Category Archives: Society

Changing the mind, again

I copied this from an email From Mr. Pollan. I’ll delete it (probably) when his book comes out in May, 2018. I’m a fan of Michael’s, I’ve read most of his books. And I’ll be reading this one.

I bothered to copy this here as the topic of “changing your mind” seems to be popular, one we’ve discussed here and on other blogger’s sites. Funny how society converges on the same thing at the same time. Maybe we’re already a hive-mind.

A Note From Michael Pollan
“A trip well worth taking, eye-opening and even mind-blowing.”
—Kirkus Reviews
Dear Readers,It’s been a while since I’ve written, but I have been busy reporting and writing a new book that I’ve just completed. I’m excited to tell you about it.

HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MIND: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence will be published in May. As the title suggests, the new book represents something of a departure for me—at least from writing about food.(As one early review put it, I’ve turned from “feeding your body to feeding your head.”)But as those of you who have been following my work for a while know, what unifies all my writing is a fascination with our symbiotic relationships with other species in nature, whether for food, beauty, or intoxication. I’ve had a long-standing interest in psychoactive plants and the age-old human desire to change the texture of consciousness. You may recall I wrote about cannabis inThe Botany of Desire and about growing opium in Harper’s several years before that.

The new book grew out of the reporting I did for a 2015 article about psychedelic psychotherapy in the New Yorker, called “The Trip Treatment.” I interviewed a number of cancer patients who, in the course of a single guided session on psilocybin (the main psychoactive molecule in magic mushrooms), had such a powerful mystical experience that their fear of death either faded or vanished altogether. I became curious to learn how that might be possible—how a molecule produced by a mushroom, of all things, could produce such a radical change in the mind of a human, such that death lost its sting.

So began what became a two-year journey into the world of psychedelics—LSD, psilocybin, Ayahuasca and something called 5-MeO-DMT. The book explores the renaissance of scientific research into these compounds and their potential to relieve several kinds of mental suffering, including depression, anxiety, and addiction. I spent time with neuroscientists who are using psychedelics in conjunction with modern brain imaging technologies to probe the mysteries of consciousness and the self. Several of the scientists I met are convinced psychedelics could revolutionize mental healthcare and our understanding of the mind.

But what I didn’t expect when I embarked on this journey was for it to result in what is surely the most personal book I’ve ever written. As you know, I like to immerse myself in whatever I’m writing—whether that means buying a steer or apprenticing myself to a baker. What began as a third-person journalistic inquiry ended up a first-person quest to learn what these medicines had to teach me about not only the mind but also my mind, and specifically about the nature of spiritual experience. This book has taken me places I’ve never been—indeed, places I didn’t know existed.

As you can imagine, I’m both excited and nervous to publish How to Change Your Mind this spring. I do hope you’ll check it out. I plan to post an excerpt on my website in a couple of months, and will alert you when I do. I’ll soon be updating the website with a rich array of resources on psychedelics. For now, though, here’s the advance review of the book from Kirkus, quoted from above.

I’ll be in touch more regularly in the next few months, to bring you news of the book as well as my extensive speaking schedule this spring. Hope to see you in person at one of these events.

All best,

What is wrong with us?

Humanity must be pretty god-damned-fucked-up to continuously have to defend its very existence at this stage of the game.

Instead of everyone of us directing our waking moments to solving the galactic and universal issues that constrain our species — you know — those that say, “hey, humans, you’re just a puny single orb-locked species destined to die in your next planet’s apocalyptic episode” — we’re trying to kill each other.

Or maim, wound, suppress, disparage, constrict each other.

Fuck! What are we but beasts mimicking a real galactic species. “Oh, we can be that, damn right we can. We can be all that ‘higher being’, that which strives for our greater angels.”

Bullshit! We’re just primitive fuck-ups posing as a higher species.

If we were TRULY the beings that we could be, we would NOT be spending time on figuring out why we allow aberrations of our kind to enact the damage and mayhem that they do. We would be seeking out the truth of the universe. Every single one of us should be involved in pursuing excellence in our species and how we can blossom and seed the galaxy.

Instead, we’re seeking why so many of us die at the hands of our sisters and brothers.

We are so fucked up. We really are. Pathetic is the word.

And, the saddest part of all this, is that there are no superior beings in existence who will descend from on high and direct our lesser selves, explaining why we are broken and how we can mend ourselves. No. Those “on high”s don’t exist. We’re it.
We. Are. Those. Greater. Beings.

And that? That is majorly fucked up.

Here come the choppers

When you hear the sound of a helicopter(s), what do you think?

• “Oh, it must be a Life-Flight, or the Coast Guard out saving someone, hurry, hurry!”
• “It’s the authorities come to spy/harass/nab me or someone I know.”
• Nothing, you never hear helicopters or if you do you don’t even wonder about why they’re circling your home, neighborhood, town.

