I'm going to write, but first I'd like to direct your attention to the right side of the main page, where I have updated the "currently reading" and "currently listening to" items for the first time in months. I've read and listened to much in between this moment and the preceding update, but I have again chosen to treat my blog as a bastard step-child with a shade of hair different than my own. That is to say, I have neglected it like it was nobody's business. Take heart, though, dear reader: my treatment of my blog is no reflection on how I feel about you. I value you and your readership as if you were a paternity-test-verified child of my loins, bearing a striking resemblance to me in feature and demeanor. I promise, you will never get the belt whoopin' that the blog itself gets.
Note that the book I'm reading is the Christopher Hitchens memoir. I may at a later date have to write about this man at length. I have found myself relatively drawn in by him (or his YouTube-immortalized ghost, as it were). He fascinates me in the same way I have become fascinated by William Buckley Jr. I disagree with both men at nearly every turn, but am floored by the linguistic ability they exhibit. Particularly, I am very nearly obsessed with Buckley's ability to speak with what I consider to be maximum eloquence, off the cuff, and with nearly unblemished consistency. If I'm taken in by Buckley's speaking, I'm equally enthralled by Hitchens' writing. If you geek out on epically brilliant use of English, and like to listen to old arrogant assholes speak as though they know all there is to possibly know in the universe, you should do a web search for videos of both men.
Ok. Now I'll proceed to talk about something perhaps more interesting. Stand by.
(For legal purposes, let us shake hands and wink at one another here, agreeing to call the following "non-autobiographical fiction." Because that is certainly what it is.)
As you may be aware, last summer I was caught hopelessly (and pleasantly) in the grip of what I still view as having been the most intense spiritual (or pyscho-social) revelation I've ever experienced. To recap, I found myself, in a short period of time, transformed from being a hateful and masochistic little excuse for a man, driven only by greed and lust and a kind of spiteful death wish, into a person I never even conceived of being. Universal, or "agape," love came to the forefront of my mind and found a resting place there, along with concepts resembling peace and complete pacifism. My bulimia, a behavior I had exhibited for a decade or more, despite many attempts to be done with it, was suddenly gone. My manner of speech and dress changed radically, in a way that almost felt imperative. My life was rid of many physical objects (things I had never considered myself capable of living without) and I was overwhelmed by an intense sense of connection to the whole of the human race which left me frequently with nothing to do but to cry tears of joy at having ever been a part of such an amazing collective. My interests and tastes, in some places, underwent dramatic upheaval, and I encountered myself in the mirror, for the first time since my days as a very young man, as truly happy at a constitutional level.
Many of you may not know that, in the midst of this rapid transformation, I was given the opportunity to ingest the potent hallucinogenic known as "Lysergic acid diethylamide," or as it is colloquially shortened, "acid." I've frequently considered describing my (two) experiences with the drug here in writing, but for one reason or another have simply never arrived at the keyboard with the proper words. To be sure, I still don't think I have the words to properly examine the two experiences as a reasonable re-telling of any kind. Rather than attempt that task, I just wanted to share, broadly, some of my impressions about the drug itself. I think this may give me a little bit of linguistic bearing on the thing, so that I might, at some point in the future, be able to wrestle it down a little more tightly and try to tell you exactly what it was like for me.
I'll begin with an obvious question: being that I had dabbled in a myriad of other drugs since the age of eighteen or nineteen, how is it that I had never been inclined to drop (the slang for "take" in the case of acid) LSD before? The answer is that I had been grossly misinformed about the nature of this substance, and had developed an irrational fear of it. The misinformation I received, as per usual in this fine mental-prison-camp we call America, was largely an effect of the government, and more specifically, its "war on drugs." It is well known that the government exaggerates, lies and manipulates on a professional level when it comes to disseminating public information about drugs. (As a side note, I must say how much it pains me to even use the word "drug" anymore, as it has such a heavy and negative connotation to it.) The lies I was told in the DARE program weren't enough to stop me from trying methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and a slew of other substances, but in the case of acid I have to say that I wasn't merely misinformed by the state-propaganda machine, but also by my own skewed research about the substance and even by people who had eaten the drug themselves in the past.
