I’m sitting watching the documentary film Dying to Know on my computer with earbuds in, tears streaming down my face. My daughter walks by, and smiles sympathetically (she’s used to seeing me cry).

“Good movie?” she asks? “Good movie,” I reply.

This documentary is indeed a magnificently moving and sometimes hilarious tribute to the relationship between Ram Dass (aka Richard Alpert) and Timothy Leary, narrating the ways in which their paths, both together and separately, profoundly changed our culture’s ideas about consciousness, spirituality, psychedelic drugs, and death.

Narrated by actor and activist Robert Redford, Dying to Know interweaves a chronicle of their fascinating lives with an intimate and frank conversation between the two filmed just before Timothy Leary’s death in 1996. Fleshing out the sometimes unbelievable incidents they experienced (Richard Nixon once called Timothy Leary ‘the most dangerous man in America’) are interviews with others who were there along the way including Dr. Andrew Weil, Roshi Joan Halifax, and Timothy’s son, Zach Leary, to name a few.

Having just recently had the honor of holding a parent as she passed on (hence, the tears while watching this film), this documentary serves as a reminder that there is still so much evolution to occur in modern society regarding our own mortality and the idea of having a conscious death. In a culture that makes “death seem like a failure instead of a natural passage,” (as they say in the documentary) this film presses the question that these two men brought to the forefront of our society over 45 years ago: What it means to live—and die—well.

Directed by Gay Dillingham
Produced by CNS Communications