Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

 

Rally in San Jose, CA after the CA Supreme Court upheld Prop 8 in 2009.

Rally in San Jose, CA after the CA Supreme Court upheld Prop 8 in 2009.

Like that sign said 6 years ago at a protest in San Jose, this is not over and we will win. In fact, right before Pride weekend, we did win and the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the case Obergefell v. Hodges, that, for the first time in America’s history, homosexual couples can get married in all fifty states and all states must recognize other state’s gay marriages.

While this is great news for all supporters of marriage equality, and it is time to celebrate as Chief Justice Roberts has said,  I fear it could be just a moment of celebration before a potential onslaught of adversity against gay and lesbian couples. While liberty and justice have gotten a win for the short term, this narrow victory will likely incense conservatives for years to come.

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Let me unpack Supreme Court voting a bit for anyone not familiar with it. While you only need a 5-person majority to make a decision and pass laws that is seen as something to avoid at all costs, especially when core civil liberties or civil rights are on the line. Usually, the majority strives for at least a 6-7 person vote in favor, ideally a unanimous vote if the issue is seen as very important and/or hotly contested.

The best analogies I can give to illustrate what I mean are the desegregation of schools and creation of abortion rights. When Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954, desegregation did not have wide support across the country like it did today, it was hotly contested because it dealt with highly important civil rights and civil liberty issues. Desegregation was so important that Chief Justice Warren did everything he could to get a unanimous 9-0 decision, including pulling a justice back to the bench for the vote, even though he had just suffered a heart attack and was on medical leave. Want to know why Brown v. Board of Education was never challenged? That is why.

Another core civil liberty is one’s right to be sovereign over their own body, including your right to an abortion should you choose to do so. When the issue first went before the Supreme Court back in 1973, they did not present the same united front that they had with Brown. When it came to abortion rights, the court could only muster up a 7-2 vote in Roe v. Wade, thus beginning more than a forty year onslaught on women’s reproductive rights that continues to this day. Notice the difference those two votes makes? Now ask yourself how confident you feel about Friday’s 5-4 decision. Then ask yourself how confident you feel about the fact that the legal precedent it builds on, Hollingsworth v. Perry, was decided not on the merits of the case but by standing alone. In Hollingsworth, the Court looked at who was the plaintiff in the case, felt they had no business to bring that suit, and said, effectively, ‘you can’t stand in this court room, get the hell out of here;’ without any care to the legality of marriage equality. That is being decided on standing.

Right now, marriage equality is legal because of a 5-4 decision that builds off a technical foul, and of course decades of other cases like Lawrence v. Texas, Bowers v. Hardwick, and the aptly named Loving v. Virginia. A 5-4 decision is better than a 4-5, it is better than nothing – but it is the next-best thing to nothing and historically in America that is a recipe for decades of legal battles.

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Well said, who is next?

I hope this explains why I may be celebrating less than other pride revelers. I worry about what is to come and the vitriol spawned by a divisive 5-4 decision. Still, 5-4 is the best we could hope for this with current court as it is the most conservative in US history. If that trend continues then I am *very* worried for the future of marriage equality.

 

 

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As stressed in previous posts on the topic, Burning Man is whatever you make of it. It is a place to lose yourself and find new selves amongst the dust and ashes. Some people go for the music and dancing, a few brave souls are there to fight in the Thunderdome, others go for spiritual reasons. I go for a mixture of the above and the below. This post is going to be about finding spirituality in the dust of the Black Rock playa. This year’s Caravansary is going to be ripe with opportunities for growth, as long as you are open to them. To begin I would like to borrow from Ron Feldman, Ph.D., a religious scholar and writer I met at a previous Burning Man. Quoting from his piece Sleeping in the Dust at Burning Man,

“The Talmud says, ‘Three things are a foretaste of the world-that-is-coming: Sabbath, sunshine, and sexual intercourse’ (Talmud Berakhot 57b). In various ways, all three of these tastes of the messianic era are to be had at Burning Man, the weeklong festival that takes place in late August near Reno, Nevada.”

Burning Man definitely has the sunshine covered. Not just the sun, but also the moon. Both sun and moonrise are very dramatic on the playa due to the natural geographic features, it tends to extend twilight a bit and give things and otherworldly light. The surreal feeling is only made more intense by the ritualistic howling at the moon upon nightfall, a time honored Burning Man tradition increasingly forgotten. As the sun and moon are both important symbol for numerous faiths and spiritual practices this is a major plus no matter what your beliefs are. Sexual intercourse has its own important role in spirituality, most notably in tantric meditation and yoga practices. It would seem, after reading Ron’s piece, that all of Burning Man itself is a Sabbath, a separate place in time and space for the sacred to happen, outside of the everyday world. The Playa isn’t just a Sabbath for Jews and other followers of the Abrahamic faiths, it’s a sacred place for everyone of all faiths or lack there of (it can also be a great place to find your faith, in self or something higher than).

I was raised as a Nichiren Buddhist, but now I primarily identify as someone poly-spiritual, embracing many faiths. A major component of my current spirituality is the belief that spontaneity and serendipity work together to bring us omens and gifts from the universe (possibly through quantum entanglement on the sub-atomic level…a topic for another post). My first burn I camped with a coffee camp, one morning while serving coffee I happened to meet three people from a Nichiren Buddhist camp. Burning Man is a crucible for serendipity, it loves to bring people together who need to meet. Last Burn I met two brothers I grew up with from my time as a Nichiren Buddhist, we haven’t talked in years and  they just happened to camp across the road from my friends. That small thing, a choice in a camp site, has now rekindled a friendship.

