There seems to be no “beginning” or “end” to any of this. The day, I “know” somewhere, is moving on, must be winding towards evening. But each new “event” — each movement from outside to inside, from food to music, contemplation to touch, pond to lawn — seems marked by a sense of renewed beginning… the day does not, as we’re prone to saying, “wind down,” but winds along. It is a continuity of discrete beginnings and resurrections, each marked by a renewed sense of reverence and appreciation.
Above all, perhaps, there is the enormous beauty, the enormous wisdom, of my son… and of my wife. Throughout these hours — in which Noah surfaces and re-surfaces like some small but powerful Divinity that trips and frolics into my life like a relentless blessing — I have watched the happiness and wonder, the utter delight at the world, that crosses and re-crosses his face. And once again that word: adorable.
The light, I know somewhere, must be changing, must be flattening towards evening as I begin to feel the effects of the acid diminish somewhat. But my focus is still entirely on what light there is — on light itself, rather than any absence or diminution of it. I remember again the words — which came to me in my “ordinary” state – with which I began the day: “And the light shall bless the shadow/ And the day shall sing.”
Yet my joy at this moment is also punctuated by a kind of sadness. For, blessed as I feel by my own child’s health and contentment, my thoughts — in one of the day’s most poignantly mixed moments — suddenly go to the thousands, the millions, of children not as fortunate as he… the Ethiopian children, the Kurdish children, the children of Bangladesh and the slums of Quito and Lima and Detroit and New York, who may never have a chance to stick their face, so innocent and full of health and contentment, into an apple blossom in their fathers’ arms.
It is, something tells me, getting on towards evening. Even the copulating grasses and trees, the copulating Gods, are getting a bit tired and seem to want to rest. I walk, my son in my arms, back up the hill to the house. My wife is preparing dinner. James is sitting on the sofa, reading. Roberta Flack is singing, divinely, an old Bob Dylan song — “You Make Love Just Like a Woman…” We are all feeling hungry and grateful. We sit down at the table, and we eat.
Now that my ladder’s gone,
I must lie down where all the ladders start,
In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart.
~ Yeats, ‘The Circus Animals’ Desertion’
What to make of all this? What to do when one has arrived, as it were, ‘back home?’ When the “players and painted stages” have receded once more? “What,” as Huxley asks, “about other people? What about human relations?… How (is) this cleansed perception to be reconciled with a proper concern with human relations, with the necessary chores and duties, to say nothing of charity and practical compassion?” Has this been merely another exploration, I ask myself, a brief foray, into a world that stands, like Tantalus’ grapes, just out of reach? Is it enough, perhaps, simply to bear witness and to praise?
In my early and mid-twenties, LSD and other psychedelics changed me, in ways both subtle and palpable. Whatever measure of detachment and equanimity — whatever sense that the world of our daily stresses and significances is but a small shadow of a world of both greater power and greater significance — I have had since then, I owe, at least in part, to those not so much visionary as envisioned states, states I have also felt access to during periods of true poetic “in-spiration”, when I felt as though I was taking dictation directly from somewhere “beyond” the ordinary.
Yet, in more mature adulthood, there are actions which such experiences as the one I have attempted to describe here could — perhaps ought — to lead to: One might easily be inspired to become a more active environmentalist; to do volunteer work for AIDS victims; to live more closely with nature, to adopt homeless children, to name but a few. One might simply find oneself more capable of love and forgiveness, of generosity of spirit. What I am certain of, then as now, is that, for me, this experience of envisioning more than our normal spectrum of consciousness usually allows provides both a greater sense of equanimity AND of tragedy about this world and what we as a species have done to it: the starving, abandoned children; the decimated forests; the extinguished species; the lives dissipated in pursuit of, as Yeats put it, “the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse.” In other words, it has provided me with a greater commitment to this world… and a greater detachment from it as well. And — strange though it may seem to say so (particularly when we most of what we hear about drugs these days is accompanied by diatribes concerning the break-up of families), I am convinced that it has also helped me to become an even better, more loving, father. For it has helped me to see my son as no longer entirely my son, but as life’s son, my life no longer as entirely my life, but as part of a greater wisdom and force which, far beyond my willing and control, will know what to make of it.