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,

I live with my ideas turned off

I am surely cursed.

I can look at a blade of grass, a cloud, a mote in the sunlight, or nothing at all — the emptiness of a tipped bucket or unfinished barrel and see a story, see the makings of the work-a-day effort, the striving, the agony of completion as the task is done and the next as it is planned. These and more as an entire life is envisioned, run through its trials and finally extinguished.

I can’t turn this off. Or rather, I can turn this off, but if I looked, I would see this constantly.

But, yes, I do turn this off. I have to. If I don’t, it would be like living in a fast forward cascade of fictional events, spilling from a dreamed reality, dragons, and alien planets, and financial equations, and tiny thumb-handed beings trying to build a city from packing peanuts. It just never stops.

No. It does stop. I stop it. The fact is, I know I can’t deal with it, so I kill it. Intentionally.

I kill it, often with alcohol. Mostly, with alcohol. But that only inflames the sprites within my mind. Oh, to they enjoy a spin on the spirits, a dance on the drink. Fortunately at these times, my fingers can no longer follow my thoughts and it’s there where the fancy leaves the page. You may never know what happens after. Which is sad. But, rest assured, know that what transpires is a true whimsy of enormous wonder and possibility…


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.

A poor wizard?

How is it possible that the Weasleys in the Harry Potter universe — are poor?

Most likely, Rowling didn’t pay enough attention to cogent world building. She told a great (7 great) stories, and that’s was enough.

Specifically for the Weasleys, of course they wouldn’t want to be poor, or seen as being poor (“Let me guess, hand-me-down robes… you must be a Weasley!”)

A true, cogent Potterverse would not support such income disparity — magic would cure this for everyone. And specifically for the Weasleys, as clever as they are (all of them, in fact), they would have figured out how to grow their wealth.

But Jeanne needed a poor, put-upon family, so, there you have it.

I’d say that Potter magic, above all magics in fiction, would be the least likely to harbor poverty, however one measures it. It’s just too easy to use magic, in some way, to better one’s life-style.

Be rid of annoying friends and family

Here’s a way to be rid of annoying friends and family members who nag or pester you with their social media: Ask them to beta read your novel.

As soon as you send them a link to your book, you’ll never hear from them again.

As they probably won’t read it, and if they do, won’t like it, they’ll feel embarrassed to inform you of this and quit sending you stupid shit fearing that you will come back at them asking “So, did you read it? What did you think?”

Brrrrrr, they’d rather swim with icebergs than risk that.

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…


I’m an impatient reader

I’m an impatient reader and I’m sorry for it. Mostly.

Most of the books I read I blaze through, skipping ahead, scanning for important words and passages, impatient to get to the meaty actiony parts.

And most of the time this works. The actionless drivel (or even the more literary stuff) I slog through, meanders along — it’s often prose like describing breakfast for people who are about to die. So, I tend to skip these passages. (Tell me, why would you bother describing a detailed breakfast for someone whose head is about to explode? Criminy, just get to the rip-roaring sequences and leave the characterizations for those folks who are important to the story.)

And therein lies the problem. Occasionally, in some books, the author has spent the time to write a scene where important features of the story, the plot — the reason why a character might do a thing or need a thing — and I skip it. I skip it because this communique happens during some mundane (but possibly well written)… “We’re enjoying a spot of soft-boiled egg, clotted cream and muffins, won’t you join us? And, oh by-the-way, Johnny-boy has the plague…” type of scene.

Why does this matter? Well, here’s the crux of the whole post: I write such scenes. I may linger on a character, for a moment, however brief, where something important is exposed, ‘leaked’ you might say, which is critical to the entire-bloody-story. And I expect that readers will have bothered to read this exact part of the story.

And you can see where this is going — I, for one, would probably be the WRONG person to even read my own damn story! Because I’d skip that very-important-part. How sad is that?

Sad. Sad indeed.