Friday, November 25, 2005

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

I'll warn you up front: This is a much more introspective, philosophical blog entry than the fluff I typically write. (Yes, I too have a deep side. You just have to spelunk for it.)

People meditate in many different ways. A few of the more disciplined of us can do it quietly, sitting in some uncomfortable yoga position and muttering "Om ...". Others of us do it at the gym, iPods fastened to the waist and earphones wedged firmly in place, rocking out to the music of the day.

My own meditation method has always involved listening to "spoken-word" recordings and movies. When I'm working, I frequently have a verbal soundtrack or the commentary track of a DVD playing in my headphones. I don't listen too closely to the words that are used. I simply find the sound of a well-modulated speaking voice quite soothing. (I find "My Dinner With Andre" to be an outstanding film if you don't think too hard about the metaphysical implications of what Wally and Andre are saying, because listening to them just talk is quite relaxing.)

One of the more soothing voices I have come across recently, oddly enough, was recorded by Timothy Leary. For those of you under the age of 40, Dr. Leary was a Harvard psychologist who, in the 1960s, began to experiment and research the effects of LSD and marijuana use. He lost his Harvard tenure (and, at the same time, became a counterculture celebrity) by advocating the use of LSD as a consciousness-expanding chemical. Because of his drug advocacy and his popularity, President Nixon called Leary "the most dangerous man in America."

Now, I have never been a user of illegal drugs. I frequently find my grip on my raging subconscious to be tenuous enough, that I'd be a fool to ingest something that would cause my mind to act in unpredicable ways. I don't avoid drugs because they're illegal; I avoid them because they have no appeal to me. I tried smoking pot once when I was 17; I was drunk on beer at the time. In a flash, the pot sobered me up. This effect frightened me enough that I lost all interest in ever trying pot, or any other mind-altering drug, ever again.

Nevertheless, I found some spoken-word tracks of Dr. Leary on the Internet, and as I had never actually heard his first-hand words on the subject for which he had been so infamous, I took a listen. Timothy Leary turns out to have one of the most soothing voices I have ever heard. I can see why so many counterculture activists of the time would have wanted to follow Dr. Leary's path to "enlightenment"; I almost found myself becoming curious as to whether I would benefit from a dose of LSD. (I'm still much more curious, however, as to what it would feel like to win the lottery. But I digress.)

Even though I was listening to a drug-addled symbol of the hippie '60s, Dr. Leary made a number of good points with his quiet, hypnotic voice. One of them snapped me right out of my meditation, stopping me cold:

Why is it that every generation forgets this lesson of the past? Why is it that each generation harasses and persecutes its gentlest, wisest, and holiest men - exactly those men that succeeding generations would revere?

Dr. Leary proceeded to opine that the reason was every human's fixation with "pleasing Mother" (which, I guess, explains most of the premise of Hitchcock's 1960 film "Psycho"), but it occurred to me that the issue is probably one of the most fundamentally indefensible in human history:

Why do we, as a race, proceed to shout down and criminalize those who preach peace and harmony? Socrates, Gautama Buddha, Jesus of Nazareth, Mohandas Gandhi, the Dalai Lama - all harrassed and imprisoned, all (except for the Lama) martyred, all remembered fondly by history for their philosophies, but shunned as outcasts by the political and social leaders of their times. (Heck, Galileo spent his last years under house arrest for heresy for suggesting that the sun didn't revolve around the earth!)

And we, as a society (regardless of which society it is), while we preach tolerance of countercultural viewpoints, haven't changed one bit. If Jesus were to return to earth today, he'd be jailed or assassinated in no time flat.

(Apropos of nothing: Here's an interesting clip - funny, but sad at the same time - showing what a political ad might have looked like if Jesus had opposed Dubya in the 2004 presidential election.)

Right now, we live in a world where Israel fights terrorist attacks with terrorism of its own. The U.S. arbitrarily suspends international treaties, the Geneva Convention, and the civil liberties of its own citizens in the name of fighting terrorism. Hatred is the order of the day. What possible chance does someone who preaches love and beauty have against such a vicious social order - especially when we need love and beauty now more than ever?

Timothy Leary, where are you now that we really need you?

posted by Gary @ 4:26 PM


At 4:41 PM, Blogger Seawave said...

Gary -- this is a phenomenal post. One of the best posts I've read in a while. Thank you so much for sharing your important insight and for being philosophical here -- which, by way, you do far more often than you think you do.

I am really enjoying getting to know your blog better.

Leary was only ever presented as some LSD fried out freak with nothing valuable to offer. The quote you provide in this entry is a good reminder to us all to be very careful about making snap judgments and assumptions about anyone.

At 3:46 AM, Blogger LILCHRISS150 said...

Interesting.........VERY!!! good work!


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Location: Houston, Texas

Why the heck wouldn't you want to read the toxic byproducts of my mental processes? It's not like you're too busy to waste a minute or two here, you know. You ARE just killing time by mindlessly surfing the web. Pop open a brewski and stay a while.

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