An honest if incomplete answer resides in an old Sufi named Joe Miller who is, alas, no longer living, but who influenced many who sought his counsel. I went to see him after falling ill with pleurisy in 1987. He asked me what advice I would give to myself if I came to me with what was troubling me then. Without thinking about it for more than a second, I said I should try to live closer to my heart and walk in the path of my fear.
At that point Joe had a brief comment – “Most people do not do that,” he said - and then thanked me for coming to see him. I left his San Francisco apartment suddenly determined to sail my 47-foot ketch from San Francisco to Hawaii and back and to let the chips in my life fall where they might.
So I did, and in 1989 quit the San Francisco Examiner to write a book about the experience and other forces in my life. Now “Into My father’s Wake” has just been published on Amazon. You can find it at https://intomyfatherswake.com.
That it took 20 years to finish the book and that it is coming out into the new e-economy of publishing is a comment on many things, only some of which I think I understand. In the interim my father died, my brother suffered an injury and stroke, my mother developed Alzheimer’s and Morgan Stanley offered me a job. Then I met and married the mother of my two youngest children, bought a house in Long Island… the rest, they say, is history.
Of course I hope that people I have never met will find the book, and read it, and get something from it that is as useful to them as Joe Miller’s question was to me years ago. The made-up name of this blog – syzygeist – is intended to suggest such moments, when words or ideas or people or events or some combination of those come into alignment and we see or feel something valuable, and it helps us to change direction in ways we need to.
I marvel sometimes that Joe Miller might arguably be the reason that I later – after finishing a first draft, running out of money, getting a job with a boutique consultancy – that I found myself “Crossing Wall Street. “ This is my working title for a comment on the world I found far from journalism or the life of a writer, which I had aspired to long ago. Life is a path, a philosopher once said, that you beat as you walk it.