Still Here Now
It was 1969. I was in my last year of college in the Midwest, and my best friend insisted I spend three hours listening to a three-record set of lectures by Baba Ram Dass, called "Here We All Are." We were spiritual seekers, barely 20 years old, and Ellen had become transformed by the wisdom of this so-called hippie guru. I sat and listened, and also found myself becoming transfixed. This former motivational psychologist turned spiritual teacher proved a gifted storyteller as he explained his quest for inner peace. He give us signposts and goals for living fully in the world without getting caught in its sufferings, and he showed us the grace of the human predicament. I came across that album recently; on its ragged cover is a rainbow-encircled globe set against a background of stars, along with Eastern mandalas and other brightly colored artwork.
It may be a relic, but I am still transfixed by the teachings of Ram Dass. His messages have a quality of timelessness. He calls himself an uncle to my baby boom generation, but Ram Dass has been much more. Along with the publication in 1971 of Be Here Now, which sold more than two million copies, the man formerly known as Richard Alpert helped usher in the psychedelic movement, bring Eastern religion to the West and raise awareness of service as a spiritual path.
With his unique, wildish brand of charisma and humor, he has guided millions through major life passages, proffering wisdom gleaned from both the light and the shadows of humanity. Now, in a fiercely age- and death-denying society, he has taken up the lessons of the second half of life and has challenged us once again to awaken. Still Here (Riverhead Books, 2000, 209 pages, $22.22) is the outgrowth of what Ram Dass calls being an "advance scout" for the experiences of aging. The book is remarkable as much for how it came into being as for what it says. In February 1997, Ram Dass suffered a paralyzing stroke.1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 »