The following is
Essay #10, Detouronomy, of Dr. Ring's new book,
Waiting to Die: A Near-Death Researcher's
(Mostly Humorous) Reflections on His Own
A funny thing
happened to me on the road toward death.
sidetracked and wound up taking a detour.
These days, it
seems, I am being courted, and my life, at
least my professional life, appears to be
heading in a new and unexpected direction.
If this keeps up, it is even possible that I
will have to put my death on hold.
The first thing
that caused a change in my life in the last
couple of months has to do with my archive.
You may remember that I have already written
about my archival agonies and how I wound up
being stuck with more than fifty boxes of my
stuff and had no idea what was to become of
it, much less what was to become of me.
Well, at least I
now know the answer to my first quandary.
In May, I
received a most surprising letter from the
archivist at the
University of West Georgia
to whom I had written in what I thought was
probably a vain hope that she might be
interested in my holdings. I had selected
this university because I already knew that
it had just the kind of archival resources I
was looking for and was open to research
dealing with the paranormal.
I had almost
given up hearing back from the archivist
after several weeks had passed since I had
sent my letter of inquiry, but then I
received this note, after speaking to the
archivist at last:
wonderful to speak to you today. I just read
August 28, 1988 New York Times
interview. [She was referring to an article
about me and my work.] It shows, as I have
heard from listening to you, your curiosity
about the human experience and your care for
humans. I deeply appreciate that. I am also
professionally thrilled to have your papers
at UWG. They will be a tremendous research
collection on near death and other anomalous
experiences for years to come. Thank you!"
Lauren and I
have spent the last month and more again
inspecting the contents of my boxes, both at
my home and at her art studio, labeling and
then taping up them for pick-up by UPS,
which is a whole other story, filled with
inexplicable delays, misunderstandings,
changed schedules and other hassles, but,
finally, just last week, the last trove of
boxes was shipped off to Georgia where they
will be cataloged over the next few months
and eventually be made available to scholars
and researchers interested in NDEs.
What a relief to
see those boxes on the way to Georgia.
But that is not
the only event that has recently occurred in
my life involving a university in Georgia. A
few weeks ago, I learned that a woman named
Lisa, who was apparently connected in some
Raymond Moody, the man who coined the
phrase, "near-death experiences," was
attempting to get in touch with me on
Raymond's behalf. However, what was peculiar
about this overture was the improbable and
circuitous route that this woman had
followed in an effort to reach me.
She had taken
the trouble to track down the
a book I had published some
years ago on the lives of contemporary
Palestinians! My friend had written me
simply to forward Lisa's message to me. He
could only wonder why she had had to go by
Ramallah to find me in California!
message was simple: Raymond Moody does not
use computers, but wanted to talk with me.
Lisa was asking me to get in touch with her
in order to make the connection between
Raymond and me.
I sent Lisa a
brief e-mail and said, in effect, "What's up
with this?" It was then I heard about that
other university in Georgia.
But first, a
little background is necessary to fill you
in on my relationship with Raymond Moody. We
first met at the
University of Virginia in
November, 1977, when a few of us early NDE
researchers gathered in order to figure out
how best to develop a field of study
concerned with NDEs. Raymond, who was then
in his early thirties, and who charmed us
all with his humor and humility, was still
pursuing work toward his M.D. (he had
already obtained a Ph.D. in philosophy and
been a professor of philosophy), and needed
to get back to it. He was eager to "pass the
torch," as it were, to us pioneer
researchers, and we were just as avid to
grasp it and continue to light the way. A
few years later, we had our organization,
The International Association for Near-Death
In those early
years, I saw a lot of Raymond since we
attended IANDS meetings together and often
were featured speakers at conferences. It
was always a delight to spend time with him;
Raymond is enormously entertaining with an
antic personality and a brilliant mind. But
after a few years, we didn't see each other
as often as we followed quite divergent
paths in our work. And since Raymond doesn't
do e-mail and hates to talk on the phone as
much as I do, we hadn't had any contact for
about the last ten years or so.
But now he
wanted to speak with me. Howcum?
explained it to me in an e-mail, Raymond
wanted to tell me about a new university he
was starting up in Georgia. He was calling
it "The University of Heaven." Lisa said
that the plan was to offer various courses
on NDEs and other death-related phenomena,
to publish various books on those subjects
and to offer regular webinars for those
interested in such subjects. Raymond wanted
to interview me for one of those webinars,
and, moreover, he wanted me to become, as it
were, a member of the University of Heaven
"The University of Heaven." Give me a break.
