Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Who's in Charge?

Time for a confession. I took LSD some 10 times during my college years. It was a time of experimentation with mind-expanding drugs and I was along for the ride. I hated the first two times, that sense of being swept away and completely out of control and then came to enjoy some of it. But not enough to keep going. I believe the last time was around 1973 at a Hot Tuna concert in San Francisco. I probably continued with marijuana for a few years more and then not again for the next 40 years or so. 

And here’s another surprising statistic. I’ve never been flat-out in-the-gutter drunk. A little buzz here and there and I still have my half-a-beer each night, but again, not out-of-control with alcohol.

And a third confession. A few years ago at a family reunion in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, my daughter convinced my wife and me, along with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, to try one of the now-legal gummy bear marijuanas with her and my niece while hiking in the mountains. Marijuana apparently has changed a lot since my day, because this ended up much closer to the old LSD trips than the mild high of passing around joints. It’s actually a pretty hilarious story, to be told another time. But the punch line was that I didn’t enjoy it at all and realized that though people may go to drugs of all sorts to escape their everyday realities, that I actually don’t like at all the feeling of being swept away out of control. I like to be in charge of my own consciousness.

I’m a firm believer in the value of the sub-conscious, but lately, have not been enjoying releasing myself to whatever dreams choose to come each night in my sleep. Sometimes they’re sweet, usually they’re intriguing, but mostly I’m happier waking up and taking charge again. 

That sense of steering the ship is one of the great pleasures of teaching and there’s few things I love more than leading a group of kids or adults knowing that I’ll be making most of the decisions about where we go and how fast and what route we’ll take. Ironically, I am steering toward some moment of releasing control, letting an activity follow its own logic and end up in surprising places. Just like jazz improvisation. Or meditating. Or writing. The enterprise starts from the will, from the discipline of controlling the fingers, the breath, the sentences, with the aim to gradually relinquish control and let the other voices enter. I’m not trying to live in the fortress of my inner and outer companions goose-stepping while I bark out orders. More like the tour guide saying, “Let’s turn down this alley and see what we will find.”

In fact, life’s most memorable moments are the ones when we finally step out of the way and let the music sing itself or the words dance to their own inner song or the breath lead us to some previously unexplored corner of how we’re connected to everything else in the world. It’s when we get off the merry-go-round of our self-enclosed Facebook friends list and checking text messages and listen to what the world has to offer. Those intense drugs blow down the walls to let all the gods and demons rush in, but me, I prefer mostly staying in the house, but opening the windows a bit. Or leaving the house to wander the neighborhood of my own volition. 

Just in case I decide to run for President, let’s keep this confession between us for now. Meanwhile, I’m off to take charge of five groups of kids today and see what surprises they have in store.

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