Discovering a Dust-Covered Gem

I’m wondering today if Millennials and Gen-Xers (like my own “kids”) have the same bias I once did: that “our collective knowledge is doubling every year, so nothing that was written more than a few years ago can possibly be as good or relevant as the latest stuff.”

You might think that here I’m going to mention Shakespeare or Aristotle, but you would be wrong. I’m thinking Ken Keyes, Jr.

I am re-reading his “Handbook to Higher Consciousness” for perhaps the third or fourth time. It was written 41 years ago, so it can’t possibly have anything of value to say to humans in The Year of Our Armageddon 2012. Ah, but it does.

But let me first tell you why many would dismiss it, as my younger brother is fond of saying, as “pap, crap and claptrap.” Keyes’ mother was an alcoholic. He worked in naval intelligence as a censor for cablegrams to and from the U.S. He was married four times, two of those wives were clinically depressed, and Keyes admitted his own serial affairs and obsession with sex. He suffered from polio and for years was quadriplegic. He fought with his partner in his “Living Love” center. He was, like all of us, a flawed human being.

But his “Handbook to Higher Consciousness,” written and self-published at the height of the peace-love-hippie movement, has transformed lives ever since. I’m about to clip and paste just a few of the comments by contemporary readers of the book, but I’ll preface it by lowering your expectations yet again: my 1974 copy contains amateurish drawings, the 12 Pathways and Seven Centers of Consciousness might sound corny, and Diagram 2 (“How You Create Happiness in Your Life”) is ridiculously confusing. Like the man who wrote it, this book is not perfect.

But it is the most effective self-help book I’ve ever read, and I’ve read hundreds (and have even written one), and it makes more sense with each reading.

This is what other readers posted about Keyes’ “Handbook to Higher Consciousness” on Amazon:

“Most important book I’ve ever read

“Simply, the best that ever was, or ever shall be

“The one book that really changed my life

“This book is timeless and one to give to all your loved ones

“Better than the Bible, and I read the Bible cover to cover 34 times”

Oh, and check out Shakespeare and Aristotle, too.


When Your Final Credits Roll

I have pneumonia. A major annoyance when you’re young, but a potentially life-threatening crisis when you’re pushing 60. The following is 100% true.

Last night, with the sickness racking my body and brain, I was unable to sleep and literally went into a short delirium. Sitting up in bed, I became disoriented, wasn’t sure where I was, and then everything went black … and I started to see CREDITS slowly rolling up in front of my eyes.

“Uh oh, this can’t be good,” I thought. “I’m over. Hope there’s a sequel.” Then I saw the line, “Directed By …” and it was someone’s name I didn’t recognize. “Damn, I don’t even get credit for directing my own life.” Then up rolled, “Cast.” I figured I’d at least get the lead, but it had a bunch of other names I didn’t recognize.” Then I snapped out of it, the black was gone, and I was gasping for breath because of head and chest congestion. And no, the TV wasn’t on. It was a genuine, lack-of-oxygen hallucination.

So you might like to know that when our number is up, the credits roll, and someone may end up stealing all the glory.

Murder in the First

My insides hurt. My brainwaves spin in confusion. How can this be happening? Again! It’s a heinous crime against an entire profession. No, against a worldwide tradition, one as old as mankind itself.

I’m talking, of course, about a baseball game. Tonight, Angels pitcher Jered Weaver pitched a no-hitter against the Minnesota Twins. That part was fine. But the tradition that got disemboweled was storytelling itself, and the perpetrator was Angels TV broadcaster Victor Rojas.

Normally, I like Rojas’ work. But last year, when the Angels’ Ervin Santana was working on a no-hitter, Rojas neglected to mention that little fact until after the last out of the game. And tonight, he did it AGAIN. He acted as if nothing important was happening at all.

OK, I get the old players’ superstition of not mentioning a no-hitter while the game is in progress. But that’s for players ON THE FIELD. Victor Rojas is in the broadcast booth. Telling viewers about the game. Facts. Stories, Statistics. Like how many hits the opposing team has.

Did he really think he would jinx the no-hitter if he uttered a single word about it up there in the press box? (Scary thing is, I believe he did.)

The reason this cut me like a machete to the gut is that I spent my whole career looking for great stories to tell, many of them on baseball diamonds. In that regard, a writer isn’t different from a broadcaster. Both our jobs involve telling the story of WHAT’S HAPPENING. And Victor Rojas blew a career-defining moment. Again. I felt like I was watching a man drowning his only child.

Anyone paying attention could see that Weaver was working on a no-hitter, but nobody heard about it, and if you were channel surfing, you probably would have clicked away from the game because Rojas’ voice was telling us it was just another boring, 9-0 rout.

Because of his silly superstition, Rojas robbed viewers of great drama and emotion. At the end, Weaver stood on the field weeping, hugging his parents and tipping his cap while the crowd chanted his name. It would have been a touching payoff to nine innings of ever-building suspense … if only Rojas had told the story.

I can still hear Vin Scully’s climactic descriptions of a landmark moment in Dodger history: “Three times in his sensational career has Sandy Koufax walked to the mound to pitch a fateful ninth, where he has turned in a no-hitter. But tonight … he made the toughest walk of his career, I’m sure. Because through eight innings, he has pitched a PERFECT GAME … There are 29,000 people in the ballpark, and a million butterflies.”

Storytelling is perhaps mankind’s greatest art. I’ve spent a lifetime treasuring the great ones and have tried my best to join this club I know I’ll never feel worthy of. See, I ended a sentence in a preposition. That’s a misdemeanor. But failing to say even a single word about a story so momentous and rare … that’s murder in the first.