Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews -- For those who like their news and truths frank and sharp

Ram Dass, Richard Alpert, the greatness of humbleness

I was saddened to read that Ram Dass today has died. I never was a New Age man and I bought some of his books but never read them. But I met him, and that’s a whole different ballgame than reading from him.

It was decades ago in the then most progressive Orthodox Synagogue of Jerusalem, the foothold of Reb Shlomo Carlebach, Yakar. It had organized an evening where he would speak in the prayer space. It was packed, also because of the presence of people that I’m not sure, ever had visited a synagogue. Hippies. Friendly, colorfully dressed people, the best of dreamers, it seemed.

But the organizing rabbis of Yakar, Micky Rosen and David Zeller (who both passed away so tragically early already), had done more than invite him to speak. Before the lecture, they took him on a tour of Jerusalem and of Jewish life (Shabbat). He had never seen anything like that and he was much impressed.

I remember how this professor psychology, who was kicked out of the field to flourish as no one else, defined what being a therapist was all about if you took away the ego of the healer. It was the challenge and the privilege of being ‘an environment in which healing can take place.’

I never forgot this. It seemed also the attitude of my fondly remembered great counseling teacher Harvey Jackins. He insisted that great counseling is simply assisting the client but the hero of the therapy, who does almost all the work, is the client.

Ram Dass had still another way to indicate how he worked. He called it ‘Us.’ To create togetherness. It was so simple that it was brilliant.

He told us with some hesitation about his disembodied friend he would talk with. He said: ‘I probably will never return here and not see any of you again so why should I be scared what you’d think about me having such a friend.’ He once asked him what life was for. The answer he got was: ‘Now you’re in the school, why don’t you take the curriculum.’

Afterward, many people, especially women, lined up to hug him. I noticed that Ram Dass did not change at all through the hugs. He did not get enamored a bit by all the intimate embraces.

He’s a total saint, I said to one of the rabbis. His reaction surprised me. ‘Yes, that could be but we were just hoping he would not bring up his homosexuality during his presentation.’ Ah, still a normal human being then? All his fans seem to be in on this but he could still not mention this in a Jerusalem prayer hall. A subject that they were so uncomfortable about then. Is it now any better? How sad and inappropriate of these women, so eagerly embracing him, indicating: we need to be close to men who don’t see us first as sexual beings, to use a gay man for this.

As with all humble people, you had to pay close attention to see his humility. Because, of course, he didn’t parade his meekness. The greatness of the truly humble.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 1400 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe, here: https://mmvanzuiden.wordpress.com/ or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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