SUCH IS CONSCIOUSNESS
I face the magic alone
standing solitary beneath
a lonely street lamp.
I see only the illuminated world
and struggle to adjust my vision
to peer into the darkness.
This oasis of light protects me,
secures me like a warm blanket
on a winter’s night.
I search the street signs
for an indication, a name,
a marker, any visual identification,
label or framework.
Failing I ask where am I?
Here and there is the response
from the hollow darkness.
I move quickly to the voice
and the light moves with me.
I run and the light runs with me.
Like a spot light chasing a spastic actor
who has forgotten his cues –
the light follows.
Such is consciousness,
a comforting light in an unlit world.
Here is Chapter Two, titled On The Way To The Train - making up the second chapter of Part One My Spiritual And Life Journey, which was inspired by Ann’s suggestion, that readers would want to know more about me after they completed Chapters One. In the process of writing this chapter, I have gotten to meet myself again, and borrowing a phrase from poet Derek Walcott’s poem, Love After Love listed below, I have greeted myself arriving at my own door, and I have had a chance to feast on my life.
The time will come
when with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who had loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
For all the Georges I have met along the way – to the little George who withstood the firestorm of my early life, to the adolescent George who conquered fear and plowed on to become the adult George, who kept searching for the authentic George when it would have been easier to give in or give up. I commend you all for your contributions to the ever evolving, but very happy spiritual George, who loves you all and has had the privilege to tell our story.
I often ask myself the question, what have I learned from this? Here is my response. Three lessons seem to be obvious to me. First, I was extremely lucky not only to have survived my childhood, but also to have lived the life that I have lived. Second, being a character myself, I am fascinated by the characters that I have met along the way and enjoy telling their stories. And lastly, I have been in the constant search of something that has kept me evolving and growing. I believe I have found it, and this is it. So, for all who wondered what I was doing on the way to the train, here is the answer.
FLOATING BACK ON TOP
I keep on livin', to keep from cryin'.
I keep on dreamin', to keep from dyin'.
I keep on trying, I aint gonna stop.
Get right down to the bottom of the barrel
and float back on top.
Bottom Of The Barrel By Amos Lee
Listen To Bottom Of The Barrel Above or Purchase fromFrom iTunes
As I look back on my life, the one central theme that comes to mind can be described by the word “buoyancy," defined by Webster as “the ability or tendency to float or the power to keep something afloat." I would have to say I have had a “buoyant life.” Many times I have gotten right down to the bottom of the barrel, as my favorite singer songwriter Amos Lee aptly expresses in the verse of his song, Bottom of the Barrel quoted above, and by some miracle, I have ended up floating right back on top. Overall, I have lived my life just the way that I pleased, and made the decisions that seemed right at the time, so I have no one else to blame or congratulate but myself. I have lived my life, so when I faced the final moments of life, I would have no regrets for having not lived.
God knows, I have not always made the right decisions, and have at times have negatively impacted my family. My kids would call themselves “Shifters,” a term they made up for the many lifestyles they lived as I experimented with jobs, careers, and life. My kids' felt that every few years, they would be in a new life created by a new career move or dream I was pursuing. I sincerely thank them for their flexibility.
This shifting also had to do with my love relationships, so I have been no stranger to divorce over the course of my adult years. Spiritually, I was also shifting - moving from my early commitment to the Methodist ministry, to the atheist/agnostic focus of my youth, to my conversion to Judaism, to my life long interest in Zen Buddhism and Sufism, to spending ten years as an Episcopalian, and finally to my current New Thought approach.
LOOKING FOR SOMETHING
As I take even a closer look, especially looking at what I have written in this chapter, I find that beneath the “buoyancy” that saved me from the “shifting” in my life, I was constantly looking for something. As I write this, the tag line from the Eurhythmics rhythmically enchanting hit song of the 1980’s - Sweet Dreams: “Everybody’s Looking For Something” is playing out in my mind. I think about my years of “looking for something." I was never sure what I was missing.
Listen to Sweet Dreams Above Or Download From iTunes
By my late forties, when my searching still left me empty, I tried to fill that void with therapy, prescription drugs, and food that I ate until I weighed over 275 lbs and could barely walk. One reason I wanted to share my story, is because I know others are also out there “looking for something,” and don’t understand why all the material things and success they have acquired, will not bring them satisfaction. I believe in my heart that the something I was looking for, and many of us are looking for, is simply a loving God. This book, blog, and my life are now about helping others form their own personal connection with God, and hopefully, finding what they have been missing.
I also hope that this chapter also answers the “Who Am I” question I originally posed in Chapter One, and gives the reader a sense of my unique spiritual and life journey. To do this I break the chapter into four main life - timing sections. I call the first section, the “Early Years,” which were life defining as all childhoods are, and includes a cast of characters that greatly impacted my early life, for better or worse, and comprises some of my most cherished memories.
At the same time, I have felt compelled to briefly address the abusive side of my childhood, because it has, and continues to, impact my life. I have tried to handle it in apoem, marking this poem so it can be easily skipped. Next, “Navigating The Late 1960’s” is the title of the second section, jumping back in time to the 1960’s with me at the age of fourteen, just beginning to navigate through my teenage years and the late sixties, and then slips into the early 1970’s to cover my early college years.
The third section focuses on me in my twenties, and is titled “Conversion, Graduate Business School, and The Young Adult Years”. And finally, the closing section, which covers my adult life up through my mid 50’s, which I call "High Tech, Island Break, and Mid-Life." My current life is not included, because it has been covered by the previous chapter, and will continue to be updated in the remainder of the book.
Again, I ask you to join me on the train as we go in reverse, and travel back in time on a brief journey through the 1950’s, the late 1960’s, and beyond, where my life and career highs merged with the spiritual searching to create an interesting backdrop, and preparation for my role today. All aboard!
