of course, we don’t publish because I don’t think there’s a publishing house in this world at the moment that would publish it. And yet–
Caryn Hartglass: Well, Lantern Books might publish it. [chuckles]
Judith Haskins: Well, if half the things that my father said in this book are true, it’s an astonishing work.
Caryn Hartglass: I just know that a number of doctors that I’ve spoken to, and some of them are doctors that I’ve just gone to for medical reasons and some of them are the vegan doctors that I know and care very much about, really stay away from the spiritual portion of life and health.
Judith Haskins: Why?
Caryn Hartglass: Why. I don’t know! They’re afraid or they won’t be taken as seriously?
Judith Haskins: Exactly, exactly. I have to just say very quickly ‘cause we only have a few more minutes: my father throughout his life had what he would describe as mystical experiences. You’re absolutely right that people think, “Oh, what are you: a wacko? A crackpot? What is this?”
I would say that the closest thing you could say to that is he saw the face of God. He had absolute certainty that we are reincarnated, that we go through various incarnations, and that’s the point of being alive: to grow spiritually and to get further and further on to an enlightened understanding. In terms of health, he would advise two things: an herbivorous diet –I don’t even think the word vegan was used when he wrote this manuscript– and a spiritual life. With those two, you would be as healthy as you possibly could be.
Now, we’re all born with weaknesses, as he said in the book.
Caryn Hartglass: People will have to find out more about that when they read this, and I highly recommend that they do. Judith, maybe-
Judith Haskins: Well, I’m so happy that you recommend it and I hope I talk to you some more not on the radio.
Caryn Hartglass: I was going to say maybe we can talk off air, and maybe we can have you back. But I’m not done talking with you. [chuckles]
Judith Haskins: Oh, you still have another couple minutes left?
Caryn Hartglass: No, no, no! I have to go now, but I want to continue our conversation.
Judith Haskins: I just want to say first of all, thank you so much for having me on. And I’m also so happy that you read the book and that you got something out of it. That’s why we put the book out there because we think that there are many people, just like the 81,000 whom loved what he said, “Take the love that you have and spread it around.” I think there’s a spiritual vacuum. You can put the philosophy together with the science, and it works just fantastically. Thank you so much for letting me on.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. Thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food. We’ll talk soon.
That was Judith Haskins, and she was talking about her late father’s manuscript, which they’ve recently published, called Congenital, Alterable, Transmissible, Asymmetry: The Spiritual Meaning of Disease and Science. I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’re listening to It’s All About Food. Let’s take a very quick break, and I’ll be back with my next guest: Élise Desaulniers.
Transcribed by HT 6/3/2016