Another major component of my spirituality these days is alchemy, and there is a whole village dedicated to it, Sacred Spaces. This camp hosts classes on alchemy, yoga, tantra, sacred dance, and more. The alchemy village also has some pretty awesome music going on every night, generally with a bit more of a tribal sound than the generic wubwub dubstep you hear broadly across the Burn.  I am definitely a fan.

So whether you are out there for the music, out there for the Sabbath, or just to talk to people about God Burning Man has a place for you. The Playa is a big enough desert for everyone to coexist without even needing a bumper sticker to tell them so. And really, we’re better off for it. The world could do with less Priuses driving around sporting more bumper stickers than the number failed Nader presidential campaigns. Burning Man is certainly great for the lack of cars, which also adds to the spiritual element. Everywhere you go out there feels like a pilgrimage, especially in a bad dust storm. You are living in the present, in the scene, without barriers like cars or cellphones to keep you distracted. Nothing cultivates a deep sense of spirituality faster than dwelling in these Zen moments where you are connected to what is happening around you.

For many westerners that may be as close as we ever get to meditating in our daily lives. Burning Man can be a time to meditate on life in very active ways, it all is a matter of what you welcome and allow into you while there. You will certainly be welcoming a barrage of dust onto your person and into your being; otherwise it will be a rough Burn. Speaking as someone very OCD about dirt, it is easier than you think to be at one with the dust. Embrace it, do a dust angel in it, do whatever you need to be okay with it. Like in Dune, know that the dust permeates all things out there, you will sleep in it, eat it, and breath it.

You will become the dust. The phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” comes to mind. We all will become dust together, Burning Man just serves to bring the transient nature of all things to the surface of our consciousness through the physical act of burning things. Once Burned the Man, Temple, and other art pieces are gone forever; just like the artists who made them will be gone to dust in time. Just like the cities they hailed from, and our very planet on a long enough time scale. Like mediation, this idea of all things coming to an end may be hard for westerners to handle. Many of them come from a religion that tells them their soul is eternal and will live on in Heaven, or they may embrace a materialistic culture that teaches them to ignore death to consume more in the present. The Sabbath at Burning Man helps undo these wrongs that have been done to the collective human conscious.

Stay tuned for another upcoming post on spirituality at Burning Man, reviewing the book The Electric Jesus.

Me at the 4/20 Celebration at the University of Santa Cruz, 2009.

Me at the 4/20 Celebration at the University of Santa Cruz, 2009. Note the pendant and T-Shirt.

I would have got this up on 4/20 itself but I was busy working a ten day week at the world’s largest dispensary, making sure our festivities went off successfully (they did). Now I am back with the facts on this unique American holiday.

Growing up in California, specifically in Marin county and San Francisco, I have been steeped in cannabis culture all my life. This makes sense since San Francisco is where the hippie movement originated. So it is no surprise that I have known the significance of 420 and the myths behind its origins from a tender age, since before I knew the significance of 666 (one of those side effects of being raised as a Buddhist hippie). Over my twenty six years in the Bay Area I have heard all manner of stories about why 420 is associated with cannabis, ranging from the plausible to the ridiculous. I’ll be profiling and debunking the most prevalent ones then giving you the real low down on how 4:20 became the time to smoke and April 20th became the day.

I’m going to start with the most ridiculous then move to the most plausible.

Bob Marley’s Birthday/Death: April 20th is not either Bob Marley‘s birthday or the day of his death.

April 20th is the Best Day to Plant Cannabis: Any experienced grower will tell you this is a load of bull. The best time to plant depends on where you live, current climatic conditions, whether you are planting indoor or out, and numerous other contextual factors. Many people choose this day as a day to begin planting but there is no real reason other than a personal choice.

The Number of Chemical Compounds in Cannabis: While more plausible still wrong, there are currently 315 identified chemicals in the cannabis plant. We still don’t have the full chemical profile of cannabis, and we knew even less back in the 70’s when 420 was started.

Police Code for Cannabis: Police codes change from one country to another and from one region to another, but to my knowledge 420 is not a police code for cannabis related activities anywhere for any agency. 420 does happen to be the code for a homicide in Las Vegas though (in many area’s it is 187).

The Number of the Congressional Bill to Legalize Cannabis: Unfortunately no, there is no bill currently introduced that would legalize cannabis this session, usually there is and there is bipartisan support for it. 420 is the number for Senate Bill 420 which expanded California’s medical cannabis program in 2003.

That’s it for the major rumors and myths in need of debunking. You may now be left wondering, if that is all bogus then what’s the real story?

The Waldos

The real story on how 420 became the magic number for everything marijuana related is the story of a group of kids from San Rafael High School in the early 1970’s. This group was known as the Waldos because they would gather and smoke around a wall after school at 4:20pm. Or at least that is how the Waldos’ legendary story was first passed on to me many years ago, when I was a highschool student myself, smoking near a wall at 4:20pm after school. But here is the full story of the Waldos and how 420 originated in the words of Waldo Steve himself.

One day in the Fall of 1971 – harvest time – the Waldos got word of a Coast Guard service member who could no longer tend his plot of marijuana plants near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard station. A treasure map in hand, the Waldos decided to pluck some of this free bud.

The Waldos were all athletes and agreed to meet at the statue of Loius Pasteur outside the school at 4:20, after practice, to begin the hunt.

“We would remind each other in the hallways we were supposed to meet up at 4:20. It originally started out 4:20-Louis and we eventually dropped the Louis,” Waldo Steve tells the Huffington Post.

