Dharma, Upheaval and Uhaul Trucks

Howdy folks.  It’s been a while.

There’s a very very good reason for that.  And while I don’t want to say too much yet as things aren’t completely finalized, every aspect of my life is in upheaval now.  Good upheaval.  Great upheaval.

What I can say is that I’ve quit my job of eleven years – if my reader(s) hasn’t(haven’t) given up on me, you might recall that I worked in a warehouse – and am in the middle of a move.  And let me just say, the one redeeming feature of poverty is not having much stuff to move.  And it’s not just that moving sucks, but that my back is roughly the same diameter as those little sticks of lead that mechanical pencils use, so this is doubly important.

Seriously, on my last day of work, there was, coincidentally, a pizza party.  It really was a coincidence, as a merger had just gone through that placed the company in far better management, allowing me to leave feeling like the place was going to be okay.  At this party, no less than five people urged me to eat more pizza because I am too skinny.

This is, of course, exactly like urging an overweight person to, hey, lay off the pizza, it’s not like you couldn’t survive for six weeks on your reserves there, buddy.  Yet I still feel the need to defend myself and say that with my metabolism, working in a 110 degree warehouse for eight hours a day, five days a week is in itself one hell of a weight-loss regimen, however involuntary.  I really think that by next summer it would have become a health concern.  Plus, given the nature of this town, everybody probably thinks that I’m on methamphetamine.

I’m not.  I mean, I think we all know I’m not exactly DEA material here, but drugs are one thing and poison is quite another.

At any rate, I plan to return to regular posting once some sort of equilibrium is established.  Other details I can offer:  my car died.  For good this time.  She and I had a good long run, but all things come to an end.  I traded down for a bicycle, which is a pretty radical shift and helpful for cultivating that eco-green-hippie-hipster image that absolutely no one in Texas is so crazy about.  Hopefully that’s how you can know I’m sincere.  I’ve also done volunteer work for the first time.  Lastly, this place we’re moving to on Monday is a sweet one.  I’ll be back out in the country where the term neighbor only applies very loosely.  Not only that, but it’s like living in a Zen retreat; B-Dog knows what I mean, his place has that vibe too, judging from pictures.  Very, very much looking forward to that.

And as I’ve brought up the eco-hippie thing, check this out.  I believe we’re going to go this route once we’re out there.  And sorry to beat that dead horse, but having grown up in the land of Oil and Smoke, it’s a hell of a revelation.

Let me expand on that revelation part of it for a moment, though.  I mean that almost literally; I’m not religious at all, but I’m spiritual as hell, and all this upheaval feels good and right.  It’s a path of a sort, no different from those followed by monks in monasteries.  Every aspect of the transition, including the new job I’m about to start, has simply fallen into place, only requiring me to not be lazy and shiftless and reach out.  As I believe my posting patterns bear out, that’s a problem with me.  Still, I gave ample notice at work, ample notice to the apartment, planned everything out, budgeted the available monies in such a manner to carry it all off without a hitch.  To a normal person it’s business as usual; for me it’s nothing short of glorious triumph.

The universe, and I literally, honestly believe this, made a way for me, and it seemed to me nothing short of blasphemous to shirk the walking.  I know it sounds corny, and perhaps even narcissistic, but think back on your own life when you were pursuing something that you knew at the deepest core of your being was the Right Thing To Do, and see if you can remember the world opening up.  Not so much the things you had power over, but the things that you didn’t.  It’s when the outside forces align with you that you know you’re onto something.  Luck, sort of.  Roughly.

And given the job that I’ve accepted, that all this is for, literally a childhood dream job, it only strengthens my conviction that this is all in accordance with…something.  Will, Tao, Dharma, call it what you will.  It’s there for everyone, and I’m certainly not special in the least that it’s playing out for me, particularly in that what it’s leading me to is ultimately a humble, quiet thing.  The reason it doesn’t make me special because it’s actually inescapable, for all of us, and if life disrobing before you isn’t enough to get you aroused, life can and will progress, sometimes rapidly, to beating you upside the head and in the face in order to get your attention.