The culmination of all of this bad-info resulted in my being deathly afraid of ever trying LSD. My impression was that it was too powerful in the sense that it could alter my reality in a way that other drugs could not. I felt a certain amount of trust for alcohol, marijuana, nitrous oxide and the rest, because they were decidedly not hallucinogenic. Despite the fact that the substances I had generally chosen to use to alter my consciousness weren't getting me anywhere as far as spirituality or intellect were concerned, and despite the fact that they seemed often to lead me down a path of self-destruction, I took comfort in the fact that I could predict with certainty their effects. A pint of schnapps always feels like a pint of schnapps. A line of cocaine always feels like a line of cocaine. A hit of weed always feels like a hit of weed (give or take a little bit of paranoia.) The information I had about LSD indicated that I would not be able to predict the effect with any degree of certitude. I might hallucinate. I might hear things. I might laugh. I might puke. I might find myself in what Raoul Duke, narrator of the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, described as "hellishly intense introspective nightmares." (My apologies for the cliche of this quote in this context. I've since gotten over any juvenile fetishizing I used to do over the film or Mr. Thomspon.)
To put it most simply, I was afraid that acid would do one of two things. First, it might turn me into a glass of orange juice. I don't know where I contracted this infectious urban-legend-idea, but for some reason I had always believed quite literally that the substance was potent enough to alter one's psyche to the extent that complete ego death might occur, along with a total reshaping of one's concept of reality and one's physical constitution, resulting in my becoming convinced (perhaps forevermore) that I was not a human but a tall cold glass of delicious citrus drink. I didn't ever find this appealing. Second (and more realistically) I feared that use of LSD might open up the darkest portions of my psychological makeup, and that I would find myself in the grips of a vicious bad trip, finding time distorted out of any imaginable proportion, and seeing myself for who I really was with every passing frenzied thought. To be more clear, I feared that being confronted mentally with the "who I really am" concept would leave me scarred for life and probably on the brink of suicide, because, up until last summer, I had been convinced for a very long time and for a very long list of reasons that I was truly a bad, immoral and pathetic excuse for a human being. I couldn't bear the possibility of being confronted so harshly with such a reality.
But then, as I have stated again and again, last summer happened. My spirit was shaken awake by what I have frequently referred to as some kind of cosmological miracle (though I wouldn't be miffed at being given a more scientific explanation), and I found myself loving myself and those around me. My fear of ever having to be confronted with some hidden dark portion of my mind disappeared. Thus, when offered the opportunity to eat some acid, I simply took it.
I must, at this juncture, reassure, dear reader, that the revelatory experiences of the summer of 2011 happened entirely independently of any substance use. There were periods of time during the summer during which I was using various substances (including, for a time at the beginning, a powerful anti-depressant.) But there were periods of time during which I was completely sober (which were self-imposed purposefully in order to double check that my fantastic mood was not merely drug-induced.) My two experiences with LSD have added much to my life and my understanding of the human condition, but these understandings were merely supplemental to the more substantial and spiritually-natured awakening I had already undergone.
As I've said, I mean not to describe the "trips" much here. I can tell you that they were beautiful experiences. I laughed. I cried. I vomited in the bathtub and I had many of my new ideas about the generally good nature of humanity verified in a bath of blinding lucidity and clarity. I did not fall into a "bad trip" at any point, and for a time I did feel as though I was undergoing ego-death, or perhaps ego-disintegration, which I found desirable and still do. I hallucinated dancing, ancient Aztec men, beamed into the darkness of my eyelids. They moved, these little cave-carved symbols, with the music I listened to and seemed to be chanting, marching in a perfectly symmetrical line, their preposterously sized, engorged penises jutting out before each of their masked faces and frail bodies. (I'll let you interpret that tidbit however you will.)
After both experiences, I was struck with regret that I had not been privy to them before, as a younger man. I wondered anew about the claims that acid can help alcoholics recover from the cycle of constant drinking, which Bill W, the co-founder of AA, researched in depth himself with zeal. I wondered what things I might have had verified or disproven to me had I taken the dose at age eighteen. My understanding of the "hippy" movement, of psychedelic music and art, and of the 1960s was acutely clarified, and I even had the (not too strong) feeling as though I had been given some secret knowledge, the kind which the monkey ancestors had all known at birth.
This is by no means the end of the story, though. I wanted to understand this better. Over the summer, I was exposed to many different people and different ideologies, both online and in the physical world, and I tried, where possible, to comprehend the experiences of others who had used LSD or drugs like it. Naively, I suppose, I was expecting to hear, or even to be able to sense, a common spirit in such other people. I felt independently happy and liberated, generally free of the self-destructive anger that had been my primary character trait for years before, and I think I was expecting to find the same liberation in a majority of the people who had taken the "acid test."