The first forays out were unsuccessful, but the group kept looking for the hidden crop. “We’d meet at 4:20 and get in my old ’66 Chevy Impala and, of course, we’d smoke instantly and smoke all the way out to Pt. Reyes and smoke the entire time we were out there. We did it week after week,” says Steve. “We never actually found the patch.”

But they did find a useful codeword. “I could say to one of my friends, I’d go, 420, and it was telepathic. He would know if I was saying, ‘Hey, do you wanna go smoke some?’ Or, ‘Do you have any?’ Or, ‘Are you stoned right now?’ It was kind of telepathic just from the way you said it,” Steve says. “Our teachers didn’t know what we were talking about. Our parents didn’t know what we were talking about.”

You may be wondering how something that began 40 years ago as an inside joke to keep things discreet in front of teachers has since become a world-wide phenomenon spawning any army of “genuine 420” Made in China swag. The rest, they say, is history. The Waldos weren’t just ‘some kids’ they were some kids who had connections to people like Phil Lesh, David Crosby, Wavy Gravy, and The Grateful Dead. 420 spread out along the same vectors as Tim Leary‘s acid trip and the hippie movement, spilling out to touch every corner of the globe.

In 1990, Steve Bloom of High Times was given a 420 flier at a Grateful Dead show and High Times began to incorporate 420 into their magazine. Rick Pfrommer, former Director of Education at Harborside Health Center, was working for the Cannabis Action Network at the time and they used their access to Kinko’s to print thousands of copies of the original 420 flier that Bloom saw. Thanks to Pfrommer and Bloom 420 went viral in a very short period of time and soon April 20th became a day for smoke outs and concerts everywhere.

Unfortunately, not everyone is okay with the spread of cannabis culture and the mass acceptance of this utterly harmless drug (seriously, less harmful then potatoes).

I take comfort that it was only angry white men with signs. Soon they will die out from a lack of mates as crazy as they are.

I take comfort that it was only angry white men with signs. Soon they will die out from a lack of mates as crazy as they are.

Hey readers, I’ve recently begun wondering if my blog might be too diverse in focus for my readership and I am debating limiting my focus on this blog and starting another one for other posts or possibly something else. As a person who has many focuses in life and does many things I wanted a blog that reflects that, but I worry people might feel spammed with posts that are not relevant to their interests (you are here for DIY but I just keep posting about politics, or vice versa).

Here is your chance and your place to tell me what you come here for and what you’d like to see more of. You can choose up to 3 options on the poll and even add your own options if I missed something.

I am a member of a proud minority group in America, a group who’s numbers aren’t what they used to be. Not the 40-50% who believe in creationism, no I am one of those pesky people who still believes in evolution (roughly 40% of Americans). Let me clarify those statistics and draw attention to a major point, only 40% of Americans still believe in evolution and a majority of Americans now support creationism or evolution guided by a Supreme Being (implied God, but interfaith). I have nothing wrong with creationism or those who believe in it, I also have no qualms with those who feel evolution can be guided by a Supreme Being.
I fully believe that evolution and creationism can be compatible, and while I do not personally believe in the Christian God as normally conceptualized, I do recognize some sort of higher power. My higher power is Serendipity; positive random chance which often leads one to unexpected and unforeseen outcomes beyond conscious reckoning. You can see evidence of Serendipity in quantum entanglement, which can be described as “a physical interconnection among particles, despite spatial separation.” Just like Serendipity can bring two people unexpectedly together to become new friends on a chance meeting, so does entanglement bind disparate particles together coaxing them to move in unison. Entanglement has also been shown to play a role in evolution, bringing us back to the topic of this blog. The whole metaphysics discussion may seem out of place but I feel it is very relevant to any discussion of evolution given the controversy between the two, one that borders on being a blood feud.

Charles Darwin, generally thought of as the founding father of modern evolution theory, was raised and lived as a Christian much of his life. Three years before his death, Darwin is quoted as writing, “agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.” Darwin got a lot of things right, like natural selection and his finches. Somethings he was very wrong about, like whales. You will need a National Geographic account to view that link, they’re free and totally worth it.

“I can see no difficulty in a race of bears being rendered, by natural selection, more and more aquatic in their structure and habits, with larger and larger mouths,” Darwin concluded, “till a creature was produced as monstrous as a whale.”

People thought that idea was ridiculous even in Darwin’s time, and as it turns out it is also completely wrong. In the 1980’s, evidence surfaced showing the real ancestors of modern whales. Ambulocetus was an ambush predator that could weight over half a ton and looked like a furry crocodile, and is one of the missing links in the evolution of whales. Whales were a species who left the water eons ago, came to land and became hippo-like creatures. At this point some stayed on land enough to remain hippo-like and became hippos, others preferred the life aquatic and became whales with legs.

Basilosaurus, terror of the seven seas.

These fossils were coming from a remote valley in Egypt called Wadi Hitan. While fossils had been excavated from this location since the turn of the 20th century it remained remote and overlooked until new technologies in the 80’s made it more accessible. It was  then that the first whales with legs began to be discovered. They include many species and span many millions of years of evolution, from the hippo-like through various incarnations until they were finally whales.

This year’s theme for Burning Man has been announced, and it is Caravansary. If you are like me then your first thought was probably, “what the hell is a caravansary?” Quickly followed by the realization that it is a very tricky to pronounce word. A caravansary is a type of walled inn with a large central courtyard that was built along the Silk Road to protect caravans at night from marauders. You can think of a caravansary as a man-made oasis; they offered the same level of protection in their stone walls that an oasis saw from the harsh climate of the desert itself. Caravansaries and the Silk Road were crucial to the flow of information as they served as meeting places for all sorts of people from every corner of the globe, the crossroads.