THE EARLY YEARS
Let’s start at the beginning. There are those in the New Thought and Metaphysical movement who feel we pick our parents, and life situations, before taking human form, so we can experience a predetermined set of challenges, and by overcoming these challenges, we can progress along our spiritual path. If so, as I have joked, I was the product of a cosmic bait and switch, where my previously ordered parents, morphed quickly after birth into wholly different creatures. As you can see, I am still struggling with accepting this - you pick your parents and family members for spiritual growth - concept.
My mother, whose name was Joyce, a stunningly beautiful young women from Denison, Texas, who may have had bad luck with men, or a penchant for exotic bad boys, was already divorced from her Native American husband, who was serving time in prison, and the father of my half brother, Jimmy, when she met my father Van. My father, who was serving in Air Force, was a hefty, charming, humorous, six foot three fun loving guy, who everyone jokingly called Tiny. My mother was from the south, my father the son of a Philadelphia Engineer. My father married my mother in Texas, and brought his wife and half Native American stepson back to his northern parents, and all hell broke loose.
Although my mother hated Philadelphia as much as my father’s parents hated her, she recovered from a nervous breakdown, and gave birth to my brother Van, my sister Luria, my younger brother Stephen, and me, and we all lived in a row house in Philadelphia with my stepbrother Jimmy. My father, who drove a truck for a living, and although a bitter disappointment to his father, went on to read a book a week, become an expert on the civil war, and all wars in fact, loved movies, loved to draw, and when not in a rage, was quite normal. My mother became a housewife, opening up a day care business in our home so could have her own money, and would always have people around for safety.
My mother was the resident psychologist for the neighborhood, deeply loved by all who met her, and as a result, my home was always filled to overflowing with an abundance of unique characters, many were my mother’s friends; others, stopped by to deliver and pick up their children; some were just neighbors, but all sought my mother’s loving and sensitive advice on life.
There was Johnny, ex Catholic priest, and gay bar owner, and my mother’s best friend. Dale, the former Olympic swimming hopeful, with her two lovely daughters, whose Bank president husband would periodically suffer from amnesia, only to be found wandering around in distant cities after extensive searches. Others like Aunt Peggy, as we called her, was a highly paid Executive Secretary who was raising her sister’s two boys, Tony and Michael, as her sister dealt with the ravagers of alcoholism. Tony and Michael lived with us all week, being picked up by Aunt Peggy for the weekend. After a few years, Tony and Michael felt like siblings. And then there was our neighbor from up the street, who grew up in Nazi Germany, married her America soldier husband after the war, came to the America, but never fully gained a broader perspective on Jews or human rights.
I grew up standing around the kitchen table exposed to these strong women, along with a supporting cast of other characters, that I loved and learned from daily, and God willing, will someday document in a book so I never lose their deeply human stories, and the flavor of the times and their lives. Although my mother has transitioned, she is to this day the kindest, most loving, gentle soul, that I have encountered in life, who lived and overcame an extremely abusive husband, and a great deal of heartache.
My mother had a lot to deal with in the 1950’s, paramount was by half brother Jimmy, who as a teenager was a magnet for every aspiring criminal in the neighborhood. Jimmy’s friends all wore black tee shirts and jeans with chains coming out of their pockets, and listened to early rock and roll, did drugs of some sort, played bongos, planned robberies, and hung out each night in the basement of my house.
More characters for me, including the lovable Big John, who was six foot six, feared by all as the local loan shark’s collection agent and enforcer, but kind to me and the other kids, and my brother Jimmy’s best friend. Of course a leading character was my brother’s occasional girlfriend who was an epileptic, a biker type with the “Property of the Warlocks,” a local motor cycle gang, tattooed across her rear, which she was fond of showing all who asked, or some, like me, who did not.
One of my earliest memories is of my mother walking in the front door of our house with the morning Philadelphia Bulletin, our local newspaper, in hand, groaning and bursting into tears, falling to her knees and screaming, “God why?” On the front page was a story featuring my brother Jimmy’s late night bowling alley safe cracking caper with Big John, which had gone bad, ending in a high-speed chase where my brother jumps out of a car, for some reason, going 60 MPH.
It was later explained that it was the result of some high-speed miscommunication. Luckily for Jimmy, he was quite handsome and personable, and was able to minimize his jail time, and upon release, headed to the West Coast for a number of years. This is where I also learned an important life lesson from Jimmy, crime does not pay, and most criminals are not all that smart.
But it was Jimmy who returned home from California years later, who was the first to expose me to the folk music of Peter, Paul, and Mary, and Phil Ochs, along with the metaphysical and spiritual world straight from California. Since my brother also returned home with an addiction to diet pills, I spent long nights with him learning about Extra Sensory Perception (ESP), the healing powers and writings of Edgar Cayce, how to successfully perform Astral Projection, Nostradamus and his predictions for the end of the world, the Masons, and the religious order of the Rosicrucian’s. I would listen for hours, read all the discussed books, and come back for more each night. I will always be grateful to my brother for the time he took to offer me this education into a world I would only fully reconnect with over thirty-five years later.
SURVIVING THE EARLY YEARS
All was well in terms of abuse, as far as I knew, until I was five. I need to tell this story because it was a defining moment in my life, and my sister Luria’s life, and set the stage for our abusive childhood. It also underscores the fact that we are all faced with challenges in life, to live through and hopefully survive. We emerge from these challenges, as either victims or as victors, or like me, somewhere in between.
I wrote the following poetic depiction when I realized that I had a Pituitary Brain Tumor, and needed to face my unresolved and unforgiven past again. I was walking around thinking I had resolved all these issues years ago with therapy and anti-depressants. I had not, and in fact I believe, that the physical issues I have had come from these unresolved childhood events. I think these unresolved issues can eventually kill us, and, if possible, we need to find a way to forgive those involved, cleanse our souls and understand how we can perceive our victory in these events. If this is too much for you, I have italicized this section so you can skip it, if desired.