Don’t think life is into S&M?  Read up on yogic or otherwise mystic philosophy sometime.  The real stuff, the old school stuff.  Life is kinky as fuck.  They not only actually believe that existence is basically Divine Masturbation, but it kind of makes sense the way they explain it.

That latter (the beating about the head, not the Divine Masturbation, although that’s a beating about the head of another sort) has been how it’s had to play out with me in the past.  Let’s hope it’s different this time, because as essentially my entire life is changing, there’s a lot to lose.  When you’ve quit your job that you’ve had for a third of your life, given notice on the only place you’ve lived outside of your childhood home and let go of the concept of automobiles, it’s hard not to feel a bit apprehensive, however otherwise hopeful you might be.

Serious shit, y’all.  Can’t wait until I can tell the whole story.

How Eating a Little Bit of Paper Made My Previous Post Possible

Let’s pretend you read my previous post, for the dual purposes of boosting my ego and because making that assumption will make for a cleaner essay.  You know you didn’t; I know you didn’t.  Let’s just pretend.  Let’s also get out of the way that hoary old American social tradition known as a disclaimer:  I’m not advocating that anybody do a fucking thing here.  If you’re so unfathomably lazy that you’d use information on a blog post without verifying it elsewhere, you are destined for hard lessons, and LSD has the potential to mercilessly and irrevocably administer them straight to your brain.

As I combed through my previous post this morning days ago in order to ensure that it read like the humorous recounting of a string of mild bad luck that it was meant to be, it occurred to me that there was a point in my life many years ago when those very same events would have been documented in a very, very emo fashion.  Then, as if by kismet and as I was beginning to write an entirely different essay, Amarok played me some Hendrix.  Are You Experienced, to be specific.  It all brought to mind the catalyst that sparked my eventual emergence from the depression, self-loathing and crippling shyness that marked my childhood:  lysergic acid diethylamide.  LSD, if you’re not a nerd.

I know, I know, just hear me out.  Although if you’re one of those people who think it’s bad just because, then you may as well stop reading it now.  I could tell you that LSD, as well as basically any entheogen ever, are unabusable and impossible to become addicted to.  I could recount how my single experience with it was a defining moment and one of the best things that ever happened to me.  I could even mention that I’m not some psychonaut neo-hippie (unless you consider being somewhat leftist to qualify one as such; I have a left and a right wing, but I suppose you’d say I veer quite a bit to the left in flight) who’s trying to justify his bad habits, but rather simply a regular guy who had a chance to try it, did so, and legitimately benefited far more than anyone would expect.  There’s also the fact that psychiatrists have flirted with studying its ability to treat various mental problems for decades now, but have been discouraged by a preponderance of people who heard about this one guy, he took some one time, and then he like jumped off his dorm roof or some shit because he thought he could fly.  Lastly, I could question the wisdom behind allowing politicians to make decisions that would more properly fall into the domains of physicians and chemists.  You wouldn’t care about all that, though.

There’s a lot of misinformation on LSD, as opposed to something like methamphetamine, which if anything is actually worse than the public perceives it to be.  For one, the hallucinations are far milder at a reasonable dose than commonly presented; you won’t pet dead relatives, you won’t talk to fantastical animals, you won’t traverse alien worlds, none of that crazyness; you are far more likely to gleefully laugh at bad movies, be awestruck by sunrises and intensely love your fellow human beings, and I say this as a self-avowed and unrepentant amiable misanthrope.  Things do tend to “breathe”, and it’s common to see patterns overlaid across your field of vision, though.  There are hallucinogens that can have you being chased by extradimensional lizard aliens, but acid isn’t one of them.  Or maybe it is if you take a massive dose.  Mine was quite small, which is entirely incommensurate with the magnitude, longevity and positivity of the end result.  Massive doses might also bring on the infamous acid flashbacks too, because neither me nor a single one of the friends that took it too had any.  Judging from my research, a flashback isn’t really that bad in most cases anyway, but merely a recollection of how one felt during the trip.  One can also spontaneously and unwillingly recall how one’s first kiss made one feel too,  so I guess we better make kissing illegal as well.  They can be more severe, but again, it almost certainly involves much bigger doses, similar to how intaking too much oxygen can kill you, or drinking too much water.