Now, if you are like me, you probably then realized that this theme doesn’t really add much to the event like previous themes have. Burning Man has had themes for art since 1998, but the art-theme area of the website gives no hint as to the purpose of these themes nor their goal. Perhaps I am off base in assuming the themes are meant to modulate the event to make it somewhat different every year. Sure, Burning Man is always totally different, yet always the same, but the theme offers participants a filter or locus through which to view the event, it points us in a direction and says “go.”

Past themes, like Green Man, Metropolis, Cargo Cult and American Dream have forced us to re-examine our relationships with the environment, our cities, ourselves, and likelihood of realizing the American Dream. While Burning Man is always a leave no trace event, thus environmentally conscious, Green Man took it to new levels with art pieces like Crude Awakening. This was a giant oil derrick which showed humanity’s worship of oil which ultimately erupted into a mushroom cloud of fire when nearly 3,000 pounds of propane and jet fuel were ignited at weeks end. While that might not sound terribly green it is equivalent to “the amount of energy consumed in the Bay Area in one minute” and since the Bay Area was on vacation that week at Burning Man I imagine it balanced out. So while past themes have provided direction to the event in addition to the existing matrix of Burning Man laid out in the Ten Principles, this years theme does not.

Let’s break down this year’s theme. A caravansary is an inn where people from all over the world would get together, drink, swap stories, and perhaps swap more than that in gifts, trade, and lovemaking. By default, in order to be at a caravansary, you were on a pilgrimage of sorts or you worked at the inn. If you have never been to Burning Man let me do a quite comparison for you. If you are at the Burn you are on a pilgrimage of sorts or you work for Burning Man/the Government (“the inn”). Burning Man itself is a caravansary protecting inhabitants from the harsh Black Rock Desert that surrounds, it is our oasis in time and space in a vast sea of dust. Within this grand caravansary there is arranged a smaller assortment of taverns, bars, inns, and lounges, nearly all having some sort of inner courtyard to offer weary travelers repose.

While I am rather underwhelmed by the theme, because it is basically saying “this years theme is Burning Man,” I am similarly impressed. I was forced to learn a new word and I’ve already had my consciousness expanded thanks to my initial opposition to the theme. Sometimes what sounds utterly moronic at first proves to be the best idea imaginable and Burning Man is a great place for testing the bounds of imagination and idiocy. I am also impressed by this year’s Burn because instead of placing the Man ever higher from the desert floor on huge structures, making him ever less ADA accessible, he is returning to the floor of the desert as a MASSIVE effigy.

So how is Burning Man a grand caravansary? And if it is what sort of folks go there on pilgrimage to trade ideas and craft a collective narrative?

Well, there are these kinds of people…

Burning Man – Fun for all ages, old and young.

There are there sorts of people too…

Sometimes a dance floor at Burning Man just looks like a forest of fuzzy coats and furry top hats. This can be both wonderful and very disorienting if high on drugs.

And yes, they’re out there too…the infamous sparkleponies.

A wild herd of sparkleponies have appeared. Not always female, know a sparklepony by their sass, ass, and magical ability to vanish whenever it is time to do work.

Burning Man is representative and inclusive of everyone, including the aforementioned stereotypes of sparkleponies, people wearing furry coats, and naked old people; honestly, they make the event what it is, God bless the sparkleponies and shirtcockers. Past the usual stereotypes and tropes, Burning Man has a lot of techies. Hordes. It’s like SF moved to the desert for a week. The Burning Man census reveals this to be true, showing that over a third of participants still come from northern California, mostly the Bay Area. Most participants identify as being white/not a person of color; the question has been asked in different ways in different years yielding different results.

There also are retired army generals, like former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark, who was hanging out at this last Burn in conversation with John Perry Barlow (an EFF founder and Grateful Dead lyricist) and Larry Harvey (the main co-founder of Burning Man and its informal mayor). It sounds like the start of a joke; a Dead-Head,  a retired General, and the founder of Burning Man all walk into bar to sit down for a drink. It would be funny if it wasn’t real and didn’t have major significance. The usual belief is that Burning Man is only a place for the fuzzy hats and that clean-cut Good-Ol’ Boys would scarcely want to go let alone be accepted there. Only he did want to go there, no one is forced to be there other than the police and Burning Man staff who provide the crucial infrastructure to keep the event functional and safe. Not only did General Clark go to the Burn he also was accepted and given a rather warm welcome.

Everyone knows that world-class DJs are at the Burn every year, such as Junkie XL, Paul Oakenfold, Beats Antique, and The Crystal Method, but many people don’t realize that non-electronic artists also go to Burning Man, they just aren’t performing yet. P Diddy was sighted around this last Burn as well, sporting a stylish pink parasol. Hopefully P Diddy will join the vast legion of performers who gift their crafts to Black Rock City every year. As previously stated there are hordes of techies at Burning Man, this includes the God-child of all techies, Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg is not alone, he is joined by the whole cast of The Social Network, including the identical Winklevoss Twins and Dustin Moshkovitz. Moshkovitz wrote a great piece about why the presence of techies and plug and play camps should be embraced rather than spurned. I still have mixed feelings about plug and play camps, but much of the bad taste has been cleansed from my palate. Some people need a very sterile environment in order to enjoy the Burn, sometimes for valid medical reasons; who is any one person to deny them that experience? I’m not that guy and I don’t care to meet him.