Helicopters are the ultimate urban assault vehicle. They can spy, (now from great distance), travel quickly without worry of terrain, and carry agents who can be dropped to carry out clandestine, “official” business.

When I hear them I immediately think “GO AWAY! You’re noisy, arrogant, and invasive.”

I wonder what most folks thing about the sounds of choppers? Apocalypse Now? The Flight of the Valkyries? FBI, regional police departments? Or the military (domestic or, yikes, foreign)?

Are we trained through media (movies and television) to worry when helicopters start flying? I wonder if there’s an economic threshold. The wealthier you are, the more you think helicopters are here to rescue you (or protect you) and the poorer you are…


The dog licks the plate

If you’ve ever had a dog. And you’re not a a stuck up fucking prig. Then you’ve probably laid your dinner plate down on the ground (in the kitchen or near the table) and let your pet lick the porcelain disk clean. So clean, you could probably place it back in the cupboard and nobody would be the wiser.

Now, here’s the magic about this activity: All the good bits are stuck to the plate. All the oils, grease, all the salts and flavor — they’re all there. So, really, unbeknownst to us, the dogs have been getting the best part of the meal. Luck them.

Of course, if you are a prig who wouldn’t dare dream of setting a temptuous offering on the floor for you loyal companion to enjoy, well — fuck you!

Leaving Las Vegas – wisdom

Consider that the movie Leaving Las Vegas embodied everything we know about existence. And that the ultimate fate of man was death. And that to die, comatose, drunk off your ass, was, really, the absolute acknowledgement that life is futile.

What of the opioid crisis? Maybe every one of those overdoses is actually someone acknowledging the futility of life and that by dying, they admit their understanding that the universe is absurd?


Oligarchs are evolution

While watching a In a Nutshell episode (below), I extrapolated the concept that intelligent life consumes all of a planet’s resources. It’s like a machine that eats until everything it can eat — gets consumed. But, the oligarchs know this, and plan for lifeboats which are escape pods shot from a planet’s surface out to the solar system to create, and control, life there.

Oligarchs rule a planet’s resources. They can control what gets built, what gets sequestered, what gets jettisoned. What if folks like Elon Musk are actually aware of this and are planning for humanity’s demise. Not their demise. They will survive. They will rule New Earth. They will control the AIs and robots that create the food and build the starships.

What if humanity actually IS evolving, but not genetically, but financially. In the end, if an apocalypse does not kill off all of humankind, then the only folks who will survive the coming resource collapse, will be the rich.

Ranking vs rating

This is a reoccurring theme with me.

When we have a choice, we don’t want some numeric number to help us choose, we want binary options. All choices, even from an array of options can be reduced to a series of binary choices.

When it comes to reading a book, you have one choice of two options: Read it, or not.

However, the there is the issue of precedence. Given two books you would like to read, which do you read first? What if there are 100? 10,000? You need to be able to prioritize your choices so as to optimize your pleasure within your time allotted.

Therefore you must rank your choices. And in order to do this you must have some scale against which you can compare — in binary fashion — each choice. We all have our own spectrum, our own ranking of quality. Here I present my fiction novel ranking.

Alpha  : The Hobbit
Beta   : Harry Potter
Gamma  : Old Man and the Sea
Delta  : The Martian
Zeta   : Charlotte's Web
Theta  : Ringworld
Kapa   : The Road
Lambda : The Shining
Sigma  : Dune
Omega  : The Hunger Games

To use such a list, one first needs to determine “Do I want to read this book or not?” With that out of the way, one would then find some trusted fellow reader on which this story is ranked. Say you wanted to read a story I’ve recommended The Girl with All the Gifts — M.R. Carey.

Given that list above I, Anonymole, would place The Girl with All the Gifts here:

Delta  : The Martian
>>> The Girl with All the Gifts
Zeta   : Charlotte's Web

So, if you’ve read any of the books below the zeta level, (Charlotte’s web, Ringworld, The Road, etc.) then you can safely tell yourself, self, I’ll read THIS book before I read any of the others below zeta.

You’ve found the spot for maximum reading enjoyment in which to place this novel.

It might sound overtly complicated, but it’s really just a simple, “what have I read that compares?” concept. Of course, this is my list, you would have your own list, and I would suspect some of my comparison ranking choices would be on your list too. Which means, I could find out where my own preferences fit on your pleasure spectrum.

I use a set of Greek letters to identify where any one book might fall. Omega is that lowest level at which I’d recommend a “to read” selection. Below that, it’s off the list. All the books I recommend reading will fall within those 10 levels. If I indicate that Year One — Nora Roberts (which I’m reading now) is a lambda level story. Well, there you have it. It’s on the list, but pretty low.

Binary choices + ranking = better than the Five Stars system.

A sister article to “My Five Stars”: