You Are That (.org)
The resurrection of my late lamented website (mostly) on spiritual matters.

Biographical Notes on James' Journey

How I got here from there

[This essay was originally posted to]

The Condensed Version

Ahh, the Internet. So many narcissists, so little time. But this page isn't (just) to toot my own horn. It is meant to give some indication of how I came to be where I am, and think what I think. If nothing else, it might illustrate the old song: "Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be pilgrims"!

Refer to the pictures in the page header to see my face in these different phases.

At this stage, we are just looking at a list here. A few articles are linked to it and, hopefully, more will be added in the future. These are seldom of the "I went here and I did that" type; rather, the biographical details are usually embedded in articles that I hope have greater significance.

Birth, Infancy, Childhood: [1st-4th pictures] I was actually a twin, but unfortunately my twin miscarried before we were born. You can read more about that in the article "My 'Ancestral Shrine'" on my site The Temple Guy. I was born "puny" (as my father so aptly described it), and couldn't really keep up physically with my older brothers.

Much of my time I spent alone. This caused me to become somewhat introspective. Being both solitary and somewhat precocious, I ended up with a couple of "imaginary friends."

When the time came I was a voracious reader, but a poor student. I remember elementary school mostly as a time of recurring illness and academic mediocrity--not a very happy time.

Junior High: [4th picture] I blossomed somewhat. A turning point was the arrival at my church of my first real "spiritual mentor," The Rev. Richard H. Thom (Episcopal). More significantly, his son David was my best friend, and I became "part of the family." Fr. Thom taught our confirmation, class and David and I were confirmed together. This was the first time that I felt I might have a "calling."

While in junior high, I also had my tonsils out, a story also told in the "My 'Ancestral Shrine'" article.

High School: [5th picture] With junior high, this was a time of generally getting physically stronger. I played trombone in the marching band for six years (two junior high, four high school), and at 16 I became an Explorer with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Also while in high school, I stumbled on some information on my family heritage, a story that I will tell in some detail later.

Young Adulthood: [6th picture] I turned 18 in Mexico with my great-uncle Uncle Jim (after whom I was named) and his second wife Anne; her birthday was the same as mine, his the day before. We had a great party, and I ended up hunting grunions on the beach; I was having one of my phases of pre-vegetarianism (I have now been a veg for over 25 years) and would catch the grunions--only to release them again!

In late 1974 I moved to Seattle with my brother, where I stayed for about six months.

Around 1975 I met the men of the Canyon House, a Christian community in Sierra Madre. I was associated with them through my college years, until my marriage in 1981. They contributed deeply to my spiritual formation as I became a Bible teacher in their midst.

I went to Pasadena City College for four years (yes, it's a two-year school). Then on to Cal State L.A., where I majored in philosophy and English and took an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Studies. Religion was never far from my mind, as I also worked at Ascension Episcopal Church in Sierra Madre part of this time (among many other jobs).

Married Life: [7th picture] I met my (first) wife Norma in 1981, and we were married later that year. I graduated from university between meeting her and getting married; all this progress brought on an attack of "Sudden adulthood." We moved to Simi Valley at the end of that year, where I stayed until around 1994.

Also in 1981 (a big year!) I started working at Chaminade College Preparatory in Canoga Park (now West Hills), CA, where I taught high school English, biology, and history. I started work on a Masters in English at Cal State, and was part-time youth minister at Rosemead United Methodist Church. While at Chaminade, I became the Dean of Students. I quit working on the Masters in English, and completed a Master of Education at Loyola Marymount University.

When I left Chaminade at the end of the 1983-84 school year, I began attending Moorpark College, concentrating on math and science. I had decided that biology was more fun to teach than English!

While studying at Moorpark, in January 1985 I was called as principal of St. Martin in the Fields Elementary School in Canoga Park. During my tenure as principal, I also attended weekend seminary for two years at Bloy House (Bloy Episcopal School of Theology) in Claremont, CA.

I went to work at Campbell Hall School in 1988, where I taught English for five years and government for one. I also taught occasional courses in photography and interdisciplinary studies. During my time there my wife and I split up.

From 1989-1992 I was a part-time staff writer and occasional teacher for the West Coast Office of The Johns Hopkins University Center for the Advancement of Academically Talented Youth (CTY) in Glendale, CA

Single Again: [8th picture] When I left Campbell Hall in 1994, I became a tutor of various subjects, as well as a photographer selling art at outdoor Arts and Crafts fairs. I also traveled extensively in the American Southwest, and explored the spirituality of other cultures.

From 1995-1996 I lived in Utah as the private live-in teacher and tutor to the son of actor Robert Urich, and later I served as Robert's "personal assistant" (meaning I mostly hung around and chatted with him) while he was filming The Lazarus Man in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Japan: [9th picture] In 1997 I moved to Japan, where I worked for the Aeon Corporation in Tokyo until 2001. My time in Japan was a tremendous waking up; I completed several major Buddhist pilgrimages and visited hundreds of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. My stay culminated in completion of a 188-temple pilgrimage, as well as a roughly 500-kilometer walk along a historic highway. (See MUCH more on that at The Temple Guy.)

Back in the U.S.A.: [10th picture] In 2002-2003 I completed the coursework for PhD in comparative religions at Hsi Lai University (now University of the West) in Rosemead, CA. In 2003, I also completed Level 1 of Chinese language study at Pasadena City College.

During my 2+ years back in the states I worked for several commercial language schools, including FLS International at Citrus College, Glendora, CA; Olympia Education Center in Temple City; and Cal-America Education Institute in Koreatown, Los Angeles. I was delighted to be teaching students from Japan, Korea, Thailand, China, and other countries; it helped me to keep my sanity in post-9/11 (Bush's) America.

I also worked as a tour guide and English-language materials developer; editor in the International Translation Center; and ESL and American culture teacher for monastics at Hsi Lai Temple, Hacienda Heights, CA. This was the perfect complement to my studies at Hsi Lai University.

China: [also 10th picture] From 2004 I lived in Shenzhen, China, where I taught English in a polytechnic college and sponsored workshops, tours, parties, etc., through my Laughing Buddha organization. You can read a little about my reasons for being there in my essay Round and Smooth.

In 2005 I met my girlfriend Lila; we are now joined at the hip. Through her, I have come to know the wonders of the Philippines. One reason for this website is to help develop a modest income so that we can eventually settle in the Philippines, where, although the cost of living is low, so is the income!

2023 Update: [11th and 12th pictures--sometimes one, sometimes the other] The above was written in 2006. Since then so much has happened. Lila and I also got married in 2007, and I lived in a temple for school year 2007-2008, where I taught English to monks. In 2015 we moved--at last!--to the Philippines, where we still live. For the first four years Lila's young half-brother (aged 8 when he came to us) lived with us. For a few months in 2017 I worked as headmaster of the boy's school here. We haven't traveled much since the pandemic (and frankly not that much before, as we were working on our house), and now our SEVEN LARGE DOGS pretty much keep us home. As I'm reviving this page--yet again--expect to be kept more current on what's going on in my life!

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