Today, February 7, 2023, is my 76th birthday.
Perhaps it’s an auspicious day to begin publishing here an account of my journey over those 76 years.
You can access that account by clicking on the links below and then entering the passcode.
I am publishing this account in installments, chapter by chapter, as Dickens did his novels. I understand that Dickens did that in order to build dramatic tension, increase readership and thereby enhance revenue.
This account of my life differs from a Dickens novel in several significant respects. For one, I have worked hard to make this account something other than fictional. Second, this is a not-for-profit piece of work; there’s no cost to the reader – only reward. Third, and despite my strenuous efforts to inject a good amount of humor, this account is not as good a read as a Dickens novel; well, to be fair to myself, maybe it’s on a par with “Bleak House.” Finally, Dickens is pure prose. This account, on the other hand, contains much poetry.
This account contains much poetry because – as this website reflects –poetry became important to me in the second half of my life. Poetry became important even though I am not a poet. Except for two, the many poems in this account were not written by me. They were written by the likes of Longfellow, Dickinson, Whitman, Oliver, Rumi, and Hafez, to name but a half-dozen of the poets whose poems appear in this account. Some of those poems helped me at various turning points on my journey, as explained in the account. All the poems are relevant to the story I tell. To what I call my Song.
However, I have been advised that it is not prudent to publish all the personal information in this account to the world at large. Therefore, I have been persuaded to use a password in order to keep this account on the private side of the ledger. So if you want to read this account, contact me, and if both I and you are lucky I’ll give you the password. You can contact me by email at email@example.com to ask for the password.
Moreover, some parts of this account as it appears on this website have been redacted. The redacted parts exist only in the non-electronic version I hold in my hands. I have redacted those parts because they concern private material that I choose not to share beyond my immediate family. Those redactions should be of much less interest to a wider audience.
A major theme of the Song I sing in this account is Progress. The Progress of an individual on his journey through life. Which is why I call the account “A Pilgrim’s Progress.”
The personal Progress I write about here differs from the kind of Progress that John Bunyan wrote about in his 1678 Christian allegory “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” In his novel, Bunyan wrote about the theological progress along classical Christian lines that Bunyan’s main character, named Christian, experiences on his fictitious journey.
Bunyan began writing “The Pilgrim’s Progress” while in prison in England, having been convicted of the offense of preaching Christianity without possessing a license from the Church of England to do so. The entire book consists of a dream sequence in which Christian journeys from his hometown, named “the City of Destruction,” i.e., this material world, to his destination, “the Celestial City,” i.e., the world to come. Christian’s journey is motivated by — and Bunyan’s entire book is premised on – the existence of a great burden that is so unbearable that Christian must set forth on a dangerous journey to seek Deliverance from it. Perhaps that mirrors Bunyan’s own journey as he saw it, which led to his being imprisoned, twice, for a lengthy part of his life.
What is that great, unbearable burden that causes Christian to leave all behind and go on his fictive, daunting pilgrimage — and that may also have driven Bunyan to be imprisoned? It is the Christian doctrine of Original Sin. The Adamic Sin in the Garden of Eden.
Both Christian and Bunyan were searching for Deliverance from Original Sin. (Bunyan was a Puritan. For an unvarnished discussion of Original Sin written by a modern-day Puritan, Google “Human Depravity” in the Herald of Grace online Christian magazine, July 28, 2020, written by Joel Beeke, President of the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and citing Bunyan).
Christian in Bunyan’s allegory is Everyman. That’s why Bunyan called his book “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” Not “A Pilgrim’s Progress.”
I am not Everyman. I am only myself.
I am not a character named Christian. I am a flesh-and-blood person called Moishe (in Yiddish).
I do not believe in Original Sin. Nor do I hail from the “City of Destruction,” or any place of the kind. I hail from “Yonkers, where True Love conquers,” as the great old song about Manhattan goes.
And my journey was not motivated by need for relief from some great burden — although in large part it has been a search for Meaning. Which, in substance, is the same thing Bunyan and his character Christian were searching for.
Nor is my story wedded to theology. Indeed, as my account tries to explain, I do not consider myself to be a religious person even though I embrace my Judaism. My account contains a fair amount of story and commentary from and about Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and also about religion in general, as they relate to my roots and to my journey.
And because I practiced law in Manhattan for about 45 years, the Law is another important character in my account. As is Justice. As is Manhattan. As is Poetry. As is Purpose. As is America. As are some important pairings, including: Learning and Unlearning. Head and Heart. Beginnings and Endings, and Back Again. Insanity and Sanity. Love, Intimacy and Belonging. Progress by Return.
Also important to this account are seismic cultural changes that I perceive having taken place about every fifteen or twenty years in America during my lifetime, and my reactions to those cultural changes. As the story unfolds, we move from the Age of Conformity to the Age of Cultural Confrontation and Experimentation, to the Age of Greed, to the Age of Distraction, Disruption, Misinformation and Absence of Attention and Presence, and then to the present, which I perceive as the Age of Grieving Over the End of Normality.
But the essence of the story, of my Song, are not changes in the Nation or in the world during my lifetime. The essence of my Song is the change, the movement, the evolution within my self.
I have the chutzpah to imagine that there are things in this account that may prove of value to a patient reader.
Volume 1 – Beginnings – First Words
Chapter 1: They Called Me Marvin, and I Have a Song. The Rest is Dependent.
Chapter 2: Ancestors, Family, Childhood
Chapter 3: Shadows Form: Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience
Chapter 4: Coming of Age I: Seeing the Nation’s Racial Shadow, and an Initial Response to that Shadow Amid a First Cultural Sea Change
Chapter 5: Coming of Age II: Confronting The Vietnam War and Wondering What Lay Behind It
Chapter 6 Coming of Age III: Feeling Whole and Open and Encountering My Soul During My Public School Years; Then Going to College, ‘Getting Serious,’ Becoming Judgmental and Defensive, Going Secular, and Getting Married
February 7, 2023