Mostly you find lots of people like me. We dress however the hell we please regardless of where we are; I wore a three piece suit many days this last Burn, then other days I looked like a “steampunk hobo wizard” to quote a friend. People like me do work, often more than our fair share because we recognize that without someone doing work Burning Man doesn’t happen. People like me are kind of artists, maybe writers, often wearing many hats at different times filling many different roles in camps and in life. We’ll gift you things at the Burn unprompted and without any expectation of return, the way any true gift should be given.

The only people who are not welcome are asshats like Krug champagne who either cannot read, can’t be bothered to read the rules, or worse of all read the rules and think they are exempt from them. Burning Man makes it very clear that you are not to exploit the event for marketing or promotional reasons; this isn’t your photo-op to make your brand seem edgy. Krug thought it would be in the Burner ethos to have a huge invite-only champagne party out on the Playa, exclusively to take promotional photos. They then felt it would be neighborly to leave the place trashed; isn’t that one of the Ten Principles? Oh wait no, it’s not “leave it trashed,” it is leave no trace. Way to go asshats. Some Burners did come by to help clean the mess up, but it wasn’t their mess and that really wasn’t fair to them, but then when is life ever really fair? Burning Man often teaches us, sometimes brutally, that life is not fair (see the yearly ticketing melee).

All things said and done, I love Burning Man as much as ever and would love to make it back out there this year, though I worry about the chance of that given massive medical bills. People complain every year about the theme, how it’s not like it used to be, and how it used to be free, etc. Nope, it’s not how it used to be, no one is driving over tents in the night or shooting guns in city limits. Nope, it isn’t free either, but there are bathrooms provided and other services (an awesome medical system with 3 major locations in the city). Burning Man used to embrace anarchy more than it does today, now it is radical self expression that is embraced. I prefer what it is today, a temporary experiment in city building and the world’s largest living art museum/gallery, and I for one love being part of that grand social experiment in the most famed caravansary of our time.

If you support marriage equality then you will love this blog. I can’t believe there is an adult childish enough in this country willing to starve themselves to death in order to revoke the hard-fought civil rights of another.

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ImageThese past few years may end up being known as the years of “Conservatives Acting Badly”.   At the end of last year the Republicans in Congress conducted a massive foot stomping, pout-out and shut down the government because they did not get their way on the previous healthcare bill.  In the state of Utah, conservatives were shocked when the justice system intervened on the subject of marriage equality.  Now, we have a couple of adult size tantrums in the works.

One is scary thug tactics.  A group called The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association has called for an “uprising” against same sex marriage.  The other is by a man named Trestin Meacham who is refusing to eat until he gets his way and marriage equality is again banned in Utah.  He stated, “You can start a blog and you can complain on social networks until you’re blue in the…

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For those of you just tuning into this blog I post a lot of things about drugs, mainly medical cannabis but I have and will touch on other drugs as well in time. This is a result of the context of my birth and life. I was born in the Bay Area, the child of an original hippie and the career-driven yet fun-loving college girl he re-married to. Put simply I never had a normal childhood by most people’s standards and it has only gotten stranger with time.

I decided some years back to begin writing down my experiences as a series of short stories which has grown into the skeletal outline of a novel. This novel is the product of my life living on the edge of drug culture, it is a partial autobiography, the autobiography of a facet of myself written by the amalgamated self. The book is currently under the working title of Wasted Nights and Wasted Youth, I am doubtful that will be the final title. I will be periodically posting my stories here, I hope you enjoy it.

 

Extraplanar Travel, Made Easy

Salvia Divinorum, diviner’s sage. Commonly known by only its genus, salvia, the true intrigue lay in the descriptive aspect of its name. Divination is the act of seeing a place far removed from one’s physical body. Seeing the future, astral projection, spirit quests, all of these sorts of spiritual endeavors were the domain of this herb. Salvia has a long history of spiritual use with indigenous peoples around the world. Some users claim to see a woman of light who appears to them to give them spiritual quests.

That is all irrelevant in today’s prohibitionist America, what is relevant is that salvia is legal. It’s also quite relevant that it is perhaps the most intense hallucinogenic experience a person can get crammed into ten minutes without their brain melting out their ears. On acid, you’ll see cool patterns, but you still perceive the real world. With shrooms, you may see some things that aren’t really there, and time is distorted, but it is still the real world. On salvia, you go to a completely different universe.

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            “Ok guys, I got the salvia, are you ready to go to other worlds?” Patrick was normally a grade-A fuck up, at everything. His brain was fried; the result of a lifetime’s addiction to drugs starting before he could even walk. You couldn’t blame him for his mom, you could, on the other hand, blame him for himself. This time he did right and Roy was right to vouch for him, at least this time.

“Fuck yea man. How strong is it?” Roy was a boxer to his very core, training and a preoccupation with strength, never left his mind.

“60X, it’s pretty fucking strong man, it’s strong enough.” I’ve never understood the numbering system for salvia. It’s nice to know what the multiplier is, but it’s worthless if you don’t know the initial amount being multiplied. And if it is zero? 60X of 0 is still 0.

“Sounds good to me, let’s split it up for the four of us. Jimmy, John, how much of this are you guys going to want?”

