Tune in, turn on, run the world
Chalk it up to early exposure to Mad Magazine, perhaps. I grew up having a hard time taking anything too seriously. And even now that I’m old enough to ask for a discount at Denny’s on those coronary-occluding “Grand Slam” breakfasts, I still tend to view current events through the lens of looking for a punch line. Factor in the many “duck and cover” drills in grade school, with the ever-present fear that the Russkies were going to roast our junior capitalist asses on the playground with their big ugly nuclear missiles, and then the promise that incipient stoner culture might allow us the opportunity to segue from that harsh reality to full-time cartoon existence, and I had a hard time knuckling down and getting with the program as a result.
Reality, man: It’s like a bummer, but it’s totally where we, like, live and stuff. Translation: My attempted transition to the world of Bugs and Daffy and Elmer was largely unsuccessful, although there are times I can pontificate like Foghorn Leghorn. But I think I’ve made it into the present day mostly unscathed, although I’m sure you can find detractors of mine who would argue that I’m full-tilt bugnuts crazy. Perhaps. But one crazytown express I did not climb onto is the Tea Party bus. And given the examples of Tea Party logic I’ve seen, especially since the more unhinged members of conservative America lost their collective fudge after a mocha-colored Democrat got elected president, I’d have to say a lot of the people riding on that bus have had some grim experiences with psychedelics.
Which isn’t limited to the wingnut class, of course. What’s important is how you deal with these bad trips, or “bummers.” If you’re willing to explore why you have the kind of primal fears that tend to get triggered and distorted by artificially induced consciousness change, it’s possible to grow toward more elastic and three-dimensional models of thinking. But if you get locked into atavistic modes of reasoning and responding, or you crawl back into your lizard brain and operate from there, it would seem that you’re going to have a much harder time dealing with the accelerating changes and shifts we all are experiencing. Clinging to the past is one thing; clinging to a hallucination of an imaginary past is another. And from what I’m hearing come out of the mouths of right-wingers in the past couple of years, I’d have to say that most of the people you see featured on Fox News Channel have unresolved psychedelic experiences, as any cursory listen to Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin will attest.
As the old saw goes, it takes one to know one. And I can recognize an old burned-out tripper, especially one who elected to thump the Bible or the Book of Mormon rather than do a little hard and painful psychic excavating, and this whole resurgent knee-jerk conservative convulsion has “acid casualty” written all over it. What makes me an expert? I’m not. But I did make a few mistakes in my younger days, and there was a period afterward that I’d describe today as a rough time. But out of that came a transition to a more nuanced and three-dimensional model of thinking; instead of binary black-white perceptions, events and ideas became more complex — as an example, the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching demonstrate that there are 64 different combinations of black and white, when you use a figure that contains six lines (a hexagram). And as a result, every problem no longer was a nail, and I needed to find tools other than a hammer to deal with them.
I’m not advocating drug use here. Since the end of the summer of 1992, I stopped putting any intoxicants into my body, and I’d ceased dipping into Hunter S. Thompson’s bag of party novelties years before. But the small-L libertarian in me believes that individuals should have the freedom to decide whether they want to alter their consciousness at will. No, I don’t think people should take mushrooms and go driving around — “set and setting” is how one of my psychedelic explorer friends describes the approach to venturing outside of Jack Webb consciousness — but I do think that adults should be able to get high, if that’s what they want to do, without getting busted by The Man. To me, the so-called drug menace is a public-health problem, not a criminal-justice problem. And maybe if we as a society became more tolerant of altered forms of consciousness, we might begin to progress away from the binary, black/white, hammer>nail, Manichaean model that has vexed us for what seems like all of my adult life.
Friends, if we really want America to lead again, we’ve got some growing up to do. —Jackson Griffith