What happens when drugs leave the picture, were they responsible for the enlightenment? Chicken/egg?
Despite the grandma-like-finger-shaking of my last post, I really do empathize with nearly every character in this book, with Kesey himself. It’s not that I disagree with their notions at the core, it’s that, apparently, I’ve been jaded and left at the point Kesey was at the end of the book. Oh lord, I’m already annoying myself. Drugs are the worst thing to talk about. You sound pretentious no matter what.
It’s the ultimate question though. After all, most free-love-drug-earth-nature-enlightenment users “get over” that phase eventually, and usually say it’s for the better. Why? Is that phase important (for some)--to experience these alternate consciousnesses--to come to a final conclusion? Did Kesey really want to move beyond acid (and could this mean to another, newer drug?), or was it because of societal and legal pressure? Could it have been both?
Was the breakup with LSD tearful or not? Why do those outside of the world of drugs (see: myself, oops) suddenly look back at their past selves as the lesser enlightened being they have moved past? Is LSD too blasé once everyone begins doing it? Did living in the moment mean living ahead of the curve? Wouldn’t that be a contradiction? Well, that’s a lot of questions, most of which I do not have the answers to. Nonetheless, I do know that drugs are the means to an end that, when it comes down to it, has nothing to do with drugs.
This was not just Kesey, though--everyone that seriously experiments with these and similar drugs tends to hit the same markers Kesey did, as I said. Just over this past Thanksgiving, a friend a year younger than myself posted a photo of her with a tab of acid on her tongue saying “Happy Thanksgiving.” Oh, really? So, I’d say she’s currently at the, “I’m more enlightened then y’all basic people” phase. You might question where the distinction is, however, there is the overzealous freshman phase (see: above Thanksgiving friend), and the later phases of pro-LSD usage, but with a more aged lens (like later Kesey). Like a fine wine, personal relationship with drugs morphs over time, while still using, and Kesey showed us just that.
My feelings were so conflicted, within myself, towards Kesey, and about the book overall. Even within this single blog post, I have gone back and forth multiple times. There is just the part of me that cannot, and will not get behind drugs = enlightenment, yet to be able to “authentically” claim anything of the sort, is the experience necessary? I suppose the answer is yes. I guess the answer is for everyone figure it out for themselves, and others stop passing judgement. Easier said than done.
Still, I find myself reading the better descriptions of a trip, or first trip, (see: page 274) and having a slight twinge of positive reminiscence. Apparently, this post has turned into my own personal therapy session. (Cue: turn Beyoncé on iTunes)
Kesey represented an important part of American history, as does all drug culture from the beginning of experimentation, to today. Our culture goes in cycles. The new generations mimic the experimentation of the previous, the first. The revelations must be come to on one’s own. Tom Wolfe wrote this story, this narrative, this experiment with precise and profound attention to detail. He was able to capture exactly what needed to be captured, in my opinion.
So, was it a tearful end? I don’t know, but I do know it was a narrative necessary to be told. These identities (and lack thereof) deserve and demand representation. Living outside of the American dream, in any way that may be, will always be a critical part of history. Drug experimentation has been around in various forms for far longer than we realize. Public notions have changed, the desire for a higher consciousness has not. I think, as human beings, what is always desired is “it,” as was mentioned in On the Road. “It.” The answer. Understanding. Reason to live the way we do. Reason NOT to live the way we do. Kesey and the Pranksters embody exactly that.