Ram Dass pats me on the head.

I was at an Occupy Maui general assembly meeting. Marianne Williamson was scheduled to speak later, and I had a good place to stand. The meeting began and people continued to arrive. I was enjoying myself.

The weather was brisk, and my ego was happy about it because I had expected lower temperatures and was dressed warmly. There were several people shivering, and I was simultaneously smug and compassionate, quite a combination I tell you what.

Just as I was getting the hang of the hand signals the assembly used to communicate silently with the facilitator of the meeting and each other, there was movement at the edge of the crowd that rippled toward the front and stopped just off my left elbow, and there in a wheelchair sat Ram Dass. I expected to see him a few days later at another event. I even had his book Be Love Now, although I didn’t think the stroke he’d had in 1997 would let him sign it. I didn’t have it with me, but I don’t think he’s signing anything these days.

It’s not my nature to say, “Holy shite, that’s Ram Dass!” so I merely thought to myself, “Holy shite, that’s Ram Dass!” If you don’t know who Ram Dass is, try “Holy shite, that’s Germaine Greer!” or “Holy shite, that’s Julius Erving!”

Although I’m not one to impose on another, I understand now why we approach people we recognize but don’t really know, or at least why I did. I couldn’t not say something to Ram Dass. Nobody had introduced us, and I had no obvious reason to barge in on him like that, but my ego wanted me to be able to tell my grandchildren about the time I talked to Ram Dass.

Ram Dass has a big head, and that’s not a metaphor. He’s a big man, well over six feet standing I’d guess, but he was just sitting there with his big head alongside my elbow, smiling. He looked frail and kind of crumpled up, and while Williamson was talking about and to the Occupy movement I was trying to think of what to say to Ram Dass.

“What did you say to Ram Dass, Sir?” My grandchildren will call me “Sir.”

I’ll say, “Children, I leaned over, and I said in his ear, ‘I love you.’”

“What did Ram Dass say?”

“He said, ‘I can’t hear you. Try my other ear.’”

So I said, “I love you!” in his other ear, and that’s when he laughed and tried to hug me and ended up patting me on the head. We meant it, too.

Posted Friday, December 16th, 2011 under aging, appreciation, compassion, health, love, perspective, Uncategorized.


  1. Sir (May I call you that not even being one of your grandchildren? :))

    I’ve read for years your From the Edge column in the CN&R but have never contacted you. Most of your writing installments make me smile or at least grimace in understanding. Many of them stick with me weeks, months, even years later (e.g., practicing meditation like paper training a puppy!). Reading your “Ram Dass pats me on the head” in today’s CN&R made me very happy and laugh out loud! Under the pressure of the moment, I don’t know if I could have come up with such a wonderful thing to say. No doubt that was a very memorable moment for you. Your grandchildren will love hearing that story! I know that I enjoyed it very much. Thank you!!

    With best regards,
    Tom Venus

  2. Nice piece Mr. Porter-

  3. Anecia Smith says:

    I knew it would be interesting, but every inch of that piece meant something to me. And it felt “melodic” as I read it. I guess that what attracts most people to poetry, which I’ve never been big on. Anyway, how very sweet. Do you think the cleanse affected your writing? Thank you.

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