I feel this poetic depiction will give you the flavor of my this childhood memory, when during a bright sunny afternoon as a tiny boy of five, with long blond curly hair, I teamed with my eight year old sister, Luria, and actually saved my mother’s life. We won that day and were victors, but the fight went on for many years.
RAGING LIKE A BULL
How does a person get so overtaken that they violently rage
As a child, clearly pure, the monster would appear inside my
father and he became the full fury of hell on earth,
ripping at life, beating, threatening, hurting, scarring,
Moving to destroy all – life, balance, future, peace - a monster-
who just hours before spoke peacefully – lovingly.
The hell fire and damnation exploding across the
faces of tiny children watching the tornado of
hopelessness and despair unleash a horror of pain.
In these moments all time stopped – to fearful to tick on –
between giant punches my mother’s face grew blue,
then red as the monster tore away at her life –
to extinguish her existence.
My sister and I learned to fight the monster, but living in fear –
we prepared for the next visit to madness.
So, I am a survivor of an abusive household, which has shaped my life. I made a decision early in my life, that despite the terror that existed at home, I would prevail and succeed. My sister Luria was not so lucky and never recovered to live a normal life. There was not enough therapy, or drugs, or God to clear away the horrors that she endured, including sexual abuse, until one day she sat facing a table of pills, and silenced the horror forever.
The loving father, who turned into a monster on occasion, did not do much to support my concept of a judgmental, punishing God existing in heaven, and I believe it led me on a search for the loving God, which I have found so many years later.
NAVIGATING THE LATE 1960's
Listen to Bridge Over Troubled Water Above Or Download From iTunes
“And like a bridge over trouble waters I will lay me down," and I am watching and listening to Simon and Garfunkel introduce their new song at the Arena Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, my home town, and it is December 1969, I am seventeen, my hair is long, I am high, but as I listen to these two poet’s of the sixties sing, Paul at the grand piano, Art at the mike in the spotlight, they touch my heart and I fight back my tears for fear my friends will notice. The song ends, the crowd erupts with a standing ovation to this hymn of love, hope, and compassion, and I think of God.
I have spent my life wrestling with my spiritual self, and I have spent my time in the desert; often the demons won. Since I was a toddler, my mother said I suffered from “Divine Discontent,” because I was always searching for something that was just beyond my reach. Now, when I look back, I think it was an accurate description for my spiritual condition.
By the age of fourteen, I was a Boy Scout, an extremely religious teenager with a God and Country Award (the highest scouting medal for religious service) and the president of the Methodist Youth Group. I had already delivered a twenty-minute sermon on the life of Paul to the five hundred-member congregation of my church, and I had decided to make a career commitment to the Methodist ministry. This should have been the end of the story, except that life in an abusive household started to take its toll. I think that it was the two worlds, with God on one side and the devil at home, on the other, that started to wear away at my concept and belief in God.
Along with this, I would have to point to the late 1960’s, with it multiple enticements stemming from a whole new consciousness and way of thinking, including the standard sex, drugs, and rock and roll. In my early years of high school I was on the soccer, fencing and tennis teams, was on the Stage Crew, and was the President of my high school fraternity, Sigma Kappa Phi.
But by the time I was sixteen, I was also hanging out in Rittenhouse Square (the main hippie hangout in Philly), attending rock concerts at the Electric Factory on the weekends, and throwing myself into the radical thinking of the late sixties with the same intensity I had followed all the religious rules and practices previously. And in short order, the flood gates of late sixties opportunity opened for me and I co-founded the first underground student newspaper in Philadelphia, won a prestigious national student journalism award for one of my articles, opened a coffee/rock house with my friends in an old wine basement, and became a noted protester of the Vietnam war and anything else worth protesting.
I also became a vocal atheist, who after entering the local community college at seventeen, still took every religion course available. To give you some flavor of the time, one day in the morning I marched against the war with the Young Socialists, after the march I headed over to hear the Guru Bawa who had a spiritual center in Philadelphia to talk about enlightenment, and ended the day working at my local food cooperative stacking the shelves and wrapping cheese. Of course my friends said I only followed the Guru Bawa because they served great Indian food, which was, I must admit, partially true. It was a great time and I am thankful I survived.
A SIXTIES MEMORY
Ah the sixties. To fully capture the flavor of the times, I would like to share one of my favorite musical experiences that really shows how wonderful and strange it was growing up in the late sixties. I am sixteen and my friends from high school and I have tickets close to the stage, in this rather small venue by today’s standards, to see The Doors, who would headline the concert, with the Vanilla Fudge opening the show. Wow, I was going to get to see Jim Morrison and the Doors, and I was overcome with excitement.
With the smoke of both legal and illicit substances floating like massive clouds in the dim light of the hall, Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, brushed up against me on his way to the stage as he came out after, what at that time was his expected long delay, actually being held erect by a number of massive security guards who gingerly placed him on the stage.
But for me the real highlight of the night was the Vanilla Fudge’s rendition of Curtis Mayfield’s hit spiritual, People Get Ready, which the Vanilla Fudge had recorded on their latest album at that time. Their big Hammond organ cranked out one of the most soulful renditions of the song I will ever hear, with the lyrics blasting out what I now see as a sign of things to come for me, although I was some forty years from realizing it. I offer the downloads below, featuring both the Vanilla Fudge live version and the original song by Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, both worth a listen.
Listen to People Get Ready – Impressions Above Or Download From iTunes
Listen to People Get Ready – Vanilla Fudge Above Or Download From iTunes
People get ready, there's a train comin'.
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board.
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'.
You don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.
People get ready, there's a train to Jordan
Picking up passengers coast to coast.
Faith is the key, open the doors and board them.
There's hope for all among those loved the most.
