Forward to ‘Biography of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais’
What you are holding in your hands is a work of devotion, commitment and intellectual integrity that was over 30 years in the making. Everything that was Mark Lawrence Reese, led up to and went into this book.
I first met Mark in June of 1975, on the opening day of Dr. Feldenkrais’ first professional training program in the United States. We were two intellectually searching graduate students, he in clinical psychology at Sonoma State University, and I in physiological psychology at San Francisco State University. We both had a strong desire to understand the underlying processes of how, over time, human behavior is formed and the conditions by which it can change.
Mark lived in San Francisco and I lived across the Bay, in Berkeley. Soon after meeting we began to study together, assigning ourselves readings – usually from Dr. Feldenkrais’ writings – meeting at a bohemian coffee house. Taking turns, one of us would present what he had read, and the other would critique and ask questions, exploring Feldenkrais’ ideas from every conceivable angle. For two young men who thought that there was no higher value than that of learning, those meetings were a rich experience of pleasure and reward. This mutual, collaborative inquiry, wrestling with Feldenkrais’ ideas and practice, continued over the three decades of our relationship.
Around 1978 Mark decided that he wanted to help bring Dr. Feldenkrais’ words and ideas into print. Feldenkrais was extraordinarily fascinating and even more loquacious, and almost all of his public teaching was being recorded. Thus, there were abundant resources available for someone willing to take the time to comb through them. Feldenkrais gave Mark access to the audio recordings and transcripts of our San Francisco program, which were housed at his home on Frug Street in Tel-Aviv. From that moment on, the transmission of Feldenkrais’ theories and teaching became Mark’s obsession, his private project and his constant delight.
On several occasions, Mark and I traveled to Tel-Aviv together. By day, we would watch Feldenkrais work with adults and children with a variety of difficulties, and we would spend the evenings at Feldenkrais’ flat. There, Mark would search through hundreds of pages of transcript, looking for lectures or stories, which he thought might be publishable, as I would either study or help Feldenkrais by typing pages for one of the books he was writing at the time, and At the beginning, Feldenkrais was leery of Mark’s project, concerned about allowing such unfettered access, over time, however, he began to take great delight in Mark’s interest and even gave us the key to his home so that we could work, even when he was not there. Mark would eventually publish three articles based on Feldenkrais’ materials, two of which deconstructed Feldenkrais’ language and compared it to the inductive language structures of the great psychiatrist, Milton Erickson.
In June of 1984, Feldenkrais passed away and within a few years Mark began to formulate the idea of writing a definitive biography of Feldenkrais. The concept was to not only cover his life story, the incredible people he knew, the pivotal world events through which he had lived, his relationship with the early history of Judo, and his work as a physicist with Frederic Joliot-Curie, but that the book would additionally provide a full, erudite history and explanation of the development over time of Feldenkrais theories, and how they would lead to the development of what today is called the Feldenkrais Method.
The task, as conceived by Mark, was demanding and enormous. For nearly 20 years he learned and explored the art of being a research historian, a scholar, a biographer and an investigatory journalist. This would be no ordinary biography; it would put Feldenkrais’ ideas into a larger intellectual and historical context of the most important ideas of our times, in philosophy, physics, biology and psychology. Mark brought to this task, his love for Socratic questioning, his rigorous thinking and his requirement for precision in language. Literally no stone would be left unturned, whether that stone might be found in one of Feldenkrais’ childhood homes in present day Ukraine, or in the still secret nuclear bomb archives of the State of Israel. And then, there was the tracking down and interviewing of Feldenkrais’ family, close friends, students and fellow scientists in the U.S., France, England, Switzerland and Israel, a race against time, since so many were already elderly.
With Mark following the scent of every new piece of information, the breadth, width and length of the book kept expanding. As the work began to take shape, he would send me drafts of chapters for comments and feedback and each successive approximation was richer, fuller and more detailed.
Tragically, Mark Reese passed away before his magnum opus could be realized. He lived his last days with unfathomable courage and grace, and never stopped working on his great project. It is a testament to the great love and dedication of his wife, Carol Kress, that we can today hold Volume One of The Biography of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais in our hands. Without her resolve and stamina, working tirelessly for four years to see the book through to completion, we would not be able to benefit, grow and be changed by what we can now read and enjoy. It was a tall and challenging mountain that Mark was climbing, and now with Carol’s assistance, he has been able to reach the mountain top, and we can all enjoy the fruit of their common labor.
The Biography of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais is a book that only Mark Reese could have conceived, undertaken and written. He is the only person I have known, who is intellectually capable of contextualizing, illuminating and conveying the incredible complexity of Feldenkrais’ thinking. This book is a gift to us, born of the relationship between a teacher and his student. That this book now lives in the world, is a great blessing to the memory of both Mark Labish Lawrence Reese and Moshe Pincus Feldenkrais. And, may you, the reader, be blessed and altered through your engagement with the extraordinary life and ideas of Moshe Feldenkrais.
By David Zemach-Bersin, Feldenkrais Institute of New York