Friday, January 10, 2014

Rynn Berry: Compassion, conviction, and consistency

Rynn Berry, the erudite titan of compassion who inspired us with his gentle good humor and unwavering commitment to ethical veganism, died yesterday at age 68. In his written work and his personal interaction with thousands of friends, admirers, and passing strangers at the Union Square Greenmarket, Rynn helped us to better understand veganism's core principle of compassion—at the broad, societal level in his written work, and at the personal, individual level, in his frequent public appearances.

When I first met Rynn in March 2001, I'd only been vegetarian for about four years, and he was the first person I asked about veganism. In our final e-mail exchange, Rynn counseled me not to abandon my non-vegan writing career—and to continue to moderate New Vegan Age strictly as an avocation.

"My best advice is to keep doing what you're doing," Rynn wrote last summer. "Your corporate work enables you to carry on with your mission to promote veganism. Living as I do on the proceeds of my book sales and speaking fees is just too precarious an existence for me to commend it to you. It's a fascinating and spiritually fulfilling life, but one that is fraught with financial peril. I'm constantly working, and have virtually no social life to speak of. There just isn't the time for one. However, in all honesty, I wouldn't have it any other way."

In his June 2013 New Vegan Age interview, which appeared just seven months ago, Rynn felt fortunate to have lived to see veganism go mainstream. 
I hope he understood by then that his life's work of research, writing and appearances contributed significantly to veganism's current ubiquity. 

"There are at least a few vegan restaurants in every major city in the US," he reflected towards the end of the interview. "Vegan packaged foods and frozen entrees, made with ersatz dairy products, are available in local supermarkets. Just a decade ago, such an efflorescence of veganism would have been inconceivable. Now veganism is one of America’s burgeoning social movements. Vegans can contribute to the momentum by taking a non-vegetarian to lunch at a spiffy vegan restaurant, and by setting a shining example for non-vegetarians to follow."

Rynn, t
hank you for the veganism you lived as a shining example for us. Your conviction will live on in us—in the lives of all living beings—for decades to come.