The late sixties evolved into the early seventies, I tranfered to Temple University and I got serious about pursuing my undergraduate degree in Behavioral Psychology with a strong focus on religious studies, especially Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, with a special interest in the Muslim esoteric mystical Sufism, and the Christian Mystics, such as Thomas Merton. I was especially attracted to Native American and Mexican spiritual thought, such as Black Elk Speaks, The Ghost Shirt Society, and of course Carlos Castaneda’s books on the spiritual teachings of Don Juan.
My favorite religion professor at Temple University had long hair, lived alone in the mountains, and would come down for class and explain the spiritual landscape of the time. Alan Watts was my author of choice with the Way of Zen, What is Tao, and his classic Psychotherapy East and West being my favorites. I read every book I could get my hands on, expanding my concept of God at that time, believing God was in all things, but God, was surely not a human figure in the sky. I saw no need for my involvement with established religions at the time.
EARLY LOVE AND CONVERSION, GRADUATE BUSINESS SCHOOL,
AND MY YOUNG ADULT YEARS
For some divine reason, two of my major love interests during my college years and my early twenties were lovely, intelligent, and creative Jewish women, who I loved dearly, if not all together successfully. Personally, I was captivated by their self-confidence and sense of strength, but I also found myself fascinated with their families, the Jewish culture and community, their ethnic heritage, religious involvement, and their concept of God.
I seriously set out to fully understand Judaism, deciding to convert before my marriage to my first wife and our Jewish wedding. I was twenty-three, my future father in law thought it was unnecessary, and my family, who had little control over me, or input, just sighed. My mother was confused, but as usual, always supportive. For six months I attended conversion classes, met with Rabbis and on a number of occasions expressed my feelings that I was not fully sure God actually existed, but was told that Judaism was open to all, and that doubt was natural and acceptable. So I took my ritual Mikvah dunk in the pool (similar to baptism), had my ritual circumcision, and at the age of twenty-three found myself in front of a large conservative Jewish congregation, reading the Torah and chanting Hebrew prayers, as my mother and my future wife’s family watched in wonder.
When you convert to Judaism you are required to select a Hebrew name. I had reviewed the long list of possible names, but decided to make up my own name. I selected Johanatan Asher (pronounced Yo-han-a-tan As –sher), or Jonathan Asher in English, because I thought it sounded affluent, and would suit me well if I pursued a career in the arts or music. I did not have a clue of what it meant in Hebrew. When I told the Rabbi my spiritual name – he held his breath for a moment– stared at me and asked – “George, do you know what this name means?” I said no, but I thought is sounded good. He paused – looking into my eyes – he said in Hebrew it means “a gift of love from God.” He laughed and said - great name!
Although I had an excellent spiritual name, Johanatan Asher, worshipped as a Jew, lived as a Jew, I always felt like a convert who was seriously missing the ethnic part of being a Jew and after my divorce slipped away and went on searching. For what I missed at the time was Jesus – and since I was raised on Jesus and loved all that Jesus had become spiritually, I could not just forget Jesus as a key spiritual presence in my life. But the name Johanatan Asher is still close to my heart, and I still consider it my spiritual name, reflecting my new commitment to God.
MY FIRST CARRER DECISION
MUSIC OF BUSINESS?
I was also twenty–three years old and trying to decide what I would do for my life’s work. I was an Assistant Manager at a large Woolworth store in a suburban Philadelphia mall and was recently married. My passion at the time was learning to play Jazz guitar and writing songs. I loved the old standards and was studying with my teacher Nick, who knew over a thousand songs, able to play and sing all one thousand at the drop of a keyword. So I applied and was accepted to Berkley School of Music in Boston.
But reality set in, when I was accepted as a student with a group of Bebop musicians/teachers who taught the Bebop style of playing to many jazz artists, including John Coltrane and Roland Kirk. My teacher, besides being a great jazz guitarist, was a devout Jehovah’s Witness, who quietly ended each lesson with religious handouts and divine guidance. He also expected his students to practice the guitar at least six hours a day. I realized in short order I did not have the chops, or the time needed, for this type of musical focus.
So knowing this, and that I had no source of funding, and would need to eat in the future, I also applied to the MBA program at Temple University and was accepted. Since I was accepted to both Berkley and Temple at the same time, I needed to make a decision. After a few hours of debate and discussion with my new wife, I/we chose to keep music my hobby and get my MBA. It was an interesting choice, since I had never taken a business course in my life. You may also want to ask why not Psychology, Journalism, or Religion and I would have only one answer; "I had a wife and needed to get organized and get what was thought of as a “real job.”
GRADUATE BUSINESS SCHOOL
AND MY MID-TWENTIES
In September of 1976, I was working twenty hours per week as a Graduate Assistant for the Temple University Career Development Center, while pursuing my MBA degree at the Graduate School of Business. I was offered this highly sought after Graduate Assistantship, which paid a monthly stipend and full tuition costs, including books, for working twenty hours a week at the Career Services Center, charged with preparing my fellow MBA students for their job search and eventual placement.
I was one of the many candidates for this position, and when I asked why I had been offered the position, I was told by my then boss that I wore an impressive three-piece blue suit to the interview. It was my good luck that only a month before I had a part-time job at upper end men’s store, and although I left after only two weeks, I had been fitted for and bought a beautifully tailored three-piece blue suit. My life would have been very different had I showed up like the other candidates, not dressed in a suit. The universe was definitely looking out for me.
While at the career center, I had access to professional counselors and a library of resource materials. After reading in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the US Government, that the Personnel field, as it was called then, would evolve into an essential function for all organizations, and would be a high demand job, so I selected Industrial Relations/Organizational Behavior as my MBA major or concentration.
During the summers in graduate school, I would work in paid HR internships or ocassionally be able to land a short-term consulting assignment with a local Philadlephia company. At the Osteopathic Hospital, I spent one summer interviewing incumbents and writing a job description for every job in the hospital. My favorite experience was interviewing the Mortician, who delighted in taking me from cadaver to cadaver, having me touch each so I could understand the elasticity of corpses, then would show me the corresponding brain that had already been removed and put in a jar.
