If you’ve already looked at the back cover, you know the big news around here: Ram Dass is coming to Chapel Hill to do a benefit for us May 13.

Ram Dass is an American spiritual teacher, best known for his book Be Here Now and his association, while a Harvard professor in the Sixties, with the psychedelic evangelist Timothy Leary.

His influence on me, personally, and on this magazine, has been enormous. I could be coy, in the manner of New Age testimonials, and suggest I value “the truth that comes through him” rather than the man himself. In a way, I do. But I also cherish the idiosyncrasies of personality, individual uniqueness, and the peculiar ways we do, or don’t, live our truths. I cherish him.

Like the rest of us, he’s changed since those early days of heady discovery, and he’s continued to share his insights and sometimes embarrassing confusions in books and talks. I got to see him, the first time he came to Chapel Hill, on the pretext of doing an interview for a brand new magazine, The Chapel Hill Sun. (I was nervous, having not yet learned that to make someone else a hero diminishes oneself. As I changed, shedding romances about life, and about who I am, I needed heroes less. My respect for him deepened.)

A couple of years after that, in 1975, in an issue on Feeling Good, I juxtaposed his picture with the famous barbershop calendar, the first nude of Marilyn Monroe, and wrote, in part:

“. . . for these are the stars by which we chart our course, and in the trapped light we call a photograph, we see our yearning reflected. Did we hunger for nakedness? Naked ecstasy and total union? Total sensation and final release? Come, say our heroes, we welcome you into the bosom of your dreams. Here is a pillow for your head, and a mantra, and the parting of thighs. . . .”

The piece was passed on to him. It led to our corresponding, and to him subscribing.

— Sy