“They won’t get you at first. But whatever is stirring inside of you, one day it will be self-evident.”
— Milton Glaser
My story in a word: pain. The rest is detail.
I hate telling it. I hate drawing attention to myself and much prefer to speak through my work. But as Scott Tayler said, “We survive our pain by having the strength to tell others about it. We find the courage to make our way through the dark only when we sense we are not alone.”
My earliest childhood memories are of accompanying my father to synagogue on the Sabbath. I loved the Hebrew songs and had most of the Siddur, the prayer book, memorized by the time I was five.
My family was highly respected. Judges, senators, police commissioners, famous psychiatrists and psychologists on Oprah and Phil Donahue, professors at Harvard and Yale, even a world-renowned art dealer who regaled us with stories about Salvador Dalí. Everywhere I went, people told me how “lucky” I was to be a part of this family.
We were Levites and often called to read from the Torah. But when we arrived home, my father turned from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hide. He commanded me to go to pull up my shirt and lie on my back. He removed his belt, screamed his rage, and whipped my bare stomach. Again and again, he whipped it, until it was literally blood red. Then he threw me in the closet, threatening me with more punishment if I dared to move.
I reached out for help but no one in the community would intervene. The family was just too “respected.” I ran away many times, and was treated for insomnia, stomach disorders, and respiratory ailments. My mom divorced him, and I changed my name.
In the midst of all the trauma, I was entranced by our Rabbi’s sermons. He was a fiery speaker who loved the prophets — those lone voices who bravely stood up to power, who exposed the hypocrisies of the times, and who reminded us, through the most sublime poetry, that we humans are capable of so much better.
This became a pattern, repeated for five decades — work that challenged authority, peered into the future, and sought purpose in the pain.
In my teens, my work was featured on the front pages of hundreds of newspapers — including The Wall Street Journal — for exposing how the casinos in Atlantic City were allowing underage teens to gamble.
In my twenties, my work was featured on the cover of TIME magazine. It predicted, 25 years ahead of its time, how pornographers would create detailed dossiers of the sexual fantasies of each person, and then use the latest technologies to create personalized addiction loops. The study was hailed as a landmark by Catherine MacKinnon, but because it was 1995, I became the first-ever victim of Internet bullying and cancel culture. You can read The New York Times account here.
In my thirties, I retreated into the mountains of Tyrol and Matsumoto. I went deep into many traditions of yoga and did my ATTC with Pralahda. I lived in many countries and ashrams and embraced Zen Buddhism. In a monastery, I opened my heart to Yeshua.
In my forties, I contracted a seemingly lethal combination of toxic mold poisoning and lyme disease. The long-term antibiotics ravaged my immune system to AIDS levels. I was frequently in urgent care and four times in the hospital. I often had spasms in my throat that prevented me from breathing for 30 or 40 seconds at a stretch.
I bounced from doctor to doctor, 26 in total. I’ll never forget the whites in their eyes, the stone cold look of death on their faces as they reviewed my medical reports and told me there was nothing more they could do. I was still in my forties when I wrote my will and prepared to die.
As a last ditch effort, a team of holistic doctors gave me over 400 infusions, transfusions, and experimental treatments that left me incapacitated for days. Miraculously, I recovered — but not just at a physical level. Something shifted inside. A lifetime of pain vanished. I felt the love that Thomas Merton felt as he walked along fourth and Walnut.
Now in my fifties, the innerNet — a new architecture for the soul, a new way of nourishing our better angels. But like all new art forms, the innerNet is passing through stages: first they ignore it, then they rip it apart, then they embrace it as self-evident.
Working in the wilderness for so long, without validation, has deepened my love of Emily Dickinson — “I’m a nobody! Who are you?”
Being a nobody is beautiful. It’s pure. You work with quiet conviction, knowing in your heart that you are contributing to evolution in some special way. And you feel an intimate bond with others, especially with those who are lonely and in need of the love that only you can give.
My greatest teacher was a graphic designer named Milton Glaser. People speak of his accomplishments — the logo, the Bob Dylan portrait, so many other iconic works. But I was more touched by the man than the work, by his character, by his awareness of the power of the arts to transform culture and consciousness.
One day Milton and I were walking in Greenwich Village. I had so many visions and intuitions at the time, so much was bubbling up inside of me. He must have sensed this, because suddenly, without any prompting, he said, “Martin, they won’t get you at first. But whatever is stirring inside of you, one day it will be self-evident.”
I have no idea how he knew, but he knew — that one day Wellgorithms and the innerNet would be self-evident.