Posts Tagged ‘the razor’s edge’

Alan J. Steinberg’s debut novel reminds me of the age-old quest ‘To Be Enlightened’ I first read about in Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Razor’s Edge’

July 30, 2021

“The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.” — Katha-Upanishad.

If you are a seeker, To Be Enlightened by Alan J. Steinberg, MD may inform and inspire you. The theme is reminiscent of Somerset Maugham’s novel, The Razor’s Edge*, which was made into a movie, twice.

In that story, Larry Darrel, traumatized from the war, postpones his marriage to travel, study, and find himself. He goes to Europe, and eventually India, where he meets a guru who prepares him for a profound experience of transcendence. Transformed, he returns to the world he left behind. The post-war economic recession had impacted his friend who is psychologically distraught. His former fiancee is now married to him. Larry later gets involved with an old friend who has suffered much and tries to save her. His ex is not content to have let him go and stirs up trouble. Complications lead to tragedy. In the end, Larry is free to live his life on his own terms; in the world, but not of it.

In this story, the main character, Abe Levy, a philosophy professor, already meditates. Unlike a greater part of the previous century, meditation and yoga have become ubiquitous in the west. But Professor Levy is not content with his twice-daily meditations. He is in a rush ‘To Be Enlightened’ and may risk his marriage and job to try and achieve it. The story has some surprising twists and turns along the way, enough to have kept this reader turning pages.

From the book description:

To Be Enlightened is a cosmic love story that follows Professor of Philosophy Abe Levy as he grapples with what it means to love both his wife, Sarah, and the ocean of silence within. It is also an intellectual exploration of the most intimate of subjects: our consciousness.

Abe Levy’s long tenure as a philosophy professor has motivated thousands of students to ponder age-old questions in light of New Age ideas. Though Abe is passionate about his teaching, he is obsessed with a powerful childhood dream of heaven. To return to that heaven, he must reach enlightenment in his lifetime. Day after day, Abe settles into deep meditation, reaching the very cusp of his goal but unable to cross the threshold. Desperately, he commits to doing whatever it takes, even if it means abandoning his wife for a more ascetic life—a decision that sets off a cascade of consequences for Abe, Sarah, and those he loves the most.

I found it interesting that the theme of each chapter was prefaced with a relevant profound quote from the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, reputed author of the Tao Te Ching and founder of Taoism.

This is Dr. Alan Steinberg’s debut novel, and it is a worthy one. I recommend it for anyone who doesn’t know much about meditation, as well as those with a meditative practice.

The classroom discussions reveal interesting perspectives between western philosophy and the Vedic knowledge brought out by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique. And Abe’s and his wife Sarah’s experiences in and out of their TM practice are very relevant to the story’s unfolding.

The book is an enlightening read. I enjoyed how other readers responded to it and appreciated Susan Miller‘s insights in her San Francisco Book Review. Here is a link to an excellent interview with the author.

You can download the first chapter at his website Alan J. Steinberg, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram. Dr. Steinberg publishes articles on meditation in Psychology Today. Visit his linktr.ee for links to articles, book reviews, and more.

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*Scroll down in this blog post about my favorite romantic movies to the subheading LEAVING ROMANCE BEHIND TO FIND ONESELF to read more about Maugham’s novel and the two films based upon it.

Another novel about a meditating philosophy professor worth reading is, “The Best Of All Possible Worlds” by B. Steven Verney.

Time for some humor and love — WELCOME BACK

February 19, 2015

Saw this on a friend’s Twitter feed. Too funny to not share. Made my day!