“I’ll take a quarter.” I’d done salvia before. I didn’t hallucinate that strongly my first time, but I was told after the fact that I “didn’t do it right.” I wanted to be sure to avoid that this time around. Even though I didn’t see things I felt the high come on, like my body coming to the edge of a great cliff then falling off, plunging into a new world. I’d heard of people meeting “Her,” the woman of light, and I had always hoped it would happen for me, but in over a dozen attempts I never had any luck, perhaps today would be different.

“I’ll try a quarter as well. I’ve smoked pot before, I doubt it will be any different.” John was generally quite cynical, and skeptical of new experiences, it served to limit his world, and options in it, considerably.

Roy pulled out his small, indigo blue bong, speckled with flecks of black, patches of navy blue and wine-stained purple. I was familiar with this piece, Roy brought it everywhere with him, it was his “travel bong.” He had a whole mythology around it; he had dreamed of the bong, then it came to him one day as he was shopping for a new bong, after breaking his old one which “never felt right.” Regardless, it was a very cool piece.

We all took our hit in turn; with salvia you smoke an entire bowl to get high in a short period of time. Patrick insisted he got to go first, as he went out to get the stuff and paid for it. Roy corrected him that he paid for it; Patrick, “hadn’t paid for shit, but ladies go first.” We all got a good laugh at this, expect Patrick, who mumbled “whatever,” and greedily took his hit. Roy went next, as he paid for it, it seemed only fair. I left John go ahead of me, so that I would still be sober to babysit the three of them. It would have been nice if someone had thought of that before it was too late and defaulted to me. Normally I may have cared, but watching someone trip out on salvia is pretty fucking hilarious. After they came back to earth, and had their feet firmly on the ground, I took my turn.

***

            One of the nice things about salvia is that you are not out long. With shrooms you might be gone a few hours, perhaps a little longer if you’re on acid, but with salvia you’re only off in space for about ten minutes. This is enough time for a thoroughly enlightening headtrip, as I had just learned, but we’ll get to that in a second. Salvia also has a halo, which lingers for almost half an hour, where you can get aftershocks from the trip and everything has a slight glow to it. Once we were all firmly on the ground again, the real fun began, sharing our journeys with the others.

Patrick claimed he went to the South Park universe, like from the TV show. He was transported right into Mr. Garrison’s classroom, which was being visited by the schools nagging guidance counselor, Mr. Mackey. Patrick had done something which was “not okay, mmkay,” and receiving the full brunt of Mackey-vellian wrath. Even Cartman and the boys had to chip in that Patrick was being a “douchebag.” This was the point where the trip shifted gears and every person became a key on the grandest of pianos which was reality. Patrick was now the sole host to this bizarre concert in his mind, which continued to judge and reprimand him.

One thing can be said of salvia, and all hallucinogens, your state of mind when setting out on your journey can radically alter your course and ultimate destination. The same can really be said of all journeys in life though. What I saw of this while sober was very different, Patrick was pretty much just rolling around on the floor like he was very drunk and mumbling to himself.

Roy said he went to the Super Mario Brothers universe. It began with the couch in front of his eyes compressing to become the two dimensional backdrop of the video game level, the trees and floating platforms that made up the scenery. Then Roy appeared, as a little Mario jumping through the air, grabbing coins and hopping on koopa troopas. He was now viewing himself from a third person camera angle, in other words from outside his own body; out of body feelings are common with hallucinogens and to be embraced. Roy, as a boxer, rolled with the proverbial punches, and dodged a giant bullet while grabbing a fire power up. He was well on his way to saving Princess Peach from the evil Bowser.

Roy was extremely entertaining to watch. He took on a very 2-D shape, like a man in a running position with one leg straight and one bent, and his arms crooked out to his sides. He then hopped in place a few times; I am assuming this was when “Mario” was jumping. The only audible thing he said was “It’s like this,” then he spun in a circle counterclockwise. I couldn’t tell if he had saved the princess or if she was in another castle. He was pouring sweat, and had turned bright red; for some people salvia is a very physical trip, this is why having a babysitter is a good policy for safety. Roy felt a force pulling him counterclockwise throughout his halo; he actually spun a few more times just to mitigate his urge.

Out of the four of us, John was the only one that definitively had a bad trip. He went to a universe where everything around him was fractured into millions of faces. Even the faces were made of faces, and they were all laughing at him. And he saw himself laughing with them; as I saw him sitting there next to me, laughing like a madman. He described it like, “life had been reduced to being one big joke and I was the punchline.” John tended to be a person riddled with social anxiety and this fully manifested in his hallucination.

My trip was something wholly different, something unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Instead of the usual journey to another universe, existing off somewhere in the murk of the multiverse, I went inside the universe of myself. Normally when a salvia trip comes on for me it feels like I get to the edge of a great precipice then suddenly plummet into a new world. Right now it felt like I was riding on an old wooden roller coaster, the kind that always begin with a steep incline up followed by an anticipatory plunge. While I was still slightly cognizant I heard myself exclaim, “I’m tripping balls!” Though it probably sounded more like, “Yiam Tryppy Blals.”

I found myself in the kitchen of the house I lived in while growing up in my transformative years, elementary through high school; up till my parents’ separation. I was sitting at the kitchen table with Roy, John, and a couple other good friends from that time of my life. We were all drinking coffee, out of identical mugs. I had the distinct impression that the cups were new, and the coffee maker was new; in fact many things in the house were out of place from my memories of the house. Then my dog ran into the room followed by my mom.

“Okay everyone, it’s time,” my mom said. At which point everyone at the table stood up, except me. I was bewildered, I didn’t know what it was time for or what was going on.