Or my summer long, semi-consulting job, at Max The Fender Man's, the largest indoor car parts yard on the east coast. My assignment was to work with Max’s grandson, who had an interesting idea to create a chain of Jiffy Lube type, high speed, bumper replacement centers throughout the U.S. We found a location, and I hired an artist friend of mine to create the logo for the business, which would be called, “Bumper Boy.”
Yes, Max The Fender Man and Bumper Boy, the dynamic duo of auto parts and repairs. So our logo was created - a superman type super hero easily wielding two giant bumpers, which turned into lightening bolts crisscrossing Bumper Boy’s chest. The new venture was a noble effort, and who knows might of worked had it not taken so long to change a bumper in real life, and had not required a very large on site warehouse to store the bumpers.
CAREER DEVELOPMENT AND
MY FIRST MANAGEMENT JOB
When I received my MBA with a concentration in Industrial Relations/ Organizational Behavior, or Human Resources Management, as it is now called, I decided to stay on at the Career Center and work in career development, which blended my counseling and business education skills. I took a position running the Temple Cooperative Education Program and enjoyed working on campus. It also allowed me to continue to take graduate level courses in counseling, career development, and education.
After only a year, I was offered the position as Director of Career Services at the center, and found myself managing a staff of twelve, including six professional career counselors, many of whom were in line for the position. This was a major opportunity for me and it changed my life significantly. As the Director of Career Services, I conducted an average ten career development based job search presentations and workshops each week, taught two career development college courses for Temple, and became a recognized local expert on career change, second careers, and job search techniques.
As I mentioned previousl, my office overlooked the statue of Russell Conwell in Founders Garden, which was the final resting place of this true New Thought genius. My parents were amazed by my rapid ascension at the center, and thought that since I was a Director, working at a major university, that I had “made it.” So I would not become complacent, I would constantly remind myself that this was only the start of my career.
Time flew by and I was 30 years old, divorced from my first wife, enjoying my job, taking graduate level courses in career development, and augmenting my income by teaching two business courses for the local community college. One day in Mitten Hall, the hall where I worked, I met a Thai International Student who would become my second wife. Shortly thereafter, with my new wife’s expertise as a cook and pastry chef, I opened my first business, an eclectic restaurant called the Wharton Street Kitchen in the heart of South Philadelphia, while still working at Temple and keeping all of my other teaching jobs.
Spiritually, I would spend much of my thirties immersed in Asian culture, and although my wife was a Buddhist, I did not convert or join the religion. During this period, I did not attend a Jewish or Christian church, but spent a great deal of time in Buddhist Temples, working to full understand eastern religion and cultture. From this marriage, came my two sons, who are Amerasian, and who I love and admire greatly.
THE WHARTON STREET KITCHEN
I would be leaving out a defining section of my life, if I closed out my discussion of my young adult years, without properly reflecting on my two years in South Philadelphia, and the Wharton Street Kitchen. Some of my favorite characters and memories came from this, my first entrepreneurial experience. Let me start by saying that I have always been fascinated with entrepreneurs, and their ability to create a business from only an idea, street smarts, and hard work.
Having lived in the Jewish community, I had a chance to meet many amazing entrepreneurs, including my first wife’s father, who went from cab driver, to record distributor, to owning his own art publishing company. I admired him, and the others I met, and secretly longed to do the same. One of my favorite movies at the time was The Apprenticeship of Duddey Kravitz, released in 1974, starring a young Richard Dreyfuss who plays Duddey, the son of a Jewish Montreal cab driver. Duddey yearns for more and decides to become an entrepreneur, and through a series of small to big business deals, ends up poised to own a resort in the Catskills. I loved the movie and wanted to emulate Duddey’s remarkable climb.
So here I am, an aspiring Duddey, with a new girlfriend who is Thai and comes from a family of entrepreneurs, and we here about a little store front luncheonette in South Philadelphia on Wharton Street, with all the equipment needed to open up a restaurant without much work or expense. We visit the little corner restaurant, which is basically the first floor of a large corner South Philadelphia row home, with large plate glass windows, and an old-fashioned soda counter, with everything you need to set up a business.
Mario, the landlord, lived directly across the street with his mother, who he recently brought from Italy to live with him. Mario assured us in a still thick Italian accent that the right people could make this restaurant work, and to make the deal he would throw in the third floor apartment. Two nights later, after convincing my younger brother Stephen, who was managing a parking lot, to quit his job and become a partner, I was facing Mario in his home with his furniture snugly protected in plastic. I casually asked Mario what he did for a living, and he quickly handed me his card, and said, surveying his living room, “as you can see, I'm an Interior Decorator.”
Ok, Interior decorator, and two days later with the use of my American Express card and $5,000 dollars we borrowed from my girlfriend’s sister, the three of us moved into the third floor apartment and began renovations. A new sign; new tile floors; painting the walls yellow; dry walling the back room so we could fit more tables; and a new stove and we were opened for business. Our strategy - the Wharton Street Kitchen would be an eclectic luncheonette serving everything from the traditional hoagies and cheese steaks to fried wontons, Quiche Lorraine, seafood omelets, and our specialty, and calling card would be upscale cakes, pies, and pastry, which we would sell both retail and wholesale. We advertised, put menus and featured items up on the glass windows, and were ready to open the doors.
Finally, it was opening day and our first customer to walk across the threshold took two steps, grabbed his chest, fell on the floor, and had a heart attack. At first we thought it was some joke that Mario, who was a prankster, had set up. No such luck. Thankfully, our almost first customer, was rushed to the hospital and did not die. In a small Italian neighborhood news travels fast, and for the next two weeks everyone who walked in the restaurant had to grab his or her chest and reenact the scene.
