I was a shy kid. I daydreamed compulsively. I loved to explore the world inside my head, and I was irritated whenever anyone tried to pull me out of my total imaginal absorption. I wanted to be left alone, to go deep, get lost, and find treasure in a place where the limitations of this world did not exist.
But we are beings in and of the world. Without others, we are on some level just goo in meat bodies. Part of me recognized that inhabiting this internal space exclusively would never allow me to achieve full personhood. So I made a choice: I would become a social animal.
An article in one of the teen magazines of the day said you should always look people in the eyes.
(Until then, I had always avoided the gaze of others. Why? I don’t know. Among certain primates, looking at another in the eyes is considered a sign of hostility and aggression. Perhaps my own reticence was an echo of some Ur- part of me, some vestigial evolutionary instinct not yet acculturated out of my bloodline.)
I took the magazine’s advice to heart. I forced myself to look others in the eyes.
When I did, I was astounded by what I saw. How much humanity pours out of each one of us in every moment: joy, rage, love, pain, confusion … all that, and so much more.
I found myself falling in love with the human condition. The more I saw, the deeper I wanted to go into understanding it. This impulse led me to earn an undergraduate degree in Journalism from New York University, an MA in Consciousness Studies from Goddard College, and a PhD in Existential-Humanistic Psychology from Saybrook University.
My research took me around the world, from New York City’s underground occult scene to the conflict-resolution strategies of Central Peru; from circus performers in Portland, Maine, grappling with the limits of their own physical potential, to a stand-up comedy club in Berlin, Germany, where I undertook a quest to discover the secret sauce for creating a state of communitas (“collective joy”) amongst cross-cultural strangers.
Along the way, I’ve worked professionally as a college professor, journalist, and research director for an institute dedicated to studying the link between sound and altered states of consciousness.
Out of these personal and professional investigations have come several books and various articles, essays, and encyclopedia entries. More recently, I’ve been creating audio narratives—spoken-word stories paired with music, sound cues, and clips from the various interviews I’ve conducted over the years.
If you, too, are filled with the deep desire to understand why we human beings churn and burn with equal parts love and madness, I invite you to check out my work.
I can’t claim to have found any “answers.” What I can say with some certainty—or at least with my whole-hearted belief—is that, for all our flaws, we human beings are infinitely creative beings. And while not all our creations come to good end, we still somehow manage to keep ourselves relatively sane and functioning in a world with no easy answers.
I find that pretty impressive. Rather beautiful, in fact.