A Beginner's Life  by Tom Phillips

A Beginner's Life

The Adventures of Tom Phillips
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A former CBS newsman recalls his experiences as a journalist and spiritual seeker.

There probably aren’t many memoirs in which the author recalls everything from an arrest for hitchhiking in Wyoming and a dawn meditation at the ashram of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in Poona, India, to a religious epiphany in a New York subway station and writing news copy for Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather. Such, though, is the material that Phillips draws from in his entertaining, thoughtful memoir. “An authentic way of life does not have to be a single-minded devotion to one cause or vocation,” he writes. “It can be a way of adventure, letting yourself be blown about by the wind, exposing the mind to a wide range of experience.” Phillips’ father was an Associated Press correspondent who was “so painfully shy he apparently failed to get a decent interview on his own in three years at the London bureau.” Phillips started his journalism career as a copy boy in the CBS radio newsroom. At 32, he was hired as news editor at the Evening News. The legendary Cronkite was “unwilling to be beaten on any important story, or let any question in his own mind go unanswered,” while Rather’s “problem was that he didn’t have much to say.” A glamorous career wasn’t enough for Phillips, who was also “hungry for spiritual kicks”—hence the trip to India. The bhagwan’s teachings, he recalls, “appeared to exacerbate the worst qualities of his disciples.” Eventually, Phillips, who had divorced his first wife, married a Presbyterian minister and, at the Columbus Circle subway station, experienced what “felt like a giant can-opener...laying me open to a cataract of water that poured down and bathed my soul.” At 58, he suffered a “devastating loss” when CBS did not renew his contract. But in what he calls his “dotage,” he has taught English as a second language and found a Zen-like contentment gazing at the Hudson River. “When the wind blows over the water, what moves, the wind or the water?” he asks. “Answer: the mind moves.”

Provides insight into living an authentic life without necessarily being devoted to a cause or vocation.

Pub Date: March 20th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-938812-53-8
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Full Court Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2015