The business sustained itself and we became well known for pastry, pies, and cakes, but after two years we all grew tired with the work, the seven day weeks, especially me, who was working two other jobs, and we moved on. My wife, after our divorce, eventually becomes a well-regarded pastry chef and a successful entrepreneur. My brother went on to manage a car rental business, later marrying and relocting to Dover, Delaware, and I went on to corporate America and the world of high tech. At the Wharton Street Kitchen, I learned more about life then about business, but to this day I cherish the memories of every soul that provided me with this rich life experience.
HIGH TECH, ISLAND BREAK, AND MID-LIFE
During this time, right around my 30th birthday, my professional Human Resources career took off and I was offered a Human Resources position with the second largest computer mainframe company at the time, Burroughs Corporation, located in Detroit, Michigan. I was hired to cover college relations and recruiting from twelve of the top East Coast universities. My job was to meet with the faculty and student groups, so I could identify and recruit the most talented computer engineers on campus.
My first office was located in a building in Paoli, Pennsylvania, where the ENIAC - short for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer, the first general-purpose electronic computer, was created in the 1940’s. I loved the high tech computer industry, and the talented people who created the large mainframe computers that were created in Paoli, and then shipped around the world. I would walk through the manufacturing center and watch as these mammoth machines, by today’s standards, were created.
I also participated in the largest merger in computer industry history, when Michael Blumenthal the former Secretary of Treasury under the Carter Administration, and then Burroughs’s CEO, created Unisys through the merger of Sperry and Burroughs. The years rolled by, and I was promoted, and began my climb up the corporate ladder being glad to be known as a “techy." My marriage suffered and finally ended in divorce, and I became a single father who had custody of my two boys. I quickly realized what most working single mothers know, it is not easy to be on the fast track and take care of your children alone. Eventually, I met a woman who was single and had three children, and we planned to move in together to manage our families and our careers, but she lived in the Maryland and I lived in Pennsylvania.
At this point, I was an expert in compensation and benefits with Unisys, and looked for a job that would let me move closer to my new life. I wrote a letter to the President of the local Citibank customer service center, and was hired, beginning my five-year career with the number one bank in the world. Again, I had landed solidly on my feet, and began to learn the credit card business, and after a year, became the Director of Human Resources for Citibank Telemarketing, and we all moved to Baltimore, Maryland. Citibank had a frantic New York pace, which they brought to everything they did. I enjoyed the pace, and the prestige of working for Citibank, and again made my way up the ladder of success.
RHODE ISLAND BREAK
And then I was forty years old, with ten years at Unisys and Citibank under my belt, and I was home every night playing guitar and writing songs. I came to the conclusion that I had gone the wrong way, when I made my decision to go to business school, rather than music school. I wanted to write songs and play music, and felt trapped in a life where this was not possible. So, I decided to take a year off and focus on my music.
My wife was interested in starting a restaurant or running an Inn. There was an opportunity to run an Inn on an Island off the coast of Rhode Island with the option to buy. I would have time to write and try to publish music as we ran the Inn with a restaurant together. Sounded great except that we did have to sell our house and move our Children to the Island. On the positive side, we had vacationed on the Island and my stepdaughter currently worked at the Inn. The family all agreed, and we went to live on a beautiful Island 13 miles off the coast of Rhode Island, which is considered the Bermuda of the north with Ireland like cliffs, and over a third of space protected by the Nature Conservancy.
We went in January, and rented a large house on the beach, and began our new life. In the winter there are only 800 residents on the island, but in the summer close to 5,000 tourists a day inhabited the island. I wrote and practiced my music to get ready to record and we started working and managing a historic Inn. Our friends all thought we were crazy, but we thought that we were adventurous.
We loved the island and its beauty, but the solitary nature of winter on the island was a lesson in overcoming sensory deprivation, especially if you had been working in Washington, D.C. But the sheer beauty that surrounded us each day was thrilling. We worked through the summer and fall at the Inn, while I recorded and tried to sell my music. It was a learning experience, realizing that both Inn keeping and song writing were not our strong suits, we decided to return to Virginia. I have always been proud that I took the time to further explore my musical side, feeling that in the end, I had made the right choice to make music an avocation, rather than a vocation.
RETURN TO HIGH-TECH LIFE
While still living on the Island, my former boss from Unisys called to check on me, and asked if I was interested in getting back into the high-tech world. I jumped at the chance. He had taken a Director’s job with an international wireless consulting firm, owned by an Indian husband and wife team. The husband, a Radio Frequency Engineering professor, foreseeing the cellular phone craze, speculated that the only way the needed wireless sites would be set up, was is if their were enough Radio Frequency Engineers, or RF Engineers as they were then called, to set up the infrastructure in each city around the world. He concluded, that if he started a consulting firm and hired these engineers first, then the major communication companies, who wanted to set up coverage, would be dependent on his talent to succeed.
So he did just that, hiring the majority of RF Engineers not already tied down. As a result, any communication company who wanted to set up cellular service in a particular city needed to use his consultants. Covering human resources, my boss and I were responsible for recruiting RF Engineers worldwide, getting them U.S. H1 visas, bringing them to the U.S. for a few weeks, and then redeploying them to assignments around the world. We also needed to manage the employee relations of having employees from 72 different countries working together, teaming up, even if at home they may be mortal enemies, and actually at war. Wireless communications was the new high-tech industry, and again I was working at the cutting edge.
All was not perfect in my life, as I began to deal with a sense of doom and depression, finding it hard to sleep at night. Memories of my childhood were appearing in my dreams, and in my thoughts, and I felt I needed help. By the time I was forty-five, I was already seeing a therapist, trying to resolve the nightmare that was my childhood, and taking an assortment of medication. I had also stopped running every day, and along with the effects of the medication, I was gaining weight quickly and having trouble sleeping. Then came the sleeping pills, followed by the sleep Apnea machine, so I could sleep each night. I started to feel lost, and every time I came up with a new problem, was issued a new drug.
