Re: 60's/drugs

Fri, 24 May 1996 11:47:37 -0400

> wrote:

>What have the drugs, themselves, produced? I don't see any great art or
>great thought emerging out of that culture. Maybe they destroyed their
>potential rather than exercised it. Who knows?

The drugs themselves produced nothing, to be sure, they had to be ingested
first. And after they were, what Ken Kesey has termed the Neon Renaissance
began. (What stopped it? As Kesey told me: They put us all in jail.)

I think to see what was contructed/achieved using these drugs (and here I
am primarily talking about acid) one must look at the things that were
going on in the period prior to the summer of love - when it all became a
marketing phenomenon. I'm talking 1962-66. It was to a great extent a
hidden period and one in which accomplishments were recorded not by baby
boomers (they were the consumers that were to come later) but by
individuals who were born immediately prior to or during World War II.

For starters, let's take Ken Kesey and his novels "One Flew over the
Cuckoo's Nest" (Chief Bromden came to him in a peyote vision, the book
written while he was taking part in MK-Ultra drug experiments and working
in a psychiatric hospital) and "Sometimes a Great Notion" and the Acid
Tests, his groundbreaking literary/artistic work.

Then there's Bob Dylan, whose greatest and most enduring work - song
writing, performing, and recording was done in the period 1964-66 after he
had been introduced to LSD. Chimes of Freedom, Lay Down Your Weary Tune,
Mister Tambourine Man, Like a Rolling Stone, Stuck Inside of Mobile With
the Memphis Blues Again, Positively Fourth Street, Subetrranean Homesick
Blues. His legendary concert tours with the Hawks.

The San Francisco Groups - the Grateful Dead (nothing yet to rival Dark
Star), Jefferson Airplane, the Great Society Quicksilver Messenger
Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company (as much for Jim Gurley as
for Janis), and the power of live performance.

The Beatles, whose best work - Rubber Soul and Revolver - were done after
their introduction to pot and acid.

The Byrds, the Lovin' Spoonful, etc. America's first and still among its
finest acid rock.

The San Francisco poster artists

The underground comic artists, in particular R. Crumb.

Neal Cassady, the exemplar of the balanced man. The man ahead of time.

For Jerry Garcia:

Neal represented a model to me of how far you could take it in the
individual way. In the sense that you weren't going to have a work, you
were going to be the work. Work in real time, which is a lot like
musician's work

A pretty good start wouldn't you say?

My hope is that you will not respond by saying this was low art and
therefore of little worth. For, to me, that is the whole point.

It is art that came out of the streets (as Henry Miller said: All that is
not out in the street is false and derived; that is to say, literature or
as the Dead sing in Scarlet Begonias: Once in awhile you can get shown the
light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.

It also was art without dogma or preconceived notions. It was just what
people did. And it most definitely was not of the academy.

>I do know of a fellow who took lsd and had visions of 'solar power'
>and is now running a decent wind power company. So, I don't discount the
>visionary qualities of drugs.

Ah but if you see value in visionary expereinces only to the extent that
they can be made utilitarian you are missing the point and the point being
that dope was intended to free you from this sort of mindset. As Arthur
Miller said:

And so the sixties people would stop time, money time, production time,
and its concomitant futurism. . .Dope stops time. More accurately, money
time and production time and social time. And the pulsing of your heart is
the clock and the future is measured by prospective trips, or new interior
discoveries yet to come. . .Kesey saw America saved by LSD once; the
chemical exploding the future forever and opening the mind and heart to
the now, to the precious life being traded away for a handful of dust.

So you miss the whole point. You were to be free to be and to enter into a
relationship with the natural world around you.

The problem being as Kesey described it: the only probelm with being
Superman is what to do in between phone booths.

The answer: You live a life as described by Walt Whitman in the Preface
to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass:

"Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to
everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income
and labors to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have
patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing
known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful
uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families,
read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life,
re-examine all you have been told at church or school or in any book,
dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a
great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the
silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and
in every motion and joint of your body."

Living this type of life doesn't preclude participating in a psychedelic
life (in fact, psychedelic means to show the soul). Problems happen when
there is overindulgence and people explore a wilderness uprepared.

>I see a lot of good from that time going down the sinkhole and what
>is left is enormous CYNICISM and NIHILISM.

Maybe these are people who have given up. Someone who is committed never
gives up, although they may lay low for awhile. Don't look for the good or
the revolutionary in the media. the revolution will not be televised.
Perhaps in certain instances cycnicism is called for. Maybe we need to
start looking at all of the alternative solutions in between either and
or. Remember that the original cynics believed that happiness is achieved
by cultivating virtue for its own sake and is attained by conducting a
life free of dependence on possession and pleasures. Sounds like good old
Emersonian self-reliance to me.

>Go study the romantic movement of the 1st half of 19th C in
>Europe- same basic thing happened and, eventually, the creative spirit
>turned against it.

Please elaborate. I see them as embodying the creative spirit in that they
sought a balance between reason and spirit such as that described by T.S.
Eliot in his essay on metaphysical poetry,.