Never a dull moment for this “outsider” — “outlier”.
I was born in the South Bronx a few decades before hip-hop and rap were also birthed there. I survived the mean Streets mostly because I had bright, street smart eccentric parents. I explored slight–of–hand magic, poetry, and stage mentalism as many teenage boys do while in high-school. Always an outsider and outlier, I was very lonely but knew in my heart that I was destined to do something special.
Then I got the mystic calling in college while earning a traditional degree in philosophy.
Wittgenstein, J. Krishnamurti, Ram Dass, Zen, and that whole-70s Guru thing had my full attention. I missed much wild fun but I guess, yet the “Path” kept me out of bad trouble, while I also passed through Studio 54 and that late night 70s NY hedonism disco scene, meditating all along and adding Yoga, Tai Chi, Tantra, and Aikido to my wheelhouse of talents. I was the guy, who drove all my drunk friends home after we partied all night, and then drove them to their first 12 Step meetings.
In the middle of all this, I hooked up with a Western Shaman, becoming his apprentice for 15 years. Then, before he died he told me I had permission to teach his “down the rabbit hole” heavyweight stuff. That was in 1992. I took his advice.
Getting wiser, though slowly, I re-explored the philosophy of East and West and eventually organized a group of Mandarin speakers to do a Meta-analysis and a series of commentaries on the Tao -te -Ching.
Looking for something new to do, and a place to use my skills for good, I began writing more books and speaking professionally. I worked for Michael Moore on his TV show The Awful Truth and shared the stage with Tony Robbins, and other names you might recognize.
Then I quit when I hit 20 volumes published with mainstream publishers. I found they edited me and my writing down more than I appreciated. At about the same time I also lost interest in competing for corporate speaking gigs. The money was great but the emotional fulfillment?…Not so great.
Pretty much unmarriable, at 47 I said “hi” to an attractive woman on the fourth of July on a corner in NYC. She responded, “go away”. A few months later we were engaged, then married. That was 23 years ago. We are happy and I mostly do as I’m told. She is seldom wrong but even when she is, she’s still right.
Then, after we settled down in a very large house in a very rural village, I began my “Northern Exposure” period doing a 7-year stint at an NPR affiliated radio station in NY farm country as a talk show host. Below is a promotional video from that show. As you can see, I had a blast.
With lots of folks emailing me and calling me to help ’em solve problems I became a sort of Noble Fixer –Trickster-Troubleshooter. A combination Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid, and collaborative Mission Impossible guy without the violence.
In time, I ended up living in the Jungles of South East Asia with my wife who had done a long stint there, a few decades earlier and in much more challenging circumstances. Enough said about that,
I had been a vegetarian for over 40 years but living in the jungle where there is no tofu, I soon developed a habit, if not a liking, for fish, fresh-picked coconut, and whatever white rice I could find.
In the back-country of Asia, Shamanism and alternative medicine are often the norms, and I fit right in. Well...actually…not exactly. I was a 6’1” bald, white dude among thousands of short Asians. Everyone knew I was there and didn’t care why. Everyone called me “Joe”. We got used to each other in a short time, and I now have a place called home in the jungles of Asia if things get too weird here in the West.
By the dawn of the new century, back in the U.S. I was pretty much set and settled, and then I saw the movie A Beautiful Mind in 2002. Here a portal in my third-eye re-opened, and game theory.
Eventually I sought out Harvey Slatin, a 97-year-old engineer, who had been at Los Alamos with Teller, Oppenheimer, Feynman, and of course, John von Neumann, who had developed game theory. It wasn’t an accident. I had looked up all the pioneers of game theory through Wikipedia and such, and it turned out that he was the last of the bunch still alive. Amazingly (I’m not kidding) he lived about 1/2 a mile from my house and had been listening to me rant about game theory on my radio show.
Harvey, like my shaman mentor two decades earlier took me under his wing and taught me everything I needed to know. It was game theory and philosophy, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He taught me things that I could never could, and never would find in a textbook.
Then at 99, Harvey died. Just before he did, he told me to go out and teach applied game theory.
Now I travel the world teaching master classes on Zen, Taoism, Practical Philosophy and applied game theory.
During the Covid lockdown, I discovered Medium.com and I now post 5 or 6 times a day.
Not a bad run for 69 years and I’m still growing.
Now my focus is on giving back and serving others, coaching people on peak performance, personal development, self-improvement, and self-awareness without attaching any of it to any particular “ism”. I also serve as a portal for the people with resources (financial and otherwise) who also want to make a difference. I show them where to direct these resources, often to jungle places where there are few resources other than fish, coconuts, and rice, and maybe a corrupt cousin or two who can help someone out on a jam.
I’ve had a great ride and aren’t done yet. I have great peers, great friends, an amazing wife, my health, and now Medium.com. I intend to keep on rocking, rolling, and riding for another 30–40 years.
Thanks for letting me share my journey with you, and also for joining me on it.
Visit my website at AskLewis.com