WHAT ABOUT THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
Ok, where am I spiritually during this time? Personally, I was not focused on my spiritual needs, and did not really feel an urge to attend church. But my wife and I, at the time, agreed when we came back to Virginia, from Rhode Island, that we needed a church primarily for the children. My sons were already being exposed to Buddhism from their visits with their mother, so we felt they needed to see all the options.
The Episcopal Church, which was active in the community, looked like a good choice. I had attended an Episcopal church, briefly, when I was in college and found the Episcopalians to be liberal and socially tolerant. Since I had Amerasian children, I was very concerned about racial and ethnic tolerance and acceptance. So for most of my forties, as I raised my boys, I was an Episcopalian, and honestly, quite active in the church. I was an usher, a bible reader, and organized the adult education program.
What I really liked about the Episcopal Church was that it allowed dissent, had wonderful rituals like offering communion at every service, and was controlled by the congregation. But no matter how hard I tried, I felt like I was missing the point, as if there was some secret or ritual that I had missed. Honestly, as with many Christian denominations, my Episcopal training did not offer any real guidance on developing a strong relationship with God.
FLASHING SATELLITES IN THE NIGHT SKY
After about five years at the wireless consulting firm, I was forty-six and looking for my next career move. The boss, who recruited me into the firm, had left. I was gladly recruited by a start-up telecommunications company, which was being backed by Motorola and partnering with 35 other telecommunication companies around the globe. This consortium of companies, had a vision of creating hand-held satellite phones, the size of a cell phone that would be connected by 66 low orbiting satellites. These satellites would fly around the earth, bouncing calls from satellite to satellite, and when over the country that was being called, would send the call to a gateway on the earth, then channeling the call through the standard communications system.
As long as there was open sky, satellite phone users would be able to connect no matter where they were: on a mountain; in a jungle clearing; out at sea; or in the middle of a disaster zone. No towers needed, except in cities with very tall buildings. I knew this was possible, because COMSAT had done this with bigger stationary satellites, but their telephone was the size of a large suitcase. At that time, Iridium’s phone was the size of a small world war two walkie-talkie, but in the next four years, before the launch of the business, Motorola would trim it down significantly.
It was my dream job, and given my wireless experience, I was their dream candidate. I took over their international HR operations, Compensation and Benefits and helped grow this company, from under 100 employees, to over 500 at the time of launch. Every day, I would walk into the office on I Street in Washington D.C., and look up at a mock up prototype of the Low Orbiting Satellite hanging from the ceiling in the lobby. These satellites were being constructed for lift off from launch sites around the world, and I knew I was in high tech heaven. So this organization, of what I called - “true believers,” actually created an unimaginable network of low orbiting satellites that could handle calls from a phone on the ground, and pass it from satellite to satellite to the country of choice.
Here are a few of my Iridium Satellite memories that I would like to share.
- I remember one Sunday, when I took my boys to Press Club in Washington, DC, to see a number of our satellites being rocketed into space from a space center in Russia.
- Iridium satellites would have a flare, or glint, that could be seen from earth moving across the night sky, which got more and more press as the entire set were orbited, and became the talk of my neighborhood.
- One night, I took the prototype phone home to test, and stood on my front lawn in McLean, Virginia and called my neighbor next door, knowing that this call went directly up to a low orbiting satellite, was bounced from satellite to satellite until it was over the Iridium Gateway, in Arizona, where it was received from a satellite to the gateway, then moved through land lines to be picked up by my neighbors in their home, just minutes later. Wow, it was amazing at least to me.
Iridium went public with only five of the satellites in orbit and no working phone.Since I was in charge of stock options for employees, I watched as the stock prices went from twenty dollars a share to seventy-four dollars in a few weeks of trading. I remember thinking, that many us were millionaires in stock option value, even before the service was up in running.
The launch of the Iridium service took place in 1998, after five billion dollars of investor’s money had been spent creating the system. Amazingly the system worked perfectly, but the phone was thought too big by many, the cost too high. In the end, most consumers stayed with their traditional cell phone that had improved enormously, during the ten years it took to build the system. Consumer demand did not meet expectations, and although the stock market was leery, we were hopeful.
In December of 1998, Iridium celebrated their Holiday Party in the Smithsonian Air And Space Museum in D.C., with satellite connections to over thirty countries around the world being shown on large screens throughout the museum. Food from all the participating countries was available, beautifully prepared and catered. It was an affair to be talked about and remembered by all in the satellite industry, and a peak experience of my lifetime. I was a working class kid from Philadelphia at the center of a high tech adventure. This was a high point in my life.
The lowest point came the next August, when after six months of struggle, Motorola and all the investors realized this was not a commercially feasible product and declared bankruptcy. The company was finally sold to a private investor for twenty-five million dollars, with the shareholders of worthless stock, and employees with worthless stock options, including me – stunned. This was the lowest point in my life, and I joke that I had the highest and lowest point all in one year. The Company was sold, and I was one of the last to leave, as I placed all the “true believers” in their new jobs.
NEXT STOP HEALTHCARE?
I am proud to say that the Iridium Satellite phone system is fully functioning, and Iridium phones are sold and used throughout the world by governments, news media, maritime, aviation, and disaster relief organizations. Not a consumer success, but certainly a technological success. But the satellite communications industry was not going to be revived for a long time, as one giant company after another, tried to deal with what was a major downturn.
For me, I sat at home for a few weeks, then got a call from a new start up company that planned to offer radio via satellites and needed an HR consultant who was familiar with the satellite industry. So I began consulting with XM Satellite Radio, as they hired their talent and prepared to go public. Although the money was great and I had the highest earning year of my life, as I worked for XM and a number of other companies, I did not feel I could make a go of it as an independent consultant.