Everything – every single thing that exists – will hurt you if indulged improperly or to excess.

Not that acid is without danger.  My young-man-emo-phase came with a good deal of self-loathing, as emo phases often do.  When you hate yourself, things such as a string of mildly bad luck similar to that depicted in my last post tend to validate that hatred; oh look, the world hates me too, I guess I’m right to feel the way I do.  Like a great deal of conscious and unconscious thought, it’s a loop that feeds back into itself, becoming stronger and stronger with each cycle.  This isn’t really a new concept: religions and spiritual traditions that emphasize the analysis of the human experience have documented the mind’s incessant tendency to run in circles for thousands of years, such as the Buddhist concept of vāsanā or, roughly, the Shaivist concept of the rāga tattva.  They also generally agree that these loops are incredibly difficult to entirely break, as they are all permutations of desire:  wanting, seeking, obtaining.  When a thing is obtained, another want surfaces.  The more often the loop cycles, the more it perpetuates itself, and it becomes harder and harder to break.

Brief aside before I continue:  before starting this essay I searched ‘lsd tolerance’ on Google to refresh my memory on whether or not it could become a habit.  The first result was a site called Above the Influence, a site which ironically immediately tries to influence you into taking up that tried and true American tradition of bashing shit without having tried it or indirectly experienced it in any way.  One thing of value that it does say is that LSD disrupts the normal functioning of the brain.  Hang onto that.

Now back to the hybrid tornado/train wreck/feedback loop that is the human brain.  Psychological disorders such as the aforementioned depression, narcissistic personality disorder, etc. tend to act as a filter through which everything else is passed.  To put it another way, if your thoughts/desires/longings are the planets of our solar system, then depression is the sun around which they orbit, and which itself is spinning in the center.  This would mean that most all the functions of your brain are subservient to a central dysfunction of ever-increasing power.  It’s doesn’t take a great leap of logic to conclude that disrupting this “normal” functioning of the brain could be good for a person, does it?

There are a few caveats, though.  For one, you need to be on speaking terms with all of your demons.  That’s at the very least, and intimate familiarity would be ideal.  You feel on this stuff, and your mind revels in itself.  It will not respect boundaries.  With a meditative practice, you can go to those cordoned places in yourself as tentatively as you like; with a chemical, those places come to you as they will, and amplified just as your senses are.  If your self-control collapses when those demons make themselves known, they will outright traumatize you on this stuff.  Knowing yourself is a great thing in any circumstance, but here it’s mandatory.

For two, you need to know yourself.  You need to really know yourself.  Nobody ever thinks they’re repressing anything without some hellish introspection; that happens to be one of my specialties, so that well was dry long before I took anything.  I realize I already said this, but it bears saying a hundred more times.  Under no circumstance is it good to be a unknown and foreign country to yourself.

For three, it amplifies what’s already there.  If you’re in a good, calm mood, then your entire body will feel amazing and all of your usual stressors will seem the way those spiritual traditions I keep mentioning describe them:  small, fleeting, ephemeral, like smoke in the air.  You’ll see your own complicity in the pain they cause you, and you’ll realize that without that complicity, they and nothing else can hurt you at all.  It’s like standing up and realizing you’ve been sitting your whole life letting things loom over you.  If you’re in a bad mood, invert everything I just said, imagine how incomprehensibly hard that would most likely suck, and learn the twin virtues of patience/not moping about shit.

