In Memoriam: Dr. Carl Ginsburg
Wednesday, January 16, 2019
by: Roger Russell, GCFP

Section: In Memoriam

Carl Was Always There

When I began my Feldenkrais® life; in San Francisco in early June 1975, Carl Ginsburg was there. Even during that first summer, Carl’s thoughtful voice resonated through all of the excitement in his quiet way. His voice continued to come through, not loud but clear, over the decades of pioneering passion and friction as the Feldenkrais community grew. Whether it was his organizational-political wisdom or professional insight; Carl’s presence was always there. Now he is gone. On December 23, 2018, around 11 PM CET, Carl Solomon Ginsburg died.

Carl was born in New York City on July 13, 1936. His Jewish grandparents fled Eastern Europe to the relative safety of the New World, where his grandfather and father ran a top-of-the-line antique shop in the center of New York City. They were experts in early American antiques, which led some Rockefellers, du Ponts, as well as then-First Lady Jackie Kennedy, to their doorstep. His mother, Cora Ginsburg, established a collection of fabrics and costumes from Europe and USA going back to the 1700s. If you happen to make it to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, you will find some of her costumes in the museum.

After graduating from high school in New York, Carl worked his way to a doctorate in organic chemistry at Ohio State University in 1968, just in time to catch up with the hippie revolution. He stumbled into the Feldenkrais Method® in 1973 or ‘74, when he was caught up in the humanistic psychology scene. His education, both in the discipline of careful, critical and informed thinking, as well as the experience of that new wave of psychology, served him well as he moved unexpectedly into the Feldenkrais orbit, which he never left.  

Carl recognized the necessity of long-term, thoughtful, and respectful participation in organizations and principled conversations about pedagogy. He served as a board member and later president of the Feldenkrais Guild® of North America in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was one of the founding members and first chairman of the North American Training Accreditation Board (NATAB) after Moshé died in 1984. He served on the European TAB, the German TAB, the IFF, and the ITATA (International Trainer and Assistant Trainer Academy). He also wrote extensively about the Feldenkrais Method. He had 21 articles published in the Feldenkrais Journal alone--more than any other contributor. 

After my wife and fellow Feldenkrais trainer, Ulla Schlaefke, and I began our trainings in 1993, Carl served as educational director of our first three trainings and taught in most of them. I felt at home in the training space that he tailored through his skill, his intellect, his experience and passion, and his gentle empathy and surprising curiosity about people. Knowing organic chemistry, Carl was at home in the new ideas about self-organizing systems in biology-- the central point of these ideas is that the complex structures and behavior of a self-organizing system is a result of the internal interactions of the parts of the system. This idea carried over to Carl’s idea of what people were doing in Feldenkrais lessons. They were exploring their subjective experience; attending, within themselves. It was this that led them to new ways of moving and acting. This idea was the foundation of Carl’s teaching. The student was doing the work. The teacher only offered them choices they might not find on their own. The student was the star and deserved the credit for the success of the lesson. The teacher or trainer was a catalyst, but not the star. Carl lived this idea in his teaching. 

Carl loved traveling. He took advantage of his many invitations to teach in Feldenkrais trainings to explore Japan, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, England and every time zone in the United States. He loved to explore the churches of Rome, where he often taught, and the museums of Florence.

Carl was a great storyteller with a mischievous sense of humor. I recall him telling me about attending a party at the end of one of the first Feldenkrais trainings in Paris, where he was an assistant trainer. He gave a demonstration of how fast learning by purposely making mistakes could work. He borrowed a flute from a student and played clumsy and off-key. Then, over the course of about 10 minutes, he tried all sorts of variations, like in an ATM® lesson. Listening and adjusting to how he held the flute, how he used his fingers, how he was breathing and so on, he tried all possible mistakes. Lo and behold, a simple melody began to emerge. The students were astounded by this demonstration of the Feldenkrais principles of exploratory learning; I don’t think he ever told them that in high school he played the flute in the school band.

My favorite story of his was about cats. It must have been around the early 1970s when his children, Sara and John, were still very young. He and Phyllis, his wife at that time, were traveling along the east coast in his mother’s new car. The children started complaining of hunger. Carl found a roadside restaurant serving fish soup to go. The children managed to spill fish soup all over the fabric of the back seat. Excitement and frustration erupted as Carl and Phyllis tried to clean his mother’s new car. They stopped for the night at a motel, the car still smelling like fish soup. They had the brilliant idea of leaving the windows slightly open to let in fresh air overnight. What they didn’t think about was that the windows were open just enough to let the local cats in. Attracted by the fish soup, they crawled into the car and marked the back seat as their territory. It must have been a few cats, because in the morning when they went opened the car door, they were confronted by an appalling odor. They never got the smell out of the fabric and had to buy a new seat. Carl could tell this story with such a straight face that we couldn’t stop laughing.

Carl left behind his second wife, Luci Schuette – Ginsburg, a Feldenkrais trainer and the love of his life. For almost two decades they enjoyed something special together; living in a work of art, the Hundretwasser Haus in Bad Soden, Germany.“
Carl poured his knowledge and forty years of Feldenkrais experience into his magnum opus, The Intelligence of Moving Bodies, which he wrote together with Luci and which is also translated into German.

I could go on, but it is time to close. For now, I am trying to get used to the realization that Carl, who had always been there, is gone. I will miss him, his companionship, his spirit, his mind, his wisdom, and his humor. 

Roger Russell, January 15, 2019, Heidelberg, Germany
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Comments (11)
molly gibb
1/25/2019 2:55:14 PM
My trainings class mates and myself were blessed to have you as our Director and teacher in Santa Fe. I still tell Carl stories to my students to this day and will continue to do so. May your adventures in the hereafter be wonderful. Hugs...

Israel Sostrin
1/24/2019 1:19:07 PM
I am truly grateful for your "In Memorium" Roger. It offers all of us a way to share in the personal and community aspects of Carl's passing.
I am compelled to share, as briefly as I can, an FI lesson I had with Carl in my training. It started with me thinking Carl was having a bad day as he poked and prodded me for what seemed like 10 minutes. Then, after an FI where shifting states of consciousness were just as palpable as my moving body, it ended with an experience that lives on as a cherished personal/professional beacon.
As I took a post-FI walk around the room, my experience was distilled to perceiving an undulating skeleton and [my] "awakeness" -- which had the lightest touch of neutral self-awareness & a much expanded and vivid wakefulness to everything & everyone around me.
I could wax on about the peace, strength, lightness, curiosity, and almost frightful freedom, I experienced but this is enough for now.
Though I never had another interaction with him, I will miss Carl's presence. Thank you Carl for digging as deep as you did and then faciliating my/our ability to keep digging.
In gratitude and admiration... for "Awareness as The Star" ;-)

1/19/2019 9:39:38 PM
Thank you for this celebration of Carl! May he travel in peace.

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