As Bob Dylan so aptly stated, it does not take a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows. When the consulting ran out, I knew I needed to find a new industry and turned my sights on healthcare when I heard it would be the fastest growing industry in a few years. But for me, this meant starting over and giving up a life style that could only be supported on six figure salaries and large bonuses. It would also mean moving to a hospital that would be willing to consider my background.
My next stop became Bangor, Maine, and a HR Director’s position for large hospital system, that wanted my high tech background to assist with the increased competition for health care staff. I sold my house in McLean, Virginia, uprooted my high school age kids, and realized that my career luck may have seriously changed for the worse. We arrived in Maine in late October, in a snowstorm, with the temperature fixed at twenty-five degrees below zero, staying that way for two weeks. We did not see the ground again, without snow, until late April of the next year.
Maine, which is a beautiful state, had a very brief summer and a very long dark winter. Maine also had some extra seasons, such as “mud season” in late April and early May where there is nothing but mud as far as the eye can see, which was followed by “black fly season,” where tiny flies tear into your skin. A Maine joke claims that, if you can’t take the long winter, mud season, and black fly season, you shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy the two weeks of summer.
Again, I adapted and even though working for a not-for-profit hospital was a shock with my tiny office - low budget – and even lower salary, I found myself working with some of the most dedicated people I had met in my life. Healthcare had the complexity of high- tech along with same competitive pressures to recruit talented staff, but at the core there was a sense of compassion and decency. Healthcare in Maine, and all over the country, was growing rapidly and slowly becoming the number one industry. After a few months, I realized that it was not about me this time, but the patient, and I felt good about being part of the team.
In Maine, I also got involved politically for the first time, and was elected to the Town Council for my little town. I joined the local Episcopal Church, and became an active member until the issue of the ordination of a gay priest as Bishop surfaced. My church sent out a letter condemning the move, and Gays in general, and I became very angry, again deciding that established religion was no longer for me. I also decided it was time to leave Maine. I worked with a nutritionist to lose over 80 lbs from my top weight of 275. Over a number of months the weight rolled off, and I began job searching. Finally one March day a headhunter called and asked me if I wanted to work in Fredericksburg, Virginia at a major regional hospital. I said yes, my wife said no, and decided to stay in Maine, and the rest is history as outlined in Chapter One.
First, I must thank you for staying with me, and working through my life story. For many, I feel that it will help you to understand how I ended up here writing this book and blog. For others, it just might be an interesting story of someone who was definitely looking for something during a very exciting time in our history, and even when going to the bottom of the barrel at time, seemed to actually float back on top.
I often ask myself the question about whether there is a divine plan that we seem to follow, or if we are directed by of our own free will. I believe it is a little of both. I do know that each step led to the next step, which uniquely prepared me for this step. But all of life requires that we overcome our fears, and have the confidence to take the next step. I would like to end this chapter with a Closing Note On Enlightenment that sums up this notion, along with an affirmation for building confidence, listed below.
CLOSING NOTE ON ENLIGHTENMENT
To end this chapter focused on my spiritual and life journey, I would like to feature a related Meditative Guidance titled, The Magic Of Intent, from my train commute on February 2, 2008. As I read and proof this chapter, I can see the divine magic that has been alive in my life. The coincidences, and chance happenings, are starting to make sense and fall into place and - no matter what the intent - it all appears magical to me.
THE MAGIC OF INTENT
Life is magical, amazing, beyond what is hoped for or conceived.
Feel and see the magic, the uniqueness of each person, event,
thought, item. Experience the magic in each moment – how it
connects and reflects your mood – your thoughts – your emotions.
The magic exists and comes from the orchestrated creative force
of our collective intelligence divinely guided by spirit. See how it
all fits in – a wondrous coincidence that is without coincidence.
Nothing happens – it all flows from the magic of thought, desires,
and wants manifested into the world.
Feel the warmth and light of the sun through the window and
wonder at the wisdom that manifested this spirit – this ball of life
giving energy. This is the magic – the magic is everywhere – for
like a magic trick - behind the magic is divine will directed by
collective good intentions.
Wonder at the magic. The magic is rooted in your ability to
manifest your reality – to create it brick by brick and have this
reality unfold and interact with the reality of others – and finally –
be divinely intertwined in the manifested reality of all life.
As you attract and bring the world to you, receive as you believe,
and so do the wills of others. Together this magic comes together
to create all life – a harmony of cocreated existence.
Look deep within the magic, behind the curtain, in the hat, and
you will see purposeful reality – no coincidence – all related –
all positive creative force intent on evolving.
NOE 2.2.2008 7:45 AM
Affirmations are positive statements announcing to God – Universal Mind – and to your own subconscious mind, how you view the world, and what you expect to occur during the day or in your life. It is a powerful way to use the Law of Attraction to frame your reality and set positive expectations.
Moving forward with the creation of our lives takes confidence. We need to have the confidence that we will land on the other side when we take the risk – the leap of faith. I close with an affirmation that I use every day, especially when the ego starts to work on generating my doubts and fears. This Affirmation is simply titled, Confidence, and will help us stay on tract with the co-creation of our authentic lives.
I am extremely self-confident and self-accepting,
knowing that I the skills, abilities, talents, personality,
and courage to succeed easily at any task I attempt.
I am confident I am the best at what I do and will attain
great success in whatever I endeavor to accomplish.
I am proud of my past, my accomplishments, and my
experiences and understand how they have led me to
this level of exceptional achievement. I am the best
getting better. I am proud. I am self-assured.
I am a winner.
The next step in understanding my spiritual and life journey, is to take some time to fully understand the evolution of New Thought, and how it has impacted me directly, and all of us today. This is important, since the message I will convey in Part Two, is centered on the basic tenets of New Thought, especially the key concept that each of us can have a significant, ongoing, personal connection with God. See you on the train.