I stood up and said, “What’s it time for Mom?” No sooner had the words left my lips when everything in the room, every individual object, split into two people, a man and a woman back to back, wearing hunter green sweaters and khaki pants. The table, the coffee mugs, every spoon, even the dog, bifurcated into two weaselly looking glasses wearing strangers. It didn’t stop there, I looked up at the corner of the kitchen, where two walls met the ceiling, and I saw the walls split apart like a movie sound stage, exposing the vibrant blue screen glow behind.

The weasel people grabbed me and the others, and took us ‘off set’ to a backstage area. In this backstage area there was a sea of red shopping carts, all filled with different colored paint. While paint would normally be pouring out all over through the sides of the cart, this was a drug trip so things like logic and physics need not apply. The weasels plopped us all into empty shopping carts. I looked around me and saw that all the carts were full of people, and they were all people I knew from those transformative years of my life. I saw Roy and John’s parents, my own parents, all my school acquaintances. Stranger still I saw an army of me’s, each one slightly different; clearly these were different manifestations of my own psyche.

The camera angle then panned out to a 3rd person camera angle to show me the full breadth of the shopping cart sea. What I saw was amazing; the carts were layered and formed a giant effigy of me. I had the knowledge that I, my True Self in the trip, was located at the right corner of my mouth. The corner of the mouth is a bridge point; between two types of skin, between two places that distinguish a friendly kiss from an intimate one. I am a man on a bridge, torn between two shores.

I was then back inside my own head, back in the shopping cart. I noticed there was a power cable of some sort behind me and though that it was awkwardly placed so that someone would surely trip on it and hurt themselves. I decided to exit my cart and get the cord in a better position. In the process, I accidentally hooked my foot on the cord and unplugged it.

Roy’s mom looked over at me and said, “Oh god, Jimmy what did you do?”

Then Roy, and John looked over, “Dude…”

And my mom joined the chorus, bellowing in my ears and rattling me to my core “Jimmy, then entire universe was created for this very moment, and you fucked it up!” It would seem that somehow I managed to unplug myself, or my reality, or something like that. What was made glaringly certain to me at this moment in my trip was that there was a greater Jimmy, a Jimmy lurking somewhere above my reality and my entire universe was just his drug trip. I was going to show that bastard a thing or two about destroying my reality for his drug trip.

I felt myself get sucked upwards into a great vortex, a swirling brown whirlpool drawing me up towards the greater Jimmy. The way was fraught with peril, the whole time giant hands would swing out from the walls of the vortex to bat me to the ground, where I would lay, back broken, until another me took up the fight. With each successive go I got further and further, until eventually I fought all the way back to full consciousness and merged myself, becoming the greatest Jimmy.

Or had I? Existential fear wracked my brain. Am I the greatest self? Or am I just a lesser part of a greater organism; am I just a figment of their imagination? I consoled myself that if this was the case then life was a stage and all I could do was put on the best show I could for as long as I could. I also took comfort in the realization that man is a social creature, we are all enmeshed in the greater organism that is humanity, or even more broadly in the global system that is Lifeboat Earth. Even if I die, I live on in that greater self, in the world itself.

I had gone inside my own mind, there was no doubt about that. The shopping cart sea was all of the individuals I met that have made me who I am, including different aspects of myself and archaic versions of me. I still pondered the meaning of why I am specifically the right bridge of my mouth. Another thought crossed my mind, though my mother was not made of light, perhaps I had finally met “her.” The question then is, what is my quest to be? This would take further mediation to fully comprehend.

Continuing where yesterday’s blog leftoff, here are some famous examples of stories, myths, historical and religious figures who conform to the archetype of the Hero’s Journey.

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT: The first 6 are all historical/religious but then I go on to movies/books and I’d hate to ruin a plot for you without warning you first.  Specifically, I discuss Stranger In A Strange Land, The Lord Of The Rings, and Fullmetal Alchemist.

Heracles with Cerberus.

1. Hercules/Heracles – Hercules is the Roman adaptation of the Greek hero Heracles, son of the god Zeus and a mortal woman, making him a demi-god. Heracles is most known for twelve trials he had to endure, one of which was going to the underworld to capture Hades three headed dog Cerberus. Going to the underworld of Hades is a figurative death Heracles passes through in order to best his labors and recover his sanity while achieving immortality. The purpose was not becoming immortal, that was merely a side perk, the main goal was atoning for slaughtering his children after he was driven mad by Hera.

Baby Achilles takes a bath in the River Styx.

2. Achilles – Another Greek hero, Achilles was also demigod like Hercules. Instead of being immortal like Heracles, Achilles was invulnerable to harm everywhere on his body other than his heel, creating the metaphor Achilles heel. His mother baptized him in the river Styx, the river of the underworld, which granted him immunity to harm everywhere except his heel, where she held him. Ultimately he died in the Trojan War, that grand battle to bring home the beautiful Helen of Troy to her native Sparta. Many warriors fought in this battle, some died; the cunning Odysseus, both Ajax the Great and Ajax the Lesser to name a few of the best known. Of all the many heroes mentioned in Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey, the only one better known than Achilles is Odysseus himself who is a main character in both books. Achilles has gained eternal glory through his death for himself but more importantly for Greece.

Jesus Christ, Superstar!

3. Jesus – Jesus Christ was potentially a real person who lived in ancient Mesopotamia, born in 1 anno domini (AD). There is much dispute over whether Jesus was real or is myth, and the belief that he is the son of God. I believe he was a real man, likely not a pale Anglo white man. He was a religious philosopher of sorts and also had a stripe for politics, this won him few friends with the Romans who just loved crucifixion. Jesus preached a new way of doing things and shook things up in the social order which annoyed those in power. Jesus is said to be the son of God, the product of a miraculous birth, sent to earth to be killed to man’s sins, only to be reborn and go to Heaven. The story of Jesus is a perfect telling of the major steps in the Hero’s Journey.