I immediately objected to Lisa about the
name of this dubious enterprise. I started
to call it "Woo Woo U," and was sure
satirists would have a field day making fun
But Lisa herself
was very charming, articulate and
persuasive, and in a spate of e-mails that
followed in short order, she began making me
a series of offers I was finding it hard to
resist. They would sell my books -- not only
my NDE books, but some of my other books as
well. They would give me my own blog or
column in which I could then published these
essays. Because of Raymond's celebrity I
could then reach a very large audience. They
would even publish my book of these essays
once I had written enough of them. They
would make me famous again!!
blandishments followed. I demurred for a
time, but gradually softened and began to
think that I might actually allow myself to
After a month or
so of these e-mails (I never did speak to
Raymond), Lisa mentioned that since she had
family in the Bay Area, she would be leaving
Georgia soon to see them. We could meet. And
just yesterday we did -- for a riotous and
highly enjoyable two hour lunch.
lunch, she pretty much won me over. And to
seal the deal, she brought me a t-shirt.
Here I am, wearing it.
Now at the same
time I had been corresponding with Lisa, I
had also been receiving a series of friendly
letters from a woman named
Tricia who had
had an NDE in 1992, and who in the last few
years had been making a name for herself. I
had first heard about Tricia from a good
friend of mine interested in NDEs. He had
met her and had become a good friend. He
told me that she had written a
book about her NDE and that she was already
developing quite a following. He then sent
one of her YouTube videos, and I could
see for myself why my friend had been so
taken with her.
Now Tricia was
writing to me, saying she, too, would be
visiting California and was hoping to meet
and interview me on YouTube. Oh, God, first
Raymond, and now Tricia. I hate being
interviewed and have steadfastly refused all
comers in recent years. Lately, my excuse
had been based on a dictum of the late
Kenneth Clark, the famous art historian, who
in one of his memoirs said that no man (his
sexist language, not mine) over seventy
should permit himself to appear in public.
having none of it.
We left it open,
but I agreed to meet her with her and her
boyfriend who was in effect her cameraman.
Prior to her visit, however, Tricia, too,
sent me a number of letters about herself
and her NDE work, and also e-mailed me the
first three chapters of her book. They were
riveting and very well written (I later
learned that she had taught courses in
creative writing a community college.)
Tricia was also making another conquest of
me -- the woman could write.
We met just this
week also, a couple of days before I had my
lunch with Lisa. And the three of us had a
really fabulous time together. For me, it
was like old times being able to converse
with an NDEr about her life and her NDE.
However, I was too tired that day to consent
to an interview -- I will resort to any
excuse to beg off -- but we wound up doing a
sort of interview, anyway, that will be
posted on her website, where she also wanted
to post some of my essays.
where it gets gnarly. In a loose moment some
weeks ago, I had apparently agreed to give
Lisa exclusive rights to publish these
essays, but I had completely forgotten that
promise. Oops! Now, these two women -- who
turn out to know each other and are friends
-- were contending for the rights to publish
these essays. (Well, to be accurate, Tricia
hadn't known about my previous agreement
with Lisa, so she wasn't really aware of
this.) But in a way, I felt I had to head
off a kind of potential "bidding war" before
a fractious feud broke out between friends.
So here I am,
heading toward 83, and still being coveted
by attractive women. Who has time to die?
Why even bother? I have been deterred.
office manager of IANDS has called to tell
me of an exciting new development. A wealthy
Florida woman, a benefactor of IANDS, wants
to build an NDE museum and library, and
wants me involved.
protested, "I haven't had any formal
involvement with IANDS for over thirty
years. I'm just a has-been who wants to be
"No, Ken," she
responded, "you're an icon!"
This woman, too,
apparently won't take no for an answer. She
has threatened to call me next week.
Stay tuned. This
may turn out to be a longer detour than I
had counted on. If people continue to pester
me, my waiting for death may just have to
Kenneth Ring's New Book:
Waiting to Die:
A Near-Death Researcher's (Mostly Humorous)
Reflections on His Own Endgame