Still Here

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

From Harvard professor to guru of the flower children Ram Dass, born Richard Alpert, has spent thirty years lecturing, writing, and guiding seekers toward a better life. Arguably the poster baby of the post-war generation, he offers insight here into a better aging and dying. Dass weaves Eastern meditation techniques and an attitude of detachment into a comfort blanket against the perils of aging. The book is rendered more compelling in light of the touching account of the stroke he suffered during its writing.

Perhaps Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying’s most important theme is the fear which accompanies aging and dying: fear of loss of power, dignity, and relationships; fear of pain, fear of bodily changes and ultimately fear of death. The author treats the issues as someone who has experienced them both in himself and in others. He suggests techniques to overcome them and to bring peace and acceptance to life’s final drama.

The strength of this work is not so much the tools offered as the universality of the message, and the identification with the author that loyal followers will find as they journey with him from the optimistic 1960’s to the realistic acceptance of their own sixties. The chapters are easy to bite off and tempting to gulp down, rather than to savor. The book’s weakness may be that much of what is said is not new, notably some of its illustrative stories. Ultimately the efficacy of self-help techniques is judged by their incorporation into life. Has Ram Dass himself managed to do this? One wonders. Nevertheless, the “advance scout” of the 1960’s generation has matured into the disabled “uncle” of those who are about to face the final battles of their lives in a new century. He offers, in his words, “a mouth to verbalize the wisdom we all share.”