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104 فصل

بخش 69

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  • زمان مطالعه 8 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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I put on my eyeshades and sank back down into what now became a cracked and parched desert landscape dense with artifacts and images of death. Bleached skulls and bones and the faces of the familiar dead passed before me, aunts and uncles and grandparents, friends and teachers and my father-in-law—with a voice telling me I had failed to properly mourn all of them. It was true. I had never really reckoned the death of anyone in my life; something had always gotten in the way. I could do it here and now and did.

I looked hard at each of their faces, one after another, with a pity that seemed bottomless but with no fear whatsoever. Except once, when I came to my aunt Ruthellen and watched, horrified, as her face slowly transformed into Judith’s. Ruthellen and Judith were both artists, and both had been diagnosed with breast cancer around the same time. The cancer had killed Ruthellen and spared Judith. So what was Judith doing down here among the unmourned dead? Had I been defending myself against that possibility all this time? Heart wide open, defenses melting, the tears began to flow.

• • • I’VE LEFT OUT one important part of my journey to the underworld: the soundtrack. Before going back under for this last passage, I had asked Mary to please stop playing spa music and put on something classical. We settled on the second of Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites, performed by Yo-Yo Ma. The suite in D minor is a spare and mournful piece that I’d heard many times before, often at funerals, but until this moment I had never truly listened to it.

Though “listen” doesn’t begin to describe what transpired between me and the vibrations of air set in motion by the four strings of that cello. Never before has a piece of music pierced me as deeply as this one did now. Though even to call it “music” is to diminish what now began to flow, which was nothing less than the stream of human consciousness, something in which one might glean the very meaning of life and, if you could bear it, read life’s last chapter. (A question formed: Why don’t we play music like this at births as well as funerals? And the answer came immediately: there is too much life-already-lived in this piece, and poignancy for the passing of time that no birth, no beginning, could possibly withstand it.)

Four hours and four grams of magic mushroom into the journey, this is where I lost whatever ability I still had to distinguish subject from object, tell apart what remained of me and what was Bach’s music. Instead of Emerson’s transparent eyeball, egoless and one with all it beheld, I became a transparent ear, indistinguishable from the stream of sound that flooded my consciousness until there was nothing else in it, not even a dry tiny corner in which to plant an I and observe. Opened to the music, I became first the strings, could feel on my skin the exquisite friction of the horsehair rubbing over me, and then the breeze of sound flowing past as it crossed the lips of the instrument and went out to meet the world, beginning its lonely transit of the universe. Then I passed down into the resonant black well of space inside the cello, the vibrating envelope of air formed by the curves of its spruce roof and maple walls. The instrument’s wooden interior formed a mouth capable of unparalleled eloquence—indeed, of articulating everything a human could conceive. But the cello’s interior also formed a room to write in and a skull in which to think and I was now it, with no remainder.

So I became the cello and mourned with it for the twenty or so minutes it took for that piece to, well, change everything. Or so it seemed; now, its vibrations subsiding, I’m less certain. But for the duration of those exquisite moments, Bach’s cello suite had had the unmistakable effect of reconciling me to death—to the deaths of the people now present to me, Bob’s and Ruthellen’s and Roy’s, Judith’s father’s, and so many others, but also to the deaths to come and to my own, no longer so far off. Losing myself in this music was a kind of practice for that—for losing myself, period. Having let go of the rope of self and slipped into the warm waters of this worldly beauty—Bach’s sublime music, I mean, and Yo-Yo Ma’s bow caressing those four strings suspended over that envelope of air—I felt as though I’d passed beyond the reach of suffering and regret.

• • • THAT WAS MY PSILOCYBIN JOURNEY, as faithfully as I can recount it. As I read those words now, doubt returns in full force: “Fool, you were on drugs!” And it’s true: you can put the experience in that handy box and throw it away, never to dwell on it again. No doubt this has been the fate of countless psychedelic journeys that their travelers didn’t quite know what to do with, or failed to make sense of. Yet though it is true that a chemical launched me on this journey, it is also true that everything I experienced I experienced: these are events that took place in my mind, psychological facts that were neither weightless nor evanescent. Unlike most dreams, the traces these experiences inscribed remain indelible and accessible.

The day after my journey I was glad for the opportunity to return to Mary’s room for a couple of hours of “integration.” I hoped to make sense of what happened by telling the story of my trip and hearing her thoughts about it. What you’ve just read is the result, and the beneficiary, of that work, for immediately after the journey I was much more confused by it than I am now. What now reads like a reasonably coherent narrative highlighting certain themes began as a jumble of disjointed images and shards of sense. To put words to an experience that was in fact ineffable at the time, and then to shape them into sentences and then a story, is inevitably to do it a kind of violence. But the alternative is, literally, unthinkable.

Mary had taken apart the altar, but we sat in the same chairs, facing each other across a small table. Twenty-four hours later, what had I learned? That I had had no reason to be afraid: no sleeping monsters had awakened in my unconscious and turned on me. This was a deep fear that went back several decades, to a terrifying moment in a hotel room in Seattle when, alone and having smoked too much cannabis, I had had to marshal every last ounce of will to keep myself from doing something deeply crazy and irrevocable. But here in this room I had let down my guard completely, and nothing terrible had happened. The serpent of madness that I worried might be waiting had not surfaced or pulled me under. Did this mean it didn’t exist, that I was psychologically sturdier than I believed? Maybe that’s what the episode with Bob was all about: maybe I was more like him than I knew, and not nearly as deep or complicated as I liked to think. (Can a recognition of one’s shallowness qualify as a profound insight?) Mary wasn’t so sure: “You bring a different self to the journey every time.” The demons might rouse themselves the next time.

That I could survive the dissolution of my ego without struggle or turning into a puddle was something to be grateful for, but even better was the discovery that there might be another vantage—one less neurotic and more generous—from which to take in reality. “That alone seems worth the price of admission,” Mary offered, and I had to agree. Yet, twenty-four hours later, my old ego was back in uniform and on patrol, so what long-term good was that beguiling glimpse of a loftier perspective? Mary suggested that having had a taste of a different, less defended way to be, I might learn, through practice, to relax the ego’s trigger-happy command of my reactions to people and events. “Now you have had an experience of another way to react—or not react. That can be cultivated.” Meditation, she suggested, was one way to do that.

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