MEMOIRS OF A MEDIATED MIND
There Is Life After Show Business
In July of 1968, when the lovely young woman in the picture above and I were married - in Las Vegas, Nevada by a judge with a Polish-sounding name and witnessed by 30 of our closest friends, most of whom I haven’t seen since around that time - my then writing partner Buz Kohan bought my wife Hani and me a great wedding gift, a 16 mm. projector. Back then, there was no Blockbuster down the street, no VHS, not even Betamax had as yet reared its utilitarian but nevertheless soon-to-be-guillotined tape heads. Now all we have to do is pay some electronic ticket taker on the Internet a couple of bucks and we can download any one of thousands upon thousands of movies. But things were different back then. A 16 mm. projector was how you watched movies in Hollywood until the big bucks rolled in, at which time you built your own little mini-theater, complete with a 35 mm. projector (and enslaved a 24/7 projectionist).
Along with the projector, Buz gave us a copy of a movie he knew had been one of my favorites, since my adolescent days. “THE RAZOR’S EDGE” is based on a story by Somerset Maugham about a young man named Larry Darrel who, disillusioned by what he saw as a fighter pilot in World War I and post war life, travels to India where he meets a man who changes his life forever. Two major films were produced based on this book. The first appeared in the late '40s and starred one of Hollywood's greatest-ever movie faces, Tyrone Power. That's the one Buz gave us. The second was made in the '80s, and starred Bill Murray as the confused and disenchanted man. Studio heads would probably never have thought Murray was “right’ for the role. But at the time, Murray was Hollywood Hot and could say, "I want to make this movie!" -- which he did, and it got made. And why not Murray? I thought his appearance as a man in search of real answers made a uniquely creative statement. But perhaps only someone who's been in that singular position himself, in his own lifetime, as I'm reasonably certain Bill Murray has, can truly understand this.
The difference between Larry Darrell’s story and mine, is that I didn’t go to India, like Power did in his movie, or Tibet, like Murray did in his... In fact I didn’t even go looking... Nor was I in any way disillusioned. I was perfectly content living the life of a successful TV Comedy and Music writer when Variety shows like Carol Burnett and Laugh-In and The Smothers Brothers were in high-style.
This book is about how my life suddenly took an unexpected turn and brought me into direct contact with two of the most unique minds of the 20th Century – or, for that matter, any century, Spiritual figure J. Krishnamurti and Theoretical Physicist David Bohm. Meeting these two men sparked the fire that contributed to the questioning and ultimate abandonment of my chosen career, as well as almost every other aspect of my life including family, friends and the accompanying accouterments of that lifestyle. They were replaced by a life that, for the next thirty plus years, had no goals, and no direction, until a final series of devastating professional and personal blows put the seemingly aimless thrust of that life into an enforced holding pattern; yet a pattern within which even a septuagenarian could – thanks to Providence and the foresight of the 32nd President of the United States1 – not only survive, but creatively thrive.
 In 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into Law the Social Security Act.
Paradoxically, it wasn't until life put me into that pattern that I realized that although my outer journey was now on hold, the other journey that had unknowingly begun the day I first read about Krishnamurti - the inner one - continues. And then one day - while imprisoned in that holding pattern, I started writing about that realization. And as these pages began to unfold , they also revealed that I wasn't writing them as a final fanfare, but rather to fulfill a profound obligation I believe I have, for having been given the rare privilege of calling Messrs. J. Krishnamurti and David Bohm my friends – That is, to share what I learned from them and the journeys they set into motion.
Briefly stated, my friends pointed out that the inner journey and the learning about one's self doesn't end, nor does the challenge that continues to face us all at this point in the history of mankind. However, as the sources of that challenge and its parameters become clearer, they also define a responsibility that we all have that comes with our awakening to the understanding of what it is to be truly human. It is the degree to which we acknowledge that responsibility and the manner in which we respond to it, that makes all the difference in the world – literally.
Although from completely different backgrounds, there was an underlying similarity in the thrust of the lives of these two men, that is undeniable. One was the son of a Jewish furniture dealer in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania who would grow up to become the man whom Albert Einstein would predict to be his successor. The other was plucked from his life as a poor Brahmin child in India and chosen to become the fulfillment of a long-held prophecy – the coming of a "World Teacher."
Both men would go beyond the limitations of the expectations of others and find a common ground that would link their seemingly individual world views in a transformational manner. For they both suggested, in their own life work, and in an extraordinary series of dialogues with each other over a period of more than 20 years, the possibility that each of us may be able to reclaim a capacity which in its purest sense has been all but wiped out by societal mediation - that is, deep-seated influences - of one form or another. While underscoring the fact that we are by our very nature societal beings, they further suggested that by reclaiming this capacity we may make ourselves open to a whole new way of perceiving life – a way we have rarely experienced before, because of the manner in which most of us are taught to perceive things, through our mediated minds – or, as Saint Paul put it, "through a glass darkly."
They also suggested that it is this mediated way of seeing, that is preventing our understanding of what compassion is. Not sentimentality, not pity, but true compassion – the nature of which - they suggest - is that "something" which may hold this Universe together. Moreover, it could be humankind's historic lack of true compassion that has caused civilization after civilization to self-destruct – a fate that may perhaps be waiting around the corner for the current version of civilization, as well. Only now, the stakes are considerably higher since we are capable of destroying much more than civilization...
The following pages are one man's – one "Mediated Mind's" - story. When the decision was made to commit to paper what I apparently have been studying for more than 35 years - sometimes in concert with my two brilliant mentors, David Bohm and J. Krishnamurti, but most of the time in day to week to month to year encounters with others who, like myself, blunder their way through life, dazed and confused by its unrelenting slings and arrows (hence the subtitle of this blog) — mine was the closest Mediated Mind available to use as an example. And don't for a moment think that it's been a very cooperative subject.
Finally, as a literary period to this back-story, I offer the actual 2500 year-old statement from which Somerset Maugham drew the title of his book:
“Awake, arise, having approached the great teacher, learn. The road is difficult, the crossing like the sharp edge of a razor.”