This is not, by and large, what I found. Rather, I found mostly people to whom acid was just another "high." Something to do at a music festival while listening to the latest hipster-wet-dream bluegrass band. I found this odd, at first, but have since come to some rudimentary understanding of it in my own way. Here is what I now believe:
LSD cannot synthesize psycho-social or objective, empirical knowledge in a mind.
LSD cannot be relied upon to consistently induce what we normally would call a "spiritual awakening."
LSD has the capacity to induce certain amounts of euphoria and elation. This, in conjunction with its ability to increase awareness or enjoyment of things like music and dancing, give it a propensity to be used more frequently as a "party drug" than as a catalyst for self-affirming revelatory experience.
LSD's greatest strength is underrated, and is to have the effect of connecting disparate information, in a mind saturated with many different ideas and data, in novel ways, forcing the mind to, in a sense, realize the broad subtext of all previously collected information.
I think of it thusly: if the human mind, at the outset, is a blank white field or page, and everything learned in the course of a lifetime is a single dot painted upon said field, then creativity and the capacity for transcendent understanding is the result of a certain number and combination of said dots being connected in a novel way. Each human, of course, has a very different array of dots painted on their field. I mean not to come off as arrogant, but merely as pragmatically realistic when I venture to say that many people are dealing with fields that are, for the most part, left blank. I don't presume to say that this is the fault of the individual, because very clearly it is the fault of the system we all live within today, which encourages the blind acquisition of goods above all other things, and endless submission to advertising machines (read: TV's) which propagandize us at almost every waking moment. In the world of "American Idol" and "Jersey Shore," the inquisitive, knowledge thirsty mind is becoming increasingly and tragically out of style. I believe that the tragedy of the information age, thus far, has been to allow so many people to continue wandering about with so few dots to connect.
Acid seems (as verified by my experience and by the experience of a small handful of other people I have spoken to who have used the substance) to force the mind to connect the dots of knowledge on its white field in ways which would have otherwise not been easily done. It has a cascading and unifying effect on existing knowledge, and allows deep and otherwise unforeseen conclusions to be drawn from the whole of the field, or sometimes from certain data rich sub-sets within the field. This notion is admittedly unscientific, but I will say that a good amount of the research done with LSD in the 1950s and early 1960s seems to bear out this conclusion.
The take away? I don't think LSD would have yielded me much at the tender, naive age of eighteen. I had a mind-field (I quite like the way that rolls off the tongue) that was basically wide open. K-12 had provided me with few substantial points of knowledge, and I had yet to truly embark upon my own autodidactic journey. Of course, I am not saying that the acid experience is monochromatic. I am not grandiose enough to be indicating that acid is meaningless to the brainwashed, ignorant masses, and that I am somehow superior to these and thus qualified to make mental gains by the use of the drug. Allow me to suppose that, under the right circumstances, the experience could have a cascading, dot connecting effect on anyone, no matter how many dots they happen to have. I simply think that this only becomes a likelihood when an individual uses the substance with a certain purpose in mind, and when that person's number of knowledge-dots have passed a certain threshold. I don't think there is a moral quality to anyone using acid. I also think that, if I knew more than I do now, (which is, at the end of the day, relatively little) I would get more from subsequent experiences than I did from my first two times. My fantasy would be to become as learned as some of my intellectual idols (Chomsky, Hitchens, or Tolstoy) and then experiment with the drug at length in the privacy of a warm cozy room filled with books and good music.
Blast my own tiny set of dots!
Ultimately, I've experienced all of this and digested it to this end: I think that one Mr. Timothy Leary was wrong about having attempted to convince an entire generation to take acid, or in his words, "turn on, tune in, and drop out." I think that the reason the revolution he thought could come of a world filled with dosed up young people tripping in public and playing tambourines failed is that he failed to look at the experience objectively. Mr. Leary was a well educated man with a field full of dots, by all accounts. To me, then, it is no wonder that he had extremely transcendent experiences on acid. He made the mistake of thinking that there wasn't anything unique about his mind, or the minds of his well educated contemporaries, which allowed acid to take them to such a place. He assumed, in a way that now seems preposterous to me, that LSD could be counted on to synthesize information in the minds of the average human. I don't think acid, having been synthesized, ever synthesized anything of its own. I think it just gives people a different way to look at the memories and beliefs they already have.
I just felt like I was finally ready to mention this. To those who take it: happy tripping. To those who don't: I'm not advocating that you do, but merely relating my experience.
I'd be really interested to hear anyone's personal experiences in this area. Perhaps I have it all wrong. Leave a comment.