So what’s the point of all this?  Who the fuck knows.  It could be that I vehemently believe that a unilateral and indiscriminate war on drugs is proof that we in the country are fucking incapable of learning the lessons of Prohibition and still govern via fear and ignorance, justifying it with some vague doom-mongering about social cost.  It certainly isn’t to encourage anyone to either abstain or indulge.  It’s illegal and potentially dangerous in a subtle, potent and possibly long term way.  Think, be honest with yourself and decide.  I guess it’s not to recount the acid-fueled all-nighter we pulled either.  I’d intended to, but this is way long as it is.  It’s among a number of things I’ve touched on that deserve their own essays, so some other time, hopefully.  Plus, honestly, calling it an “acid fueled all-nighter” makes it sound far more interesting a story than it actually is.  Suffice to say that I saw my stressors for what they really were:  small, fleeting, ephemeral, like smoke in the air.  I saw my own complicity in the pain they cause me, and I realized that without that complicity, they and nothing else can hurt you at all.  It was a hell of a lot of fun too, lest all this spirituality I’m spouting make it sound like myself and my friend were playing monks for the evening.  It’s impossible to say if it was so much fun because I experienced the much-vaunted detachment that is the goal of any worthwhile spiritual practice or if it was just because I was on fucking awesome drugs.

I can say with certainty what the point isn’t:  to try to convince anyone that LSD will cure one’s mental ills.  To me, it’s fairly evident that I was “ready” to learn what my depression was trying to teach me, and “God”/the universe/dumb fucking luck used LSD as a catalyst to bring about that eureka! moment that invariably accompanies any true apprehension of the nature of any abstraction.

In fact, I think the sort of mentality that would seek out a figurative magic pill that would sort their brain out for them is exactly the sort of mentality that would fare very poorly on this stuff.  It’s just not how it works.  It’s not how anything works.  There’s been bad days in the years since I took it.  Some very bad ones, actually, and all flanked with good ones, as it’s always been.  It has to be that way, because it’s the bad days that define the good days.  Nobody wants to believe that, including myself; we all have some thing in our hopes and daydreams that we just know will come along and sweep away the drudgery of quotidian existence, and thereafter all the days will be happy ones.  We wait for true love, plan to have children, gun alongside coworkers for that promotion as if we all wouldn’t just end up adjusting our lifestyles until we were just as tight financially as we are now.  Gamblers wait for the big win.  Artists of all stripes await their big break, and it’s folly, all of it is, every single bit.  True achievement is finding the joy in that drudgery.  It’s there.

Even after my experience, I can’t always find it.  But I compared acid flashbacks to a kiss earlier, and it still applies here.  You can’t recall a kiss unless you’ve kissed someone.  Once you have, with a little time and space and just enough peace to imagine, it’ll come back to you.  The way your lips tentatively and hesitantly met comes back.  The moment when all tentativeness and hesitation fell away and you melted into each other comes back.  That feeling of blissful panic, that knowing that if she were somehow snatched away from you now that you’d just fucking die comes back.  What doesn’t come back is the nervousness itself, the uncertainty; there’s only the recollection that they were once there, which brings with it nothing but laughter at how silly and unnecessary they were.  Whatever else happens, whatever else is lost or stolen or destroyed, whatever godawful cataclysms and depredations shake your ground, rain down from the skies or kick in your door, you can always bring it back to you.  It’s true for wives, husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends and lovers, and it’s true for life itself too.  In fact, I coulda just said it was like kissing life itself and saved us all a lot of trouble.

My apologies for using the word quotidian; I am well aware that that sounds pretentious as all hell, thank you.  Apologies as well for taking so long between my last post and this one, should anyone actually care about the length of the interval.  Lastly, introspect.  A lot.  You can leave a strange place, quit a job you don’t understand and you can leave a lover rather than take the time to understand them, but if you are foreign to yourself, then you’ll be lost for every second of your life.