Dying to Know is an intimate portrait celebrating two very complex controversial characters in an epic friendship that shaped a generation. In the early 1960s Harvard psychology professors ...
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Dying to Know is an intimate portrait celebrating two very complex controversial characters in an epic friendship that shaped a generation. In the early 1960s Harvard psychology professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert began probing the edges of consciousness through their experiments with psychedelics. Leary became the LSD guru, asking us to think for ourselves, igniting a global counter-cultural movement and landing in prison after Nixon called him 'the most dangerous man in America'. Alpert journeyed to the East becoming Ram Dass, a spiritual teacher for an entire generation who continues in his 80s teaching service through compassion. With interviews spanning 50 years the film invites us into the future encouraging us to ponder questions about life, drugs & the biggest mystery of all: death.Written by
Robert Redford narrated this documentary. See more »
Dying to Know is a mixed bag
Timothy Leary was an unforgettable explorer of "inner space" who influenced the hippie generation as much as any other person or group of those times. Richard Alpert, after seeking spiritual advice from Neeb Karori Baba (also known by other names) who renamed Alpert "Ram Dass" ("servant of god") was for many years Leary's research partner and co-explorer of psychedelic consciousness. The two men are tied inexorably together in the history of psychedelic exploration and spiritual awakening.
I was in the audience at one of Leary and Ram Dass's presentations at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium during the '60's. I didn't know how to evaluate their message then. Later, I briefly met and exchanged a few words with the man I knew as Maharaji, Ram Dass's spiritual guru. Again I didn't know how to fit his message into my life's experiences
I explored the psychedelic experience a handful of times during that era using street procured LSD. The experiences were both visual and surreal and at different times generated both paranoia and euphoria. (I suspect there was an amphetamine like stimulant present in addition to the acid.)
I found (approximately) the first half of Dying to Know worthwhile viewing because I had personal knowledge of the times which corresponded with what was being presented. (One significant event that was conspicuous by its absence was any mention of the date LSD became illegal in California (Wiki article states October 6, 1966 but w/o a reference. That date rings at least approximately true according to what I remember.)
For me the middle of the film became increasingly episodic and unfocused, at best loosely tying together incidents being related by different people being interviewed. Most of the audience was middle aged or older but there was one couple who appeared to be in their 20's.
When the last portion of the film began to painstakingly delve into Leary's approaching death and the revelations he experienced as death approached, they, who were sitting toward the front and had a clear shot at the exit, walked out
At the time, I thought if I could have walked out without causing others in the audience to become unduly distracted by my having to pass in front of them, I'd have left too. I had nothing more to learn, as confirmed by staying and watching the last 20+ minutes of the film.
Yes, a great taboo in our culture is discussing experiencing death but one enlightened experience isn't a universal solution. Leary's views, while somewhat different from mine, were at least creditable. Ram Dass, OTOH, went completely off the deep end and spouted what for me was pure nonsense.
I'm a materialist. Spiritualism isn't something I focus on. I believe after death a person's essence returns to the state it occupied before conception.
Further I believe a place like this world is an extremely rare occurrence in reality; but reality is limitless and places like our "real" world, while extremely rare, probably exist (on and off) throughout eternity. Places like our world are so far apart they rarely have evidence of other such places.
Of course, YMMV!
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