A spiritual instructor and author chronicles his journey from student and community organizer to lawbreaker and organic farmer in this autobiography.
Born Elliot Zeldow, Jaxon-Bear (Wake Up and Roar, 2017, etc.) grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, alternating between urban, mixed-ethnic schools and more exclusive ones with upwardly mobile Jews. He was a tough kid with street smarts who attended the University of Pittsburgh (in “a backwater steel town with a mediocre college”), where he was involved with the debate team. As a student, he traveled to Alabama to participate in civil rights marches, beginning a long involvement with social issues that continued intermittently after his graduation. Following brief stints as a steelworker, professional activist, and Ph.D. candidate—along with a short marriage to a Pittsburgh girl—Jaxon-Bear upped his involvement with drugs and crossed to the wrong side of the law on several occasions. Relying on his gift for gab and obfuscation, he avoided serious jail time on numerous occasions, setting off on spiritual journeys with more drugs than cash. He eventually met his life partner, Toni, and with their mystical and emotional connections—along with some fortuitous investments—the author achieved a respected position in his chosen field of spiritual development. With his discovery of Papaji (his guru, Zen master, and other “self”), Jaxon-Bear fully realized his spiritual odyssey. The author’s uninhibited, honest account of his life—with all of his flaws on full display—is refreshing. His early life emerges as surprisingly captivating, although readers may suspect his spiritual voyage is what he really wants to share. At times, his self-destructive, selfish behavior is wearing, particularly his firm belief in his youth (before he met Toni) that he should be exempt from monogamy because it did not suit him. Quotes and contemporary song lyrics before each chapter help set the scene for the subsequent narrative, but the book would have benefited from more introspection on Jaxon-Bear’s part. Too often it seems that he was just swept along with the times, without giving thought to what he was doing.
An intriguing and candid memoir that should appeal to readers interested in ’60s movements.