WELCOME BACK

Words are not needed here; it says it all, but I couldn’t resist. Welcome back to the school of life. Seem familiar? Did we learn our lessons well? No? Having to repeat a class? Time for a fresher course, and then some! Maybe we’ll get it right this time around. You think? If not, there’s always the next class, the next life, with more lessons to be learned. 🙂

COMING BACK FOR LOVE IN FIVE ROMANTIC FILMS

Made in Heaven posterWhen it comes to getting it right for love, I recommend my all-time favorite romantic movie: Made in Heaven (1987), about two souls, played by Timothy Hutton and Kelly McGillis, who meet and fall in love in Heaven. Annie (McGillis) is sent to Earth and Mike (Hutton) makes a deal to be reborn (Elmo) to find her (Ally). But he’s given a time-frame of 30 years in which to do it, otherwise he’ll lose her forever. It’s a magical movie filled with surprises. Read more about it on Wikipedia. You can rent or buy it on Prime Video.

That year, Wim Wenders came out with his amazing film, Wings of Desire, about an angel who tires of overseeing human beings and wishes to become one himself when he falls in love with a mortal.

City of Angels posterTen years later it was adapted for English audiences as City of Angels (1998). Wenders co-wrote the screenplay. Nicholas Cage plays the angel who falls in love with a doctor, Meg Ryan, because of her beauty and concern for her patients. She doesn’t believe in angels, but when he reveals himself to her she falls in love with him, and has to decide between him or her fiance. One patient, a former angel, tells him how he became human for a woman. He does the same and experiences the joys and sorrows of love and loss.

sit-bdAnother great movie is Somewhere in Time (1980adapted from the 1975 novel Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson who also wrote the screenplay. On a getaway to Mackinac Island, Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve), a playwright, falls in love with a picture of Elise McKenna (Jane Seymour), an actress who had performed there a long time ago at the Grand Hotel where he is staying. He discovers he was also there then and finds a way to travel back in time to win her heart. It works, but something unexpected happens that changes everything.

The SAG strike and lack of funds prevented the film from being effectively launched that year. When it was finally shown in New York, critics panned it, squashing plans for a national release. But, with the advent of cable television and late night movies, it soon became a cult classic and went on to win numerous awards.

John Barry composed the beautiful soundtrack including the haunting 18th variation of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Barry had been mourning the death of his parents and was not making himself available for work, but Seymour, a close friend, and the script, persuaded him to get involved. He channeled his emotions into the music, which contributed to the film’s success. Visit the official fan website to find out more: http://www.somewhereintime.tv.

Another beautiful time-travel love story is The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan, a 1979 made-for-television movie based on the much-loved classic novel Second Sight by David Williams.

The Two Worlds of Jennie LoganAfter trying on a dress found in the attic of an old Victorian house her husband purchased to try to save their marriage, Jennie Logan accidentally travels into the past. After several visits there she discovers true love. Returning to the present she investigates who he was and how he may have been killed. She travels between both worlds in an attempt to save her lover’s life and alter history. Find out more at IMDb and the Amazon book description and comments. Watch it on YouTube, if it’s still there.

Defending Your LifeOn a lighter note, Albert Brooks wrote, directed and starred, with Meryl Streep, in Defending Your Life (1991), “the first true story of what happens after you die.” The dead are sent to Judgement City, a vacation-style place for the afterlife where representatives using large amounts of their brain potential help you defend your life in front of a court. The opposition also reviews aspects of your life where you showed fear instead of courage, the intent being to learn from past experiences.

Shirley MacLaine has a cameo role inviting people to the Pavilion of Past Lives, which is quite funny. There is also a love interest between the main characters who meet while their lives are undergoing review before they will be sent onto their different destinations. The question is, will he overcome his fears and sacrifice everything to be with this wonderful woman? You’ll have to see the movie to find out. 🙂

Blending heaven and earth, the divine and the mortal, the idyllic past with the unfulfilled present, or unresolved issues exposed in the afterlife, each film provides a different perspective on the sacrifice the main character makes for love, giving up one to gain the other. The ways of karma are unfathomable, but true love is eternal, and transformational!

LEAVING ROMANCE BEHIND TO FIND ONESELF

There was one movie that made a big impression on me when I saw it on television as a teenager. It’s about love, but more the story of one man’s quest for self-realization in a confused and materialistic world.

