Many of you in the Feldenkrais community and elsewhere have been made aware of Martin Weiner’s death. According to the reports of several people that have contacted me, Marty took his own life last Saturday, April 16th.
By nearly all accounts Marty was a highly skilled feldenkrais practitioner and over the years developed a tremendous number of fans and supporters. A former Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University, Marty left his position at the university after meeting Moshe and deciding to take his San Francisco training in 1975. He subsequently finished the training (while supporting himself with work as a bartender!) and became one of the early Guild Presidents.
Marty was the first person that I interviewed on my podcast series over four years ago in January 2007: A conversation with Martin Weiner and again in February of the same year: Further Down The Rabbit Hole With Martin Weiner. He was a great person to quote and I often found myself writing down or reposting some of his thoughts, such as this: The Limitations of the Medical Model.
Looking back on how and why I started my podcast series with Marty, I think it all boils down to a 20-second conversation that I had with him at the 2007 FGNA conference in New York. I had never met the man before and he simply had a presence and a way of being that was fully magnetizing and hypnotic. I felt like I was encountering an incredibly unique and individuated person and I wanted to know more about him. I asked him to be interviewed and he graciously accepted.
Marty Weiner and Jack Heggie
On Monday of last week, when I heard about Marty’s death, my mind raced back to the time that I heard about Jack Heggie’s death, which was also reported to be a suicide. His death was very disturbing to me. Jack Heggie was the person who introduced me to the Feldenkrais Method while I was attending an NLP conference in Boulder, Colorado in the early 1990’s. By some strange coincidence Jack also maintained a Feldenkrais Practice in Dallas, Texas where I was living at the time. I was a waiter, working in a Mexican restaurant and my first lesson with Jack was so powerful that I decided to use part of my rent money to get another session, paying my rent 5 days late and getting a fine. It was worth it.
My feelings about Jack’s death and Marty’s death are somewhat similar. Though I am mourning two men who touched my life and helped move me into new and exciting directions, I cannot say that I knew either man very well. So what I am mainly mourning is experiences with them that I will never have. I will never have a chance to see and feel the next creations that each man had in him. None of us will.
They were both inspiring and unique in their own ways. Jack Heggie wrote and published several books on applications of the Feldenkrais Method and I have often wondered what other new books and creations he still had to write had he chosen to live.
Marty seemed to be developing a new way of being and getting his work into the world. Many times in the last several years, I read some of Martin Weiner’s posts on online forums and wondered where he was going to go next and what he was going to develop. My sense was that he had a process and a method of communicating and being in the world that transcended any particular ideology and that he was getting ready to give birth to it in a new way. I would get slightly confused when I saw him spending so much time communicating about his ideas on the FeldyForum. It seemed to me that he needed a bigger space and a bigger platform and would do better to reach out directly to his fans via a book, his own website or some other avenue. Just last week, I learned that Marty was developing a center called The Center for Explorations in Consciousness. The website has some videos and writings from him that you may want to view.
When someone commits suicide it is very common to want to make sense of the situation by inserting a story or narrative that explains things. We often hear that someone is being “selfish” or “hurtful” by killing themselves. We want to blame a medication or change in life events. We try to find and point to warning signs. That is the danger of historicism and causal thinking in general. Knowing the end state we can always look back and find a “cause.” After all, their MUST be one, right? Otherwise how can we make sense of things? We might all do well to realize that we can never truly know what is in a person’s mind and what his or her life circumstances might have been. Even with the most complete information, we are always operating with partial information. And the information that we have and perceive is filtered through our personal life history and biases.
That being said, for those of you who encountered Marty and knew him personally, I would like to add one small piece of information that might help your process. There was a post in 2009 on the FeldyForum in which he wrote to another person:
“I don’t know what you are actually feeling, but I have been seriously depressed and, at times, suicidal (probably as a result of those obsessive thought chains.) It is a state I have described as a place from which no light can escape or enter. Existence itself feels like an act rather than a given and it feels just too impossible to put in the minimal energy required to sustain it. As you said and demonstrate with your life, it takes courage and unbelievable strength just to stay here. In my worst moments, when people were telling me some version of “snap out of it” or “try harder”, I would try to let them know that they had no idea of how strong I was to deal with what I was dealing with without killing myself.”
It may be that what drove Marty to take his actions was something he had been dealing with for many years. But then again maybe it was not. Many people, myself included, have had suicidal and depressive thoughts and are still with us today.
Whatever the case, and whatever narrative one chooses to create, Marty will be missed. He was an amazing man with a sharp mind, a soft touch and presence that could not be denied. He had much more to do in this life, and we had so much more to experience of him and his work. I am sorry that we cannot do so.
Goodbye Marty. Thank you for your immense presence and probing insights – at least while you were willing to be here and give them to us.
For those of you who want to know more about Martin Weiner there is a video podcast of him and thoughts on his life and death by his friend Nate Klemp: Life Beyond Logic.