Buddha under the Bodhi Tree.

4. Buddha – Buddha was a real flesh and blood man before attaining enlightenment, a prince from the Himalayan foothills named Siddhārtha Gautama. Unlike Jesus, there is no dispute about his existence, merely differences in opinion on the nature of his divinity and enlightenment. Buddha means “enlightened one,” and contrary to the beliefs of some there is not one Buddha but countless. Anyone can become a Buddha, an enlightened one, given the right environmental factors. For Siddhārtha, he needed to meditate under the sacred fig tree, now called a Bodhi tree in honor of the enlightenment achieved beneath its boughs, like a religious Sir Isaac Newton. Buddha does not physically die during his Hero’s Journey, but his ego is allowed to die. The death of the ego is a central to many Buddhist sects and The Buddha was the first to demonstrate how this can be done and why it is desirable. That was The Buddha’s glory.

President John F. Kennedy

5. John F. Kennedy – President John F. Kennedy was America’s youngest President until Obama, our first non-Protestant President, and a brilliant statesman/playboy. He was a real American hero on many levels who did a lot to advance civil rights and was an early advocate for wave-powered electricity, just to same some of his glorious exploits. He was tragically assassinated during his first term.

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr

6. Martin Luther King Jr. – Like JFK, Martin Luther King was assassinated for shaking up the present day politics. MLK and Malcolm X both occupied crucial roles in the civil rights movement, aided in a political capacity from JFK. Martin Luther King was a preacher who was instrumental to the success of the American civil rights movement, most known for his legendary I Have A Dream speech.

Rodin’s “”Caryatid Fallen Under her Stone,” a central piece of the allegory in the book, and an allegory for Mike himself.

7. Michael Valentine Smith – Mike is the main character in Stranger In A Strange Land, perhaps the most famous novel by Robert Heinlein. Mike is about as blatant a Jesus allegory as one can be without the Church coming after them for copyright infringement. A Muslim character even eludes to him being The Prophet reborn. While one can read a Jesus allegory in Stranger there is much more to the story than that. In the end of the book, Mike is martyred, not on a cross but in his own way and that is his death on the Hero’s Journey. But as anyone who has truly grokked the book knows Mike cannot really die, no one ever really dies as long as something has grokked them.

Gandalf, The Grey

8. Gandalf – In the Lord of the Rings there are several heroes who die but the one who best embodies the Hero’s Journey is the wizard Gandalf the Grey. Gandalf fights the Balrog in Morea and in the process is killed only to be reborn as the more powerful Gandalf The White. His death empowers him to further glory along his Hero’s Journey. Other heroes also die along the way, physical deaths, spiritual deaths, and perhaps even some deaths of ego.

Ed and Alphonse Elric.

9. Alphonse Elric/Edward Elric – In the anime Full Metal Alchemist both brothers experience various deaths along their journey, in both series and in the movie as well. Alphonse actually dies before the series even begins but his soul is brought back to the living world at the expense of his brother’s arm which is Ed’s first death, from there it continues until you wonder how either character keeps sane. Before all of that, the death that portends all others is that of their mother, her death is the catalyst that literally makes our heroes into the men they are destined to become.

I hope you all had a good Christmas. While I am not Christian myself I take time off for my mother’s birthday on the 24th and time with my extended family on the 25th. In case you are curious I was raised as a Nichiren Buddhist and my current spirituality is that combined with Tibetan Dzogchen Buddhism, alchemic philosophy, and smatterings of the Abrahamic faiths. Though I do not believe in Jesus as the son of God and that December 25th is his birthday, if you are a Christian, I imagine you will feel a pretty strong affinity for the sentiments in this blog regarding Jesus (this truism applies to him rather strongly).

The other day I was thinking about the phrase “the hero must die,” and how it kind of is a truism. A truism, if you didn’t know is a statement so obviously true that it needs no further explanation, though it has varying degrees of meaning. The term dates back to the early 1700’s, making it an invention of the enlightenment era.

The first truism I’m going to briefly dissect is the timeless phrase known to writers world-round, .” I cannot find an exact date for the first usage of this truism, but it is likely to be rooted in the ancient Greek’s conception of the Hero’s Journey, a story archetype. The archetype can be broken down into 8 stages, one of which is death. Though different people have different interpretations of the stages in the Hero’s Journey the death of the hero is unanimous, though it is not always a physical death. Sometimes death takes the form of other types of loss, a spiritual or economic death for example. The entire Hero’s Journey, all the death and loss, is in pursuit of what the ancient Greeks called kleos, which means glory or fame and also is the name for a song or poem that conveys glory. Kleos is “both the medium and the message of the glory of heroes.” For the ancient Greeks, the concept of glory was a very altruistic concept done for the good of the many not the good of the hero.

Stages Of The Hero’s Journey

  1. Miraculous conception and birth
  2. Initiation of the hero-child
  3. Withdrawal from family or community for preparation
  4. Trial and Quest
  5. Death
  6. Descent into the underworld
  7. Resurrection and rebirth
  8. Ascension, apotheosis, and atonement

This was originally meant to be one post but it had become large enough where I have to make it two posts. Check out the second half which profiles 9 Hero’s Journeys for you, from every age of history and many different cultures.