Razors_Edge (1946)The Razor’s Edge tells Larry Darrell’s story and his search for meaning after a comrade dies saving his life on the last day of World War One. Larry leaves love behind to find himself. He rejects the conventional life in search of a more transcendent experience, which takes him to India where he meets a guru. His search for enlightenment fulfilled, he may not have to reincarnate if he can walk the razor’s edge, live in the world and not be overtaken by it, anchored to his Self.

Larry returns to find his friends who are suffering due to a reversal of fortune brought about by the Great Depression. He shares what he’s learned to help them. Read more of the story on Wikipedia. I saw the original 1946 version starring Tyrone Power, based on the book by W. Somerset Maugham, which I later read. I found an audio version of the book (BBC Saturday Night Theatre), and the film on YouTube.

Razors_Edge (1984)It was remade in 1984 with Bill Murray in his first dramatic role. Murray also co-wrote the screenplay with director John Byrum. Visit Wikipedia for a full summary. Byrum couldn’t find a studio to finance it. Dan Aykroyd suggested Murray could appear in Ghostbusters for Columbia Pictures in exchange for the studio funding The Razor’s Edge. Murray agreed and a deal was made. Though the film lost money, Ghostbusters went on to make millions.

Both versions of The Razor’s Edge are worth watching for their own values, but I prefer the earlier one. You can see the essence of the original film in Darrell’s search and achievement of his peak experience high in the Himalayas.

This poem by William Stafford—The Way It Is—perfectly describes the kind of perspective Larry Darrell developed and how he lived his life.

PERSONAL NOTE

Larry Darrell’s quest spoke to me as a young person and unknowingly foreshadowed the direction my life would take during my college years and beyond when I would discover Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his Transcendental Meditation technique. Our generation was so fortunate to have received the many gifts Maharishi brought out from the Himalayas. He inspired us to develop our full potential as human beings with TM and its advanced techniques, and to work with him to help make this world a better place to live in by applying his life-transforming Vedic knowledge and technologies in health, education, rehabilitation, virtually all areas of life. We are forever grateful. JGD

To find out more about Maharishi, see this HuffPost article by Philip Goldberg on Maharishi. Also watch the 1968 film of Maharishi at Lake Louise and the 2007 A&E biopic on the History Channel.

UPDATE

I just discovered The Love Letter (1998), a Hallmark  Hall of Fame movie, starring Campbell Scott and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Based on a short story of the same name by Jack Finney, it was first published in “The Saturday Evening Post” on August 1, 1959, and reprinted in the same magazine on January/February 1988.

imageThis love story touches two lives that live a century apart. A letter from the past will change their future forever as these souls cross lifetimes for love! Scott, a 20th century computer games designer, exchanges love letters with Elizabeth Whitcomb, a 19th century poet, through an antique desk that can make letters travel through time. We witness parallel lives interact as they fall deeply in love with each other, weaving past, present, and future in a moving, magical way.

You could read more about it on Wikipedia, but first watch this excellent made-for-television movie (1:39:28) on YouTube, if it’s still there.

Of course, when it comes to love being tested by time, The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009) is one worth watching. Rachel McAdams stars as the wife, whose husband keeps disappearing on her at different stages of her life. About Time (2013), is another film about time travel, and how a father teaches his son, who has the same ability, how to improve situations with time travel when he messes up trying to win the heart of a pretty woman, also played by Rachel McAdams. She also stars in The Vow (2012), as a woman who wakes up after a car accident with severe memory loss and forgets that she’s married to her husband. He has to work hard to woo and marry her all over again.

It reminds me of the 1993 blockbuster Ground Hog Day starring Bill Murray. Here’s a sort of related cartoon in The New Yorker by Roz Chast.

Inside-Of-Body-Experience by Roz Chast TNYcartoons

The film Arrival asks: If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?

When it comes to a war between words and pictures here’s a poem in a movie inviting you to be who you are.

Newer Updates

The spring rains renew life and the promise of love in this film, A Good Rain Knows, inspired by the poetry of Du Fu.

Writing, literature, life and love intersect in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Sage advice from William Shakespeare in the film “All Is True” on how to become a truthful writer.


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