Sunday, March 7, 2010

With a Brain Like Mine, Who Needs LSD?

This post is a bit off-topic, but I'm releasing it anyway. Most of Drifting at the Edge of Time and Space is a sort of working journal of my efforts to write stories. Or tell stories - not quite the same thing.

Today, while meditating (that's another topic), I realized that I was dredging up memories, and making associations, that might be worth sharing.

Or, not. I've been wrong before.

The Sixties Weren't All That Now and Wow

The stoned artist isn't a product of the sixties. Long before Jimi Hendrix started a trend for celebrity overdoses, the literary world was paved with the booze-drenched droppings of inebriate poets and authors. The fellow who put the town I live in on the map, Sinclair "Main Street" Lewis, was a case in point.

I doubt, however, that he could attribute his Nobel Prize (1930) to being sozzled. The man actually could write.

Coleridge and Opium

Then there was Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I grew up in the sixties, and had the connection between Coleridge's use of opium to "Kubla Khan" drummed into me. Make that addiction to opium.

What sets Coleridge apart from the stoned poets of Haight-Ashbury is that artistic wannabes of the sixties, some of them consciously following Dr. Timothy "turn on" Leary's advice, thought that scrambling their circuits would make them more creative. (Depending on your muscle-fat ratio, body mass and metabolism, anywhere from a beer to a six-pack will do the same thing. You'll feel like the biggest thing since [insert your favorite singer/whatever].)

Coleridge got hooked on opium, thanks to state-of-the-art medical practices, ca. 1800. Opium was a wonder drug then: and widely (over-) used as a pain killer.

Coleridge's run-in with doctors wasn't a total loss. We got "Kubla Kahn" out of it, and his was one of many cases that finally convinced doctors that they might want to take a look at the long-term effects of psychoactive drugs.

The Sixties and Me

I'm no Coleridge. Or, by the grace of God, Sinclair Lewis.

Somehow, I got through the sixties without turning to drugs: booze or the groovier sorts. No virtue there. Wanting to get high wasn't on my priority list.

I did develop a serious drinking problem, but that was later: and another story. Wondering if getting sozzled didn't really make me more creative? It didn't. I occasionally felt like a hotshot: but I read what I wrote, later. Ouch.

Want some 'inside' advice? If you have to drink something while you write, make it coffee. But don't be surprised if you can't sleep afterward.

I've learned, recently, that for most people the teen years aren't Purgatory on steroids. I believe it. I also believe that some people don't look back on their adolescence as 'the best days of their lives.'

I'm one of the latter sort.

No complaints: There were many bright spots, but I wouldn't wish the experience, as a whole, on anybody. For a variety of reasons I was under a lot of stress, from about the time I was thirteen on.
Psychedelic Music, Disco, Techno, and Me
Lately, I've been listening to music from the sixties and following lately - some of it using those strange sound distortions. You may have heard it: voices that sound like they're at the bottom of a well, Dopplered tones, that sort of thing.

For me, that sort of thing evokes something that's about as close to nostalgia as I'll feel.

I've read - and believe - that those sounds, and the weird light shows, were an effort by people to replicate the sensations they experienced while high.

I've experienced pretty much the same thing. But, apart from post-operative anesthetics, I've never 'done drugs.'

Fatigue and Stress as Psychoactive Agents

I didn't need to, sort of. I can remember, in my teens, watching the walls and ceiling of a room wobble like Jello. They'd stop as soon as I concentrated on them: but my memory faithfully records the movement. Then there was the time I looked at a lighting fixture and 'saw' it as a sort of spiky starburst. Again, concentration quickly sorted it out into a normal appearance.

That wasn't, quite, a hallucination: I think. The light was one of those with a radial set of grooves in a semi-transparent hemisphere. I'm pretty sure what I was "seeing" was a template in my visual cortex: one that's used to handle bright objects with strong radial elements.

Drugs? No. Booze? Oddly enough, again no.

Stress and fatigue? I think so. Extended over a couple decades.

Again, no complaints: I learned a lot about managing my brain during those years; although it wasn't until recently that I've been able to get back to my pre-teen efficiency. Wonderful things, those serotonin-uptake inhibitors.

Trick Wiring

I don't know if it's 'polite' to say this, but I don't think that everybody's exactly alike. Which is just how I like it. A world full of people just like me would be - scary.

Some of us are taller than average, some shorter: and I'm convinced that not all of us have exactly the same wiring in our heads. I'm fairly bright, in an academic way, but can't figure out the sort of associations that people use to solve those 'where's the key' puzzles that some American communities have as fundraisers.

My brain is great at integrating data, solving problems, associating ideas and perceiving patterns: sometimes patterns that are as real as the Canals of Mars. No bragging: it's the equipment I was issued. All I'm doing is making use of it.

On the other hand, when I relax and 'take my hands off the controls' - - - well, that's where my Narcissus-X posts come from. The trick for that blog is to decide on a place to start, and then enjoy the ride. They're not 'stream of consciousness' writing - each time something interesting shoots by, I grab it, go into 'normal' mode and write a phrase or two about it.

Think of it as surfing the space-time continuum. The trick is to avoid wiping out.

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