It took me 124 pages to become so annoyed that I decided to live-blog this book. Given that it is written by a hippie named Richard Alpert who changed his name to Ram Dass after becoming the follower of a guru named Maharajji, my annoyance was quite predictable.

Page 124: Ram Dass disapproves of an old woman who says that she will never forgive her dead parents. He condescendingly states that she is only hurting herself, and her refusal to forgive her parents (who, for all he knows, might have not just been unsatisfactory but actively abusive) will keep her "tethered to this resentment forever."

BARRRRF. Forgiveness is an emotion; like any other emotion, it is neutral in itself, subjective, and not something that can be commanded by others. Nor, often, is it something that can be commanded by oneself.

Forgiveness is not necessary to mental health or peace of mind. If it comes naturally, it can be very healing. But the recognition that some wrongs are unforgivable, and that victims don't need to forgive perpetrators, can also be very healing.

Who is he to judge? Did he experience that woman's pain? BAAARF, I say!

The book, which I have to read for a workshop on aging, consists of vomitous platitudes interspersed with some true but obvious statements about aging and acceptance.

Summary: We all get old. American society is prejudiced against aging and old people. We may not automatically like the changes that come with aging. But we should accept them and try to embrace them. If you don't accept and embrace, you are willfully being unhappy. If you do accept and embrace, you will be blissfully enfolded in spiritual peace. The Soul lives forever. God exists. I know this because I am the disciple of Maharajji, my totally awesome guru, who embodies all wonderfulness and Godly qualities. If he told me to drink Koolaid, I would accept and embrace.

Obviously, he's correct that many issues of aging are really issues of ageism. But some things do suck. It's one thing to talk about accepting and embracing wrinkles, and another to talk about accepting and embracing Alzheimer's disease. (I especially disliked his statement, not scientifically supported so far as I'm aware, that people with Alzheimer's who become paranoid, depressed, violent, or afraid are having previous, unresolved psychological issues surface.)

He seems judgmental and blaming toward people who feel anger or fear or depression and don't quickly move on to peaceful acceptance, and toward people who see anything as inherently negative or bad.

It's one thing to counsel people to look for moments of hope and happiness in their lives, even if they're in a generally bad situation. It's a totally different thing to counsel people to see a situation which they think is bad as actually being good. The first is healthy and reasonable. The second is denying people their honest feelings, and telling them they're wrong to feel the way they feel.

It's fine if people eventually, in their own time and way, come to the decision that something they originally thought was bad is actually good, or at least okay. But it's creepy, manipulative, and cultlike to tell them they have to think that.

Cut for discussion of death and dying.

Read more... )

Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying

Annoyingly, I have to read ANOTHER book by Ram Dass in a totally different class this quarter! WHY.

ETA: Went out before finishing book. He is now quoting some woman who channels "a disembodied being named Emmanuel." Not